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How to Take Batch Screenshots or Screencaps in VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player

Hello and welcome to my somewhat brief, yet quite informative tutorial on how to take batch screenshots with VLC Media Player. The version of VLC that I’m using is 2.1.5 – Rincewind. As far as I’m aware, previous versions of VLC do this differently, so my tutorial will not work for you if you are not using 2.1.5. Apologies in advance for that!

EDIT 4/18/2015: A new version of VLC has been released: 2.2.1 Terry Pratchett (Weatherwax.) This tutorial WILL work with this version! The preferences interface looks a little different now, but you can still click 'all' on the bottom left of the program and from then on everything works the same. If you have any questions, let me know!

Also, please note that I am assuming you know the basics of locating a program, opening a program, and potentially putting a DVD in the disc drive of your computer. This tutorial will not cover those things, so if you don’t know how to do those, please ask a friend or consult Google. I am using Windows 7, and I am assuming Windows 8 will be similar; however, if you're using iOS or Linux, things may look a little different to you. I cannot answer questions if you're using one of those operating systems since I have no experience with them.

What Is VLC Media Player, and Why Should I Use It over Windows Media Player?

VLC Media Player, which can be found on VideoLAN’s website here, plays video files and plays videos off of DVDs and Blu-rays much like Windows Media Player can. However, many people prefer the simplicity of VLC Media Player, as well as the stability. Personally, I haven’t used Windows Media Player in years, but I do recall it crashing from time to time, and I haven’t experienced crashing when watching a video in VLC Media Player.

Whether or not you should use VLC Media Player over Windows Media Player really just boils down to preference since they can both do pretty much the same things, but since I don’t use Windows Media Player, this tutorial will just be for VLC.

Why Take Screenshots of a Video?

There are many reasons why you'd want to take batch screenshots of a video:

  • Maybe you really liked a few of the scenes in a short film and you'd like to share them with friends.
  • You want to create an animated .gif image for use somewhere on the internet.
  • You want to take images from a favorite video and make wallpapers for your computer or smartphone.

Of course, your reason doesn't have to be one of those; you could very well have a reason that's unique to you -- it doesn't matter! This tutorial should help you get closer to achieving whatever goal that is.

How to Take Batch Screencaps with VLC, Step 1

Create a folder on your desktop by right clicking anywhere and choosing ‘New’ and then ‘Folder’. Name it whatever you’d like, and then open the folder. Click inside the address bar and copy everything that’s there, either by right clicking and selecting ‘Copy’ or by hitting ‘CTRL + C’.

Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image.
Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image. | Source

How to Take Batch Screencaps with VLC, Step 2

Have a video file or a DVD ready. If you’re using a video file that is already saved to your computer, make sure you know where it is located and can open it up easily. I will be using a video of a cat I found on a stock video website, and it’s located in a folder on my desktop. Now you can open up VLC Media Player.

Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image.
Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image. | Source

How to Take Batch Screencaps with VLC, Step 3

Select ‘Tools’ all the way up on the taskbar, and then ‘Preferences’. Now you’ll see what's in the image above in front of you.

EDIT 4/18/2015: This screen will look a little different in 2.2.1 Terry Pratchett. Don't worry! Still click the 'all' under 'show settings' and from then on this tutorial will follow exactly the same.

Click the button next to ‘All’ under ‘Show Settings’. It’s all the way at the bottom of the window that has just opened. Next, scroll down using the scroll bar and select ‘Filters.’ (#1 on the following image.) Then, over to the right, select the square check box that says ‘Scene Video Filter’. (#2 on the following image.) If you’ve done this correctly, you should see the word ‘scene’ in the text box below. (#3 on the following image.)

Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image.
Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image. | Source

How to Take Batch Screencaps with VLC, Step 4

Now, go back to the menu on the left and double click the word ‘filters’. This expands into a further, more indepth menu. Here, you’ll scroll down until you see ‘Scene Filter’ and click it. After clicking ‘Scene Filter,’ you’ll notice to your right that there are a few new options. First, you can choose what format VLC will save your images as. PNG files are very large, but they’re also the best quality. I recommend leaving this as is, unless you’re planning on taking screenshots of an entire movie. Doing that in PNG format would slow down any computer significantly, and so in that case you should change the setting to JPG or JPEG format. Since I’m assuming you’re not grabbing images from an entire movie right now, stick with PNG.

Next, you’ll see ‘Image width’ and ‘Image height’. Leave these at -1 each to ensure VLC does not resize any screenshots. I have never changed this setting, myself; if I find my screenshots too large, I resize them later using an image editing program.

The next option is filename prefix. By default, this is ‘scene’. You may keep this as is, or change it to whatever you’d like.

‘Directory path prefix’ is very important. Remember the folder you opened up earlier? The text in the address bar that you copied goes in this box. Make sure it looks correct; if anything is wrong here, VLC won’t know where to save the screenshots. (I’ve accidentally messed up putting the folder’s location here before, and wasted my time having to run the video file again and actually get my screenshots the second time! Be careful!)

Finally, ‘Recording ratio’ tells VLC how often to capture an image. My setting, 65, tells it to take an image every 65 frames. The lower the number, the more images you end up with. Experiment until you find what you like!

Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image.
Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image. | Source
Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image.
Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image. | Source

How to Take Batch Screencaps with VLC, Step 5

Click the play symbol on the bottom of VLC, all the way to the left. Choose whether your video is a file or on a disc, and hit ‘add’, then ‘play.’ Your video should now be playing. If it’s long, I recommend minimizing (NOT CLOSING) the program and doing something else. The video may pause briefly every few seconds to take an image; don’t worry about this.

Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image.
Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image. | Source

How to Take Batch Screencaps with VLC, Step 6

When your video has finished playing, open up the folder with your images! If any appear corrupted, delete them; sometimes VLC cannot capture an image in a batch and it ends up appearing corrupted. In my experience, this hasn’t happened much, but if it does happen to you, adjust the ‘Recording ratio’ and play the video again.

Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image.
Taking batch screencaps with VLC Media Player tutorial image. | Source

How to Take Batch Screencaps with VLC, Step 7

BEFORE watching another video, go back to ‘Filters’ in the ‘Preferences’ menu and uncheck ‘Scene Video Filter’, so that VLC doesn’t screencap that video.

Poll

What program do you use to watch videos?

See results

CONGRATULATIONS!

Hooray! You’ve successfully taken batch screenshots with VLC Media Player. Enjoy!

Comments 29 comments

MarieLB profile image

MarieLB 2 years ago from Yamba

Hi #Julie Brigman. What a great article you prepared here. Of all the genre of articles, I think the "how to" are the most difficult to prepare, and the most useful. I have had occasion where a hub has helped me to follow directions better than the manual. Thanks for sharing this knowledge, and doing it so well too.


Julie Brigman profile image

Julie Brigman 2 years ago from Maryland, USA Author

Thanks for the comment! I hope to have more tutorials up soon.


alan 2 years ago

nice tutorial , thanks for this


Erica Taylor profile image

Erica Taylor 2 years ago from New York, NY

Thank you so much for this tutorial! All the other ones I found were for much older versions and didn't help at all. Now it's working. :)


Julie Brigman profile image

Julie Brigman 2 years ago from Maryland, USA Author

Excellent, glad it worked for you!


from germany 23 months ago

great tutorial thanks for sharing


michael helmer 19 months ago

Hello Julie,

Very helpful tutorial. Would you know how to change the aspect ratio of the screenshots? I tried this with an old movie which is 4:3 and all of the screenshots come out widescreen.


Julie Brigman profile image

Julie Brigman 19 months ago from Maryland, USA Author

I've never really had to change the aspect ratio before so I could be completely wrong here, but you can try going to Tools > Preferences > Video, then putting 16:9 in the text field for 'Force Aspect Ratio' and see if that fixes it.


David Shipp 18 months ago

Thank you so much for these directions. They were very helpful and helped me get screencaps for the VLC version just before this one, 2.1.4. Before your article, I could not find good directions for any version of VLC when it came to screencapping. It's funny how companies seem to think that a user manual is not important anymore.

Oh, by the way, I was just trying to get screencaps, not batching, so I only had to go up to step 4, but that's how helpful your tutorial was by your insight to go through all the steps and not assume a newbie should not something about the program that they may not.


David Shipp 18 months ago

Edited not to know

Thank you so much for these directions. They were very helpful and helped me get screencaps for the VLC version just before this one, 2.1.4. Before your article, I could not find good directions for any version of VLC when it came to screencapping. It's funny how companies seem to think that a user manual is not important anymore.

Oh, by the way, I was just trying to get screencaps, not batching, so I only had to go up to step 4, but that's how helpful your tutorial was by your insight to go through all the steps and not assume a newbie should know something about the program that they may not.


Julie Brigman profile image

Julie Brigman 18 months ago from Maryland, USA Author

Thanks for the comment! Glad it helped :)


Donna 15 months ago

Hi Julie - any idea how to enforce the 'cropadd' action? This used to work flawlessly for me, however since a recent update the crop commands I have used to get rid of black lines around the DVD picture no longer work and all of my screenshots are saved with black lines around them.


Julie Brigman profile image

Julie Brigman 15 months ago from Maryland, USA Author

I honestly don't know; I've been fortunate enough not to have to use the croppadd filter. I tried Googling a solution for this and couldn't really find anything, but if I can figure something out I'll leave another comment. Thanks for the question though, and I'm sorry I couldn't help!


Dave 12 months ago

Great tutorial, just what I was looking for.

Many thanks


Julie Brigman profile image

Julie Brigman 12 months ago from Maryland, USA Author

Glad to help!


ossie 10 months ago

i Had follow your instructions, but nothing happens when playing the video, i am using vcl 2.2.1 on imac


Peter 9 months ago

Great instructions ... but ... I've spent the morning checking and re-checking but I only end up with one file which contains the last frame only.


Peter 9 months ago

PS

I've just noticed by watching the WE window that multiple files ARE being recorded BUT they all have the same name: scene.jpeg.


Julie Brigman profile image

Julie Brigman 9 months ago from Maryland, USA Author

Ossie:

I unfortunately have no experience with Macs, so I don't know how to help. Sorry!

I would suggest emailing the developers: http://www.videolan.org/contact.html


Julie Brigman profile image

Julie Brigman 9 months ago from Maryland, USA Author

Peter:

I've never had that happen to me :( If you've tried everything you can think of (and everything in the tutorial) I would suggest possibly emailing the developers about this since they know way more than I ever would:

http://www.videolan.org/contact.html

Sorry I couldn't help!


Peter 9 months ago

Thank you for taking the time to reply, Julie.


Peter 9 months ago

I have just tried yet again but with success. I suspect the mistake I made was to tick the "Always write to the same file" box, misunderstanding what it meant.

Thanks again.


Peter 9 months ago

Ossie,

I'm working on a Mac mini with VLC 2.0.9. I left the directory path prefix blank and my screengrabs ended up in my Pictures folder.


Nadia 4 months ago

Thanks so much


Julie 3 months ago

Hi Julie. Thanks for an awesome tutorial. I'd previously used a tutorial for VLC 0.9.9 but found it no longer worked when i got to my new computer which is win10. so this has helped me out a treat. thank you


Julie Brigman profile image

Julie Brigman 3 months ago from Maryland, USA Author

You're both very welcome! I'm glad the tutorial helped.


Iden 3 months ago

Never seems to create any files for me no matter whether I use latest version on Mac or older 2.1 version on Ubuntu. Just leaves me with an empty file directory. Is there anything that could go wrong here that it fails to create files?


Shweta 3 months ago

Thanks that was a great tutorial


PHREAK 7 weeks ago

FYI- increase frame count to about 2000 which is almost every minute and then increase speed setting to maximum and minimize window and it will take minutes for long videos instead of hours or full length time of video.

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