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How do you make those seamless vidcap montages?

Well, hopefully this brief tutorial will help out those newbies just starting out to improve their skills. This is by no means a complete lesson on image montaging, it is only meant for beginners who want to put their vidcaps together but don't quite know how its done.

I've never seen a vidcap help page anywhere on the internet so I do believe this is a first. Hopefully it will be a good one.

Of course I can't give all the secrets away, then everyone's work would be the same. Instead i hope you discover more creative ways to put your work together. My inspiration has come from my two favorite vidcap montage artists, DAI (of DAI's Celebrity Message Board fame) and R?ddler. I have imitated their techniques in hopes of enhancing my own abilities and learned a great deal on the way. I however didn't have any help on the way, as most other image artists. My experience in Photoshop has helped me tremendously and allowed me learn quickly.

Part 1. System Settings
           Video Setup
Part 2. Capturing Images
           Edit Preparation
Part 3. Brightness, Contrast and Curves
Part 4. Adjusting Levels
Part 5. Color Adjustments
Part 6. Sharpening
Part 7. Montaging the caps


Before I start, i should mention that all my editing is done in Adobe Photoshop 5.02 and captured with the ATI TV Tuner. Some of the information here will only be relevant to ATI users and all editing will be strictly relating to Photoshop.

Step 1. System Settings    to top

Your computer should be configured with at least 32 megs of ram, but think of upgrading to 64 megs or more because graphic editing is heavily memory dependent. Your memory should be adequately configured so that your cache settings allow you to get the most out of your memory. I use Cacheman (listed on my software page) to tweak my settings.

You should also have plenty of swap space available (at least 100 megs) and set a static swap file size to about 120 megs or so in order to prevent needless swap re-sizing. If you don't know how to do this then you shouldn't be doing it.

Your capture card should also have at least 4 megs of VRAM. This is ram dedicated to the video card and is also where it will store the images temporarily unless you're capturing directly to disk. The more ram you have, the more captures you can take and the faster you can take them.

      Tip: Make sure you have a lot of ram!

You should defragment your hard drive at least every 2 weeks to keep file access quick and prevent lost sectors. I use Norton Speed Disk which is by far better than the standard Windows Disk Defragmenter. Speed Disk allows you to physically move files to where you want them on your hard drive for faster access, move folders to the front and sort alphabetically etc. Very powerful and useful.

Also keep in mind that Photoshop requires 10 megs free space on C: at all times, without it you will get a "not enough ram" error message and Photoshop will fail to launch. That said lets get into the actual capturing.

Step 2. Video Setup    to top

To capture the highest quality images, you have to have the best quality input available. If your capture card supports S-Video then you should use it! S-Video is much better than standard composite or coaxial input. It separates the color information (Chrominance) from the brightness (Luminance), which prevents nasty things like color bleeding and dot crawl, and helps increase clarity and sharpness. You can greatly improve the image quality by simply converting to S-Video. For more information on S-Video see the S-VIDEO FAQ.

Also you should know that LIVE captures are significantly better than tape playback (except for tapes that you rent or buy.) Always try to capture live as opposed to taping the program and capturing afterwards. You will notice a great difference. Look at my example and notice the difference in both color and sharpness.

Live Taped

As you can see there is a difference in quality. These are raw caps (unedited) Also note that I have a very high quality Toshiba M782 VCR, $ 600 when I bought it and the quality still doesn't match up to live captures. This only means that lower quality VCRs will be even worse for playback.

      Tip: Always capture live!

Now that only applies for TV shows of course, VHS tapes from the local video store will produce much better quality than even Live captures. To see a high quality capture from Starship Troopers click here.

One thing most people don't know is the resolution capability of their capture card. Capture cards are limited to 640 * 480 pixel captures, regardless of what other people may tell you. This is because the input signal from the TV is only that large. ( Just for your information, video games on consoles such as playstation and N64 are only 320 * 240 resolution! ) I've argued with many people over this and they keep saying how their card can save at 1024*768 and up, and what do I tell them? You're right! That's because they are right. The cards are capable of SAVING at just about any resolution you want BUT, this is a resample image, that is the software makes a capture at 640 * 480 and re sizes it to lets say 1024 * 768 by stretching it out.

      Tip: Don't let your video capture software resize the image for you! Photoshop does a much job.

That's right, save your images at the resolution you captured them in and then resize them to whatever you desire in Photoshop. They will keep more sharpness this way.

To capture at the highest possible resolution check the "capture at 640 * 480 " and "do not scale captured image".Your settings should look exactly like this:

There are several different ways to capture stills. You can use the single frame capture mode whereby each still you grab will be presented in a preview window until its saved. This method is what I've used for the past year and was best for sorting out only the stills I wanted to keep. Another method is using the sequenced still mode, whereby you capture a sequence of frames directly to disk as one large avi file. This is the method I now use because you can capture MUCH more quickly. Then you can use a video editing program such as Adobe Premiere (my personal favorite) to extract the frames.


For this use the middle button, the one that looks like a video camera and paper. Before doing this you must set up the proper size in the options (blue button on the far right.) Go to the VCR tab and click the advanced button and set it to YVU9 Planar (Indeo Raw) image format. This is the best quality/size compromise and most widely accepted codec for raw video. Then set the image dimensions to 640*480. This is only available in 16 and 24 bit color depth. You will not see them if you are in 32 bit color mode.


Now you have to set up the video controls such as brightness, contrast etc. These settings will vary from show to show and channel to channel. The main thing to remember is to have the color set to its highest, and make sure the tint accurately represents the picture on the TV (not too yellow and not too red.)

Here are some general settings that should be good for any channel:

Also note that the capture mode is set to "Both Fields." This is the best option for any kind of video because it will render the least "interlace." ie. lines across the image. Set the Color Setting to "cool" because when set to warm, the captures come out the same as set to cool even through they look "warmer" in the video window. I'm not sure if this is a bug in the drivers or not.

      My tip: set up your video settings before capturing ! Don't leave everything up to the editing.

Now you should be all set to capture.

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