A new iMovie means a new blog! Come visit:
Unlocking iMovie '09 & '11

UPDATE: The 7.1 software update created a very easy way to accomplish this. Although this post is still useful for those wanting a more powerful, flexible method of creating stills, I have written another post on the simpler method.

A lot of recently upset Mac users are keeping two lists. List A is a list of all the iMovie HD features missing from iMovie '08. List B has all the iMovie HD features that are found in iMovie '08. Their complaint is that list B is too short and list A is too long. In all fairness, there ought to be a list C, containing all the features of '08 not found in previous versions of iMovie, but I can't blame them for neglecting list C. I was among the first who started out only keeping two lists.

So it's time for everyone to pull out list A. Scan down the list to where it says that iMovie '08 can't capture a still image from a clip. Cross that out. Now pull out list B. At the bottom of your list, write down, "iMovie '08 can capture a still image from a clip". Here is how you capture a still image from a clip.

Feature Diving
A little nagging thought kept telling me that there would be a relatively easy way to capture a still image in iMovie '08. I just felt that it had to be in there somewhere, somewhere I hadn't yet thought to look. So I went feature diving. It turned out it didn't take long to find, but I think I got lucky. After all, who thinks of Quicktime when thinking about still images?

Exporting to Quicktime offers more choices than I ever picture myself using. I have no idea, for example, what an AU or an FLC is. But exporting as an Image Sequence seemed promising. It's more than promising, it's perfect. For those who want to skip the rest of this post, you can just isolate the frame you want to capture in a new project, export it with Quicktime as an image sequence, using the image settings that you want, and find the image or images in the folder where you sent the export. For those wanting a sample walkthrough, read on.

The Setup
Before you export anything, you need to select the frame or frames you need images of and add them to their own movie project. For help selecting specific frames, go to this post on frame-precise editing.

How to make frame precise edits

I called my project "Image" because I plan on keeping this project around for any footage I plan on capturing into still images. Once I have selected the appropriate footage and added it to my project, I am ready to proceed.

Remember that any footage in here will get the full treatment, and there are up to 30 frames per second in your footage. If you add a full second of a clip to this project, you will have up to 30 still images to sort through. This may not be a bad thing, as I will discuss below, but just be aware of what you are going to get.

The Export
Go to the Share menu, and choose "Export using Quicktime...". In that window, choose the menu option, "Movie to Image Sequence."

Once you have this selected, you can choose among the preset export options:

Or you can click the "Options" button and choose your own image type, frame rate, and even compression settings specific to your image format. (The compression settings are found by clicking the next "Options" button.)

I chose to export mine with a custom setting of JPEG at highest quality. You will probably want to do the something similar, but if not, it's probably because you know a lot more about image formats than me.

Your export window won't look much different when you have changed your settings, but be sure to take a moment to choose the destination folder and a name. The name will be repeated with image numbers behind it.

Go ahead and click "Save" and head on over to your destination folder. There you will find one or more images with the image name you gave and a number.

If you have multiple images to review, it's really easy to do so by selecting all of them and opening them in Preview. (Preview is a photo and PDF viewing application in your Applications folder. Double clicking on them all will probably open them in Preview by default.) Here you can figure out which to delete, which to keep, and even which to add to iPhoto if so desired.

The most humorous part about all of this is that this export setting is available in iMovie HD. Who knew? I guess with such easy access to the menu option "Save Frame..." under the File menu, I never thought to look.

Using the image in iMovie
Most of you probably want to capture a still image in iMovie to actually use it in iMovie. Doing so is as easy as ever. Just like in iMovie HD, you can add the image to iPhoto and grab it from your Media Browser, or you can just drag it from the Finder and drop it into your project. Obviously the way you actually use it in your project is a whole other ball of wax, so I won't go into that here. Just remember that if you are using the image to "pause" your footage on a particular frame, and have the footage resume after the image, head over to the previously referenced post on frame-precise edits if you need more help.

Hooray for List B
I'm still convinced that list B will grow with time. Still, with High Definition cameras now becoming so common, it's nice to know that we don't have to wait for Apple to add back in this particular feature. In fact, I really like this way of doing things. It doesn't have the convenience of a single menu item like in iMovie HD, but it does give me a lot more control over what I am getting.

36 comments: to “ How to capture a still image from a clip

  • Anonymous
    August 28, 2007 at 5:55 PM  

    Question... Do you need the full (paid) version of Quicktime for this to work, or wil it work with the free version of Quicktime (player)?


  • Aaron
    August 29, 2007 at 8:51 PM  

    I disabled Quicktime Pro on my computer by removing the serial number and it appeared to work. Please let me know if it isn't working without Quicktime Pro.

  • Anonymous
    September 17, 2007 at 6:21 PM  

    I see interlacing lines no matter what I try for settings. I'm capturing HD footage and want to save a full frame. Any work around that you are aware of?

  • Anonymous
    September 22, 2007 at 8:57 AM  

    I don't have Quicktime pro and it works just fine. Thanks alot!

  • Rick
    December 28, 2007 at 9:33 PM  

    Regarding "List A is a list of all the iMovie HD features missing from iMovie '08. List B has all the iMovie HD features that are found in iMovie '08. Their complaint is that list B is too short and list A is too long. In all fairness, there ought to be a list C."

    One way of making the List B longer is if we can have a complete list of "List A" and then a corresponding column that explains how it can be done in iMovie08 (if at all possible, that is.)

    I think some of these information is already in this blog, but it would be nice to have all of them in one consolidated list. Or perhaps just tag/label/keyword them? :)

  • Anonymous
    January 21, 2008 at 1:56 PM  

    This is a very complicated way to do a simple task!

    Just open your movie in Quicktime, push the slider to choose the general area of the movie, then choose the frame you want to save by using the arrows to move through the frames one by one, then in the Quicktime [Pro 7] menu choose: File/Export/Movie to Picture. For best quality I save uncompressed, using the option buttons for best depth and quality. Then save to desktop.
    Drag into iPhoto. Then import into iMovie.
    My frames are so huge using best quality uncompressed that I can create a 300 dpi tiff to print in my Driving & Discovering Hawaii guidebooks, about 4.4 inches X 3.3 inches in viewing size.

  • Michael W
    March 10, 2008 at 3:00 PM  

    Awesome you are a life saver!!!

  • Malcolm Mark Swan
    March 29, 2008 at 6:51 PM  

    The procedure suggested for iMovie '08 (my version 7.1.1, Share menu > Export using QuickTime > Movie to Image Sequence) creates 960 x 640 images from HDV video. Nothing better! But I want 1920 x 1080 (and I often use Photoshop to crop the subject out of that). Of course, I realize that my camera has somewhat less resolution, but the 1920 x 1080 keeps the aspect ratio correct.

    Fortunately, iMovie HD 6.0.4 does export a 1920 x 1080 frame (using File menu > Save Frame > JPEG or PICT. The resulting frame is substantially better (no sharpening artifacts) than a frame exported from QuickTime 7.4 (File menu > Export > Movie to Picture > photo-JPG or PNG.)

    By the way, on extremely detailed examination of pixels, you'll find that the JPEG files produced by both iMovie HD and QuickTime look exactly the same as the PICT and PNG files (at least at their highest JPEG quality). No compression artifacts are evident. So choose JPEG, contrary to media experts warnings, because the files are easily e-mailed (e.g., 1/2 MB).

    Anyway, my lesson here: Use iMovie 6 to export frames.

    Beware that the exported frame will look darker than what iMovie HD shows. Apparently iMovie brightens the footage and frames to suit your monitor settings. But if you post a frame or footage, PC users will be especially disappointed because their monitors with Windows always look darker. I compensate by opening the image frame in Photoshop and I use the Curves feature to brighten the midrange of the image just a little bit. Curves has a milder effect on the lights and darks, keeping contrast strong. iMovie HD has an adequate brighten/contrast feature, so use it sparingly; otherwise your PC viewers will complain about the dark footage.

    I know that's a lot to think about, but it will become second-nature after a couple tries.

  • Wilf
    June 5, 2008 at 5:59 AM  

    Even easier way .... hover over (with the red line) the section you want. CTRL plus click and then choose 'add frame to end of project'. Frames (four seconds worth) are added to bottom of project - can easily be cut off later. Go to frame at end of project you want - CTRL plus and click and choose 'open in finder'. Voila. If you then want to edit simply drag this still into iPhoto.

  • Anonymous
    August 5, 2008 at 7:21 PM  

    exactly what i needed, i knew there had to be a way! you're a genius, thanks!! :)

  • Hocine Amrane
    October 17, 2008 at 7:40 PM  

    Thx really helpful, its so useful to have people ho share.

    Hocine Amrane

  • Anonymous
    November 21, 2008 at 12:22 AM  

    Thanks, this was very helpful!

  • Hannah Katarski
    January 31, 2009 at 5:32 AM  

    Thanks, you're a life saver! :)

  • background removal services
    May 6, 2009 at 2:43 AM  

    Splendid and useful post. Thanks.

  • Anonymous
    May 8, 2009 at 8:29 AM  

    Thanks a lot; appreciate it.

  • Rod
    July 28, 2009 at 4:28 AM  

    Excellent post. Please keep up the good work...I have a feeling I will be a regular visitor. Cheers.

  • Anonymous
    July 31, 2009 at 7:32 AM  

    Thank you! This was very helpful - keep the tips coming!

  • Archiblog
    August 25, 2009 at 10:12 AM  


  • Mr.Marshall
    October 25, 2009 at 7:47 AM  

    Thanks! Very helpful!

  • Aaron
    November 14, 2009 at 8:31 AM  

    Hey great post. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

  • Somhairle1314
    February 3, 2010 at 9:30 PM  

    or, you can right click the video at the precise point you want a still from in imovie and select add still to project

  • Matty C
    February 9, 2010 at 12:53 PM  

    This is amazing. Thanks so much

  • Anonymous
    February 12, 2010 at 1:01 PM  

    Thank you a lot! that really help me with my school/home work :) :)

  • Anonymous
    March 22, 2010 at 8:52 PM  

    Awesome! You rock! I wish Apple would bring back iMovie HD. Sad that PCs are now better for video editing. Less iPad and more support for video. I don't need to spend days trying to learn FCP!

  • Anonymous
    September 11, 2010 at 9:15 PM  

    OMG! Thank you, Thank you! You rock. Explanation clear, precise, accurate!

  • Anonymous
    October 20, 2010 at 5:04 AM  

    Thank you so much! This was a great help!

  • Anonymous
    December 2, 2010 at 9:04 AM  

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! My mom whom I love so dearly passed away 2 months ago and I miss her dearly. I have a video of her I love and wanted a photo from it. Now I have it. Seriously, this means the WORLD to me! Thank you!!!!

  • Anonymous
    January 10, 2011 at 8:13 PM  

    Oh my goodness. This is EXACTLY what I have been trying to figure out today. Cannot thank you enough!

  • Anonymous
    January 16, 2011 at 10:55 PM  

    Thank you SO MUCH! So easy...now why couldn't this be in any of the help menus?

  • Anonymous
    May 12, 2011 at 10:43 AM  

    thank you very much!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous
    June 5, 2011 at 12:54 PM  

    Your info saved me! thank you for making it so easy. I am not a techno geek in amy respect and I pulled this off. YOU ROCK!

  • yatin patel
    June 15, 2011 at 4:41 AM  

    So simple even an ignorant doc can do it! Thanks a bunch guys.

  • Anonymous
    August 3, 2011 at 2:31 AM  

    Thanx for making the mac software usable and saving me so much time doing this...

  • Bob R
    November 1, 2011 at 10:46 AM  


  • Anonymous
    November 17, 2011 at 8:40 PM  


  • Jen (Melbourne, OZ)
    November 18, 2011 at 5:49 AM  

    Wow thanks.... I now have some amazing pics of a lightning storm I recorded this afternoon! And I'm a lil more mac savvy!