Print contact sheets / thumbnails from video footage

This is a task I don’t like doing, but it is certainly useful if you have a lot of footage to sort through and not everyone is very technically inclined. It allows you to print a contact sheet from every x frames/seconds/minutes of a video file. That helps when you are looking for a specific shot in a bunch of reels, and it helps to very quickly show an art director what the footage you have looks like.

You’ll need either Quicktime or FCP, and Photoshop for this.

1) open your video file

2a) in quicktime hit export / movie to image sequence. Select “advanced options” and put in a frames per second number. If you put in 1 then you will still end up with 60 frames per minute! Luckily Quicktime will let us deal with decimals here. A value of .016 will give you around one frame per minute and usually works out well.

2b) If you are using final cut pro then file / export using quicktime compression and follow the directions above.

3) select an output directory and spit out your stills!


4) in photoshop go to File / Automate / Contact sheet II. Select your still folder as the input folder and tweak whatever other settings you like. Hit “ok” and it will start crunching.

5) once they have all been processed in photoshop go to File / Automate / PDF Presentation. This step will create a pdf of all of the separate photoshop files for you to print / preview. Select “All open documents” (make sure nothing unwanted gets in to this step.) and hit ok.

What you end up with is a contact sheets showing you thumbnails from throughout your video. If you set the interval correctly then you can even determine the timecode from the sequential filename. i.e. if I export on frame per minute, then Clouds sm 10.png is the beginning of the 10th minute! Good luck – I hope this helps someone’s workflow somewhere!

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