In TESOL Video Newsletter E-Newsletter, 14(2), 2003.

Capturing DVD Images for Pedagogical Applications

Johanna E. Katchen

Technology now permits us to copy digital images directly from DVDs.  Here we will not discuss copying moving images or sound but only still images.  From the teacher’s point of view, if we want to show moving images, for most classroom applications we can just use the DVD.  The still image, however, is more useful for the activities teachers develop for use before or after watching an excerpt of a film.  As with the DVD, the still pictures are also copyright protected.  The definition of fair use in classroom settings may (or perhaps may not) include the judicious use of a few images for review purposes.

Here I will first talk about why we might want to use captured still images (capture is a term used to mean copy and save video, including stills) and then explain the steps in how to do it.

Why Use Captured Images?

We can use the still image from a DVD in the same way we can use any picture.  They can be purely decorative, making handouts more appealing and bulletin boards more colorful.  More specifically, images from a film aid memory in post-viewing tasks.  For example, usually in the first few scenes of a film, most of the major and secondary characters are introduced.  A common activity after viewing these scenes is to describe the characters or to predict something about their character and behavior.  This is far easier for students to do if there is some image of the character (perhaps one-inch square) next to the name and some space for them to write their descriptions.  This is a solution we see in commercial textbooks.  After all, even native speakers would have difficulty keeping names and faces of several characters straight after one or two viewings.  Moreover, the teacher might waste too much time trying to locate a still image of each character from the DVD in front of the whole class.  Other activities might include using a selected set of 4 – 6 images from a part of a film to prompt students to re-tell what happened, or, before viewing, showing a still of the main characters together and have students guess their relationship or predict what will happen.

If we have students report on aspects of films, they, too, can sometimes prepare more efficient materials with still images.  I have learned this from experience.  The first time I asked my class of 28 freshmen English majors (in Taiwan) to give group reports on aspects of a DVD film, they wasted a lot of class time and were very frustrated with using the DVD controls to locate the parts of the film they wanted to show to illustrate their points.  Fortunately, not long after, the students’ self-access lab received a new computer on which was installed a DVD drive and software to capture images.  At that time we were using “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and at the beginning of the second week I gave students a review of characters using Power Point; next to the image of each character (captured from the DVD) was his/her name and a brief description.  I told students what software I used for this Power Point presentation and for previous classroom handouts, told them where it was available for their use, and encouraged them to think of this option for their next group reports.  I did not specifically teach them how to use the software.

A few weeks later, at the end of the semester, two of six groups used still images from the Harry Potter film embedded in Power Point presentations to report on 1) costumes and 2) objects that behave in unusual ways.  (Two other groups used material gathered from the Internet, and the group reporting on the music obviously had to work with audio.)  By the end of this two-semester course, all groups had worked with captured still images and other technology on their own initiative to compile some lovely presentations.  Students (including the females) are usually far ahead of their teachers in making technology their own. 

How Can I Capture the Images?

To capture still images from DVDs, you will need a DVD drive on your computer and software that allows you to play the DVD and capture images.  One of the first companies to permit capture of still images was CyberLink [] with its Power DVD, a software that comes bundled with many new computers in Taiwan, and it is the software I am most familiar with.  Other newer DVD player software also allows capture, but you need to check as older software did not.

Capturing still images from DVDs is relatively easy and involves three basic steps: capturing and saving the images, locating the saved images, and incorporating them into teaching materials.  First, play the DVD and when you find an image you want to capture, hit PAUSE on the image.  You may have to move forward or backward frame by frame (usually you can do this while on pause) to get the best image (e.g., with the character’s eyes open, mouth closed).  When you find the frame you want, hit the CAPTURE button or icon.  You can continue pausing and capturing until you get all the images you require.  On Power DVD, capturing the image also saves it.

Do remember, however, that saved images do take up rather a lot of computer space, up to several megabytes, so make sure you have enough space on the drive in which you are saving the images.  Normally, when you install the new software, your computer will choose the C drive unless you tell it otherwise.  Thus to find the images saved by the Power DVD I am using, I open C drive/Program Files/Cyberlink/ Power DVD/Images.  Here the images will be automatically numbered in sequence.  Though sensible in computer terms, this does seem to be a long way to dig to find your saved image.  This and other software  gives you other options when capturing, such as saving the image directly to a clipboard and then pasting it where you want it.  I prefer to capture several images while I am playing the DVD and then later when I am ready to use them, selecting the ones I like best and deleting the rest.  But others may have different preferences.

To use an image, I open it, copy it, then open the file of the place I want to put it and paste it in.  At this point the image is quite large.  You may want to modify (resize, crop, make brighter, etc.) your image within the original software (if it permits), within your picture editor (most newer computers come with a built-in picture editor), or within the program you are pasting it into.  For example, both Word and Power Point have a picture toolbar to do simple editing.  You work with these images captured from DVD the same way you work with other images from a digital still camera or scanned image, for example.

Note that for handouts, it is better to turn the images into black and white first (the computer usually calls this gray scale.  You may need to add some brightness to the image to get acceptable contrast of lighter and darker gray scale.  I have found that a copy machine always seems to make images somewhat darker than the original, so adjust accordingly.

As mentioned earlier, captured images take up a lot of memory, so usually a file containing images cannot be transported on a floppy disk.  How, then, will you take your material to class?  If the file is on your notebook, can you take your notebook and connect it to a projector in the classroom?  If the classroom already has a computer, there are some choices.  If the computer has stable Internet access, you might temporarily upload to your own site (it does not have to be linked nor publicly accessible as long as you know the URL) and then download it in class (better to do this before class).  Some of our students used this option for their reports.

Two more dependable ways are to save the file on a CD or on an external hard drive.  Some of these portable drives are as small as a key and have a capacity of 250 megabytes or more.  Larger ones are the size of a PDA and store 20 to 30 or more gigabytes.  Make sure the computer you plan to use it on is compatible and can read the drive without installing special software first (Windows 98 requires that you install the driver from the disc; later versions install automatically).  Essentially it’s the same advice for anyone using technology: try to use the equipment ahead of time to make sure everything works.

To the movie buff, the moving image may be more exciting than the still.  For the teacher, however, a few carefully selected still images from a film, presented on a projector or a handout, can facilitate various pre-, while-, and post-viewing discussion and writing activities.

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