The Slanted Lens Explores Why Pulling Stills From Video is a Zero-Sum Game

In game theory, a zero-sum game is one in which one side’s gain is exactly balanced out by the other side’s loss. Regarding photography, the term works well to describe one problem with the ever-more-popular art of motion image photography, or pulling stills from very high-definition video. And in the video above, The Slanted Lens makes this point very well by testing the concept in a photo shoot using Canon’s 1D C.

Whether or not motion image photography is the future is up for debate. Both the Canon 1D C and the much more expensive 5K Red Epic have already been used to test the concept in videos we’ve shared in the past.

And although the results of those tests have turned out fairly positive, The Slanted Lens takes this opportunity to point out one of the main issues with the practice: most video requires motion blur, and a lot of photography eschews it.

The video is well worth a look if you want to see a visual representation of the problem. In essence, as the stills get sharper, the video gets shakier and more unnatural looking. And while motion blur has its place in photography, and ‘shakiness’ its place in video, the trade-off makes a “best of both worlds” scenario unlikely.

(via Nine Volt)

  • Renato Murakami

    Not to mention the huge problems this would generate for post.
    Instead of like 10 pics to select, you’d have tons and tons of frames to go through… not a pretty picture.

  • bob cooley

    Great illustration of this concept. I’m glad someone put together a simple, practical explanation as a teaching guide.

    One added (and hopefully) helpful note: Most people creating life-like video choose 24fps not just because its a throwback to when people shot film. Film-makers who shot film (and now shoot video) use 24fps for good reason. 24fps is the threshold where the brain ‘sees’ natural looking motion.

    Anything slower than that and the brain interprets it as a series of still images (look at animations, gifs or video slower, say at 15fps for an illustration of this). And the higher the frame rate the more the film starts to have the uncomfortable smoothness of CGI (like a video game cut-scene).

    This doesn’t directly correlate to the illustration of the video, but its another approach that someone might attempt to ‘trick’ the other 2 factors, and unfortunately it won’t work to create both great stills and video in the same shot either (the video will suffer).

  • juhstst

    you guys gave no clue.
    it´s great. and im making money with it.
    what are you doing? photographing your dogs?

  • Jason Zeis

    Something that could fix many of these problems could be something like a Red EPIC can shoot HDRX, but instead of different ISO values, different shutter values. For example one file could shoot 1/50 whilst the other would shoot 1/200.

    There may be some problems, but the only thing in the way is Canon, letting users modify the 1DC… Canon please take note!

    Any comments or ideas?

  • bob cooley

    Yeah, don’t let physics or best-practices stop you…

  • bob cooley

    That might work – it would be interesting to see the results. – since HDRX is a sort of compromise on its own, it doesn’t seem likely to solve the physics issue. You would likely end up with the same types of compromises.

    Do you have an example of stills pulled from a HDRX? Not being flippant – would love to see if it would work well with stills.

  • Adam Gasson

    Yeah exactly, it’s one of the points he makes in the video, saying it’s a real ‘shotgun’ approach. I can’t see many clients allowing their budget to be used in a way that *might* result in a sharp frame at the right time.

  • Adam Gasson

    So because it works for you it instantly works for *every* field of photography? Did you really understand/watch the video?

  • J.D. Tyre

    great explanation….and one I will use. Many clients are getting just enough info to be “dangerous” as they see the frame rates and resolutions become pretty standard across cameras….and the inevitable (albeit naive’…) question is, “why can’t I have both?!” my response has been “you can! with two photogs and two sets…”….always met with the derisive look of one who just can’t trust me…

  • Dominik Muench

    Jason is right, I shoot motion stills with my Epic a lot, I’m not actually using HdrX, which allows for crisper images and adjusting motion blur, but I simply shoot with a very fast shutter and then extract stills from the video footage, one video example can be found here: on my website are several stills images in the glamour section which I pulled form 5K Epic footage.

  • Anthony Burokas

    The fatal flaw with this is that the key feature of “motion image photography” is the ability to take a 4k or 5k frame from a video series. The intent was always to shoot stills. But now we’re shooting bursts of stills to reduce the “almosts” by just missing the apex of a smile, or a blink ruins an otherwise perfect shot.

    Sure, there may be people who now want both at the same time, and this rain example is perfectly suited for making sure the subject does not fit the delivery medium.

    But if you’re talking events (corporate, wedding, even presidential, etc) shooting motion images is shooting stills at 24 (or more) frames a second. You want to get just the right glint in the subject’s eye, now you can.

    You want video, shoot video. (slower shutter speed)
    You want stills shoot stills, or motion images.
    Don’t confuse the two.

  • bob cooley

    Thanks for sharing this, but it’s not what the thesis is in the OPs video describes (getting usable ‘normal’ video and sharp still frames) – you’ve got sharp stills, but the frame rate is so high that when replayed at regular speed, your videos are slow-motion. Do you have any that had good quality video w/ framerates in natural ranges?

    Seems to me this is going to be a bit of an issue just because of the physics.

    I’ll check out the Reduser site. Cheers.

  • Dominik Muench

    yes they are slow-mo on 24/25 fps playback. HOWEVER, should you want “normal” non slowmotion playback speed of footage that has been shot at a high framerate and a fast shutter, there are several plugins for final cut, premiere and so on that allow you to emulate a 25fps motion blur on footage that has been shot on irregular framerates and shutter speeds. so there are ways around if it need be. of course it increases the postpro time, but it can definitely be done.

  • ProtoWhalePig

    It’s optimal if s/he’s making money.

  • Chetan Crasta

    Wouldn’t this be a solution? Always shoot video at shutter speeds that match the frame rate. And the frame rate should be multiples of 25.
    Example: Say you need stills of 1/100, shoot at 1/100, 100fps. Then, obtain 1/25 25fps video by merging every four frames. Stills can be extracted from the original unprocessed video.

  • bob cooley

    So your definition of “optimal” is simply making money?

    I’m sure crack dealers will be pleased you find their outcome optimal, too.

  • bitrat

    Not a pretty picture….ha ha ha ha ha ha!…..oh, sorry

  • Samuel

    Well, if you are making money from scouring 24 individual relatively low resolution photos for every 1 second you try and capture and then I imagine post processing them agonisingly slowly to produce a still slightly below par still image from a video instead of just learning how to use burst mode or better still, take photos at the right time (read: decisive moment) and not even need to look through a burst of photos to find the one that coincidentally looks good then awesome, good for you but I feel i should let you know, if you dont already, that you are making completely non replicable images from gear that is doing something it isn’t designed to do to achieve the end result that the gear in question is made to achieve.

    It doesn’t make sense but i applaud your ability to sell 13 megapixel (5k resolution 5120×2700) frames of video, i suppose if every single scientific principle involved with video/photography went you’re way (which is a likelihood i suspect would be similar to being struck by lightening 24 times a second) you would be able to sell 24 photos for every second of your time so thats …. something i guess.

  • Brad Trent

    This was very informative and answered a lotta questions I had about the 1D-C, but am I the only one who is bothered that a guy as obviously experienced as this pronounces ‘fresnel’ as ‘frez-nel’…?!! OK…I’ll stop picking nits……