How to Make Your Own Screenshots and Take Your Movie Reviews to the Next Level

Are your reviews dull, lifeless and lacking that certain something? Then you need screencaps!

(I am based in the United States and using screencaps in film reviews is generally reckoned to fall under fair use but please check with the copyright laws of your country. I’m not a lawyer and cannot offer any legal advice.)

Movie reviews that are massive walls of text can sometimes seem dull next to brighter, zippier reviews filled with screenshots. But how can you capture your own movie frames to illustrate your insightful reviews? It’s actually really easy.

It’s just as easy as corrupting an incorruptible officer!

This post will cover capturing screenshots from DVDs and downloaded video files. Bluray is a whole other kettle of fish (and a painful one) so I won’t be covering it in the main article. To capture shots from a streaming film, here are instructions for Windows PCs and instructions for Macs. Linux users are on their own but if you’re running Linux, you probably don’t need my help with anything.

So, here’s what I use to capture images from DVDs and downloaded video files:

Is the suspense just killing you?

VLC. It’s a free, open source multimedia player. It’s so convenient and easy to use that I pretty much play all my movies with it. You can download it here.

Here are instructions for getting screencaps using VLC. They’re so well-written that there’s no point in me redoing them but I do have a few tips to improve your experience.

Change your hotkey

The default screenshot hotkeys use S, which doesn’t really work for me. It’s too close to a similar hotkey I use for a different program and I was always hitting the wrong combination. I switched the screencap hotkey to Q, a key I rarely use. Here are instructions for changing hotkeys in VLC.

Change the format to JPG

The default file format for VLC screencaps in PNG with options to switch to JPG and TIFF. Both PNG and TIFF are larger than JPG and since I have space limits and slow internet, I opt for JPG.

If you have your own reasons for selecting TIFF or PNG, go ahead on.

If you have no idea what any of this means, then you should choose JPG. You’ll save scads of disc space and be able to upload images more quickly.

Go to Tools, then Preferences and then click Video and you will see a dropdown menu that lets you change formats.

Add sequential numbering

While you’re tinkering with file format, you’ll also want to check the box that says “add sequential numbering” which I find more useful than VLC’s default date/time format.

Change the destination folder

Just above the options to change prefixes and formats, you’ll see a category called Directory. This controls where the video snapshots are saved on your computer. VLC saves them in your pictures folder or desktop by default but you will probably want to give them their own special folder to be better organized. I use something like Pictures/Snapshots.

Whew! That’s it! Happy screenshots!

Time and Use

So, how much time does all this take to create screencaps for a feature film? It depends on the length of your reviews and how many screenshots you wish to include but for me, about an hour per review. That’s a fair chunk of time but, in my opinion, it’s worth it. I am able to illustrate the exact moments that interest me, share the exact scenes that I am discussing

Oh, and where possible, you’ll also want to provide information on the source of your screencaps. Which edition are they from? I know I always like to know if I see a particularly pristine set of images. (Silent and classic movies are very much hit and miss on image quality and screencaps are a great preview.) For example, the screencap at the top of this post is from the Kino Lorber release of The Devil’s Needle.

“But I just use Google Images!”

A couple of problems with that. First of all, your images won’t really be your own. People who screencap with their reviews do so to illustrate the points they are trying to make and everybody is different. You’ll never get perfect screencaps unless you make them yourself.

“Anyway, isn’t everything on the internet public domain?”

No, it is not. If you end up using someone’s screencaps, especially if you’re ALWAYS using someone’s screencaps, a link back to their post is internet courtesy.

Of course, finding the original source of an image can be difficult or impossible and nobody is perfect on this score, least of all me, but come on, people. If your Google Images search constantly sends you to MyCoolOldMovieReviews.com, then linkage to that site is in order. And, no, just because something appears on Google does not mean it’s in the public domain. Long story short, making your own screencaps is always the answer!

What do you use?

This is my method for screenshots. Which programs and techniques work for you? Please share in the comments!

***

Like what you’re reading? Please consider sponsoring me on Patreon. All patrons will get early previews of upcoming features, exclusive polls and other goodies.

9 Replies to “How to Make Your Own Screenshots and Take Your Movie Reviews to the Next Level”

  1. I use my Macbook Pro for just about everything. It is a newer version w/o a disc drive, so I bought an external one from Best Buy that supports Blu-rays. Additionally, software is required to read the Blu-rays, but that isn’t hard to find either. I just take screenshots the Mac way and crop them as needed! DVDs are a bit trickier to navigate thru in the Blu-ray software but they’ll still play.
    I posted my Mabel Normand article for the Women Filmmakers blogathon before I bought the disc drive, so I used VLC on my parents’ computer. It stretched the images a bit, though.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing!

      I had a stretching issue with VLC and it usually means you should either upgrade to a newer version or go back to an earlier release. I went a couple of releases down and it solved my problem. Hope this helps!

  2. So, my method is a bit simpler (maybe I’m doing it wrong?). I just pause the DVD, hit “print screen” and paste into MS Paint. Then I crop out the part of the screen that isn’t the image I want and save as a jpg.

    1. I don’t think there’s really a wrong way as long as you end up with an image you like. The advantage of VLC is that it saves you the cropping step and you don’t have to capture images one at a time but if it ain’t broke…

Comments open for 90 days. Comment policy is found in the sidebar menu.