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How to Take DVD/Video Screenshots on Windows

Taking screenshots of DVD, MPEG, AVI, and other video on Windows machines requires a couple of extra steps. A normal screenshot is easy enough to capture by pressing the “Print Screen” button on your keyboard.

To capture a screenshot of video display, however, you need to disable hardware acceleration to make it work. To do this on Windows machines, go to your Desktop properties and click on the Settings tab. Click on the Advanced button and then on the Troubleshooting tab. Slide the Hardware Acceleration to “None” and then capture and process your screenshot as normal. Once you are finished taking your screenshot, don’t forget to switch your Hardware acceleration back to its original settings (e.g., “Full”).

Here is a quick step-by-step guide for capturing video screenshots:

  1. Desktop > Properties > Settings > Advanced > Troubleshoot > Hardware acceleration: None
  2. Capture screenshot(s) via Print-Screen key and process as desired
  3. Return Hardware acceleration back to previous settings
[ Windows Troubleshoot Settings ]

Why is this necessary? It has to do with the way in which Windows Hardware Acceleration works. When Hardware Acceleration is set to “Full”, video data is rendered by the graphics card and is not available to the screen buffer for capture. Conversely, when Hardware Acceleration is disabled (i.e., set to “none”), video data is rendered before graphical processing and thus exists in the screen buffer during screen capture. Then again, I’m no expert in video processing, so feel free to chime in with more information. :)

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17 responses to “How to Take DVD/Video Screenshots on Windows”

  1. A lot of software DVD players already have this feature built in, so you don’t have to mess with hardware acceleration. For example, the free Media Player Classic Home Cinema has a small menu option to take screenshots whenever you like.

  2. That’s a pretty neat tip. I’ve hunted for a solution many times in the past until I found out how to do it in ffmpeg.

  3. Jeff Starr 2009/05/31 2:29 pm

    @fuzion: ah good tip on ffmpeg — I hadn’t seen that one before. I also found myself digging around for an easy way to capture screens and decided to post the solution for future reference.

    @Austin: absolutely true — many DVD apps do include screen-capture functionality, but then again, many do not. Hopefully this post will help users with software that is non-supportive.

  4. Like Austin, I’m offering a player with screen capture because I like to plug it at every op.

    This player is significant for being a GNU project and a player so universal we use it as the default on company PCs, and tell our staff to revert to WM or QT only if desperate.

    It’s notable as not nagging for codecs, and for home PCs that’s a bonus as we all know how many often the useless WM wants codecs, or how often the media file is a Trojan pretending to want a codec.

    Of course, referring to’s VLC media player.

    Oh and thanks Jeff for the bottom line tip, as I never figured that out, which set me on the search for a player to do the trick :)

  5. Jeff Starr 2009/06/02 8:16 am

    @phillwv: My pleasure, thanks for the feedback :)

  6. Thanks for posting this tutorial, Jeff! I learned this technique a year ago or so (yea, I’m quite slow when it comes to video stuff) but never bothered to write a tutorial – thanks for sharing! I am aware that many modern, third-party players do offer screenshot function, but I prefer the good old way of hitting the print screen button because sometimes, the screenshot function fails or doesn’t work at all. To make things worse, some players don’t tell you where the screenshots are saved, hah!

    Thanks for explaning why using hardware acceleration makes taking a screenshot impossible – I didn’t know why is that so until you wrote about it :)

  7. Kim Woodbridge 2009/06/07 9:09 am

    Aahh … very nice. Didn’t know this. I use VLC to play video and it has screenshot capability built in.

  8. Jeff Starr 2009/06/07 5:53 pm

    @Teddy: Great to see you! I am with you on being slow on the video side of the tracks, although at one time I considered video editing and processing to be one of my specialties. For better or for worse, over the course of the past few years my focus has shifted almost entirely to web design and development with a little bit of graphic design and blogging stuff thrown in. Someday, when I get a chance, I would love to get back into it, but for now, these little tidbits of video-related information are the best that I can do! ;)

    @Kim: I guess I need to check out the VLC player! I was just browsing their site and it looks like it does just about everything I would need — not to mention being available for both Mac and PC. For the longest time I have just been using some default proprietary player that shipped with my computer. Looks like it’s time to think about upgrading a few things. Thanks for dropping by — always a pleasure to see you! :)

  9. I’m yet to venture into videography and editing. It’s not my cup of tea, although many time-lapse video took my breath away and I’m trying to use my camera to achieve the same effect. The fact is that besides making a graduation video for my college class, I’ve never made any other video in my entire life, hah! If I have any questions perhaps I can consult the guru here.

  10. @Teddy: lol, like I said, it’s been awhile since I have been into the whole video-editing scene, much to my dismay. I use to work a lot with Adobe Premier, After Effects, and other apps in that genre of editing, but I’m sure that the tools of the trade have changed immensely since those days. So, I am by no means even close to being a guru, but I do maintain a great desire to get back into it someday, assuming I get the time – ha!

    Also, since I’ve got you on the line, I wanted to ask you about that awesome infrared lens that you blogged about recently. I saw the results and have to say that I simply must get myself one of those. I love photography, and love taking inverted, filtered, and macro shots, and think that the infrared photography would be very inspiring to work with. Where can I get it!

  11. Ah, you remind me so much of my dear roommate! He was once a Adobe Flash guru – at 13 he designed flash navigations that respond to mouse gestures and etc, I remembered even my computer lab teachers were wowed. But now he only uses Flash to create vector graphics and has since moved on to After Effects. He told me he totally forgot about action scripts and etc, haha!

    Regarding infrared photography, you don’t need to have special lenses to do so. I only know how to do it using a dSLR though – all you need is to invest in a decent tripod and a great infrared/far red filter (those that block out lights of wavelengths 720nm and below). Since most dSLR manufacturers place infrared blockers in front of the CCD/CMOS sensors (apparently, some clothing appear to be translucent when photographed in infrared, lol!), even under bright sunlight, exposure time ranges around 6 to 15 seconds, depending on the camera.

    You simply have to attach the infrared filter (I use a Hoya R72 filter – Hoya is a Japanese brand and their quality is excellent) to the lens. Hoya offers a range of diameters for the infrared filter, I use a 55mm one so that I can screw it on to my Sony A200 kit lenses.

    I bought my Hoya R72 filter from a local dealer at a rather hefty price of SGD90 (approximately USD60). There are cheaper ones out at eBay, but after including shipping costs and time, I preferred to buy it from a local dealer. Since you’re in the US, you can get free shipping so it shouldn’t be a problem. You should expect a price of around USD40 to USD60 for Hoya R72 filter. Speaking of which, be extremely careful when it comes to buying infrared filters – some unscrupulous sellers pass RED filters (not far red or infrared filters). A quick check will be looking through the filter – if you can see clearly through it and everything appears red, it’s a fake. Infrared filters let you see a little bit of red when viewing against very bright objects (eg lightbulbs, sun etc) while darker objects will be invisible. The filter should ideally appear to be almost completely black.

    Oh, and before getting a filter, check if your lens causes hot spots to appear in photos. Some lenses (usually kit lenses, but mine worked well) will produce hot spots due to the different refractory index of infrared light in the lens.

    I’ll be happy to answer more questions :)

  12. Jeff Starr 2009/06/17 8:05 am

    Wow, Teddy – that is an insanely useful, informative and enlightening reply. The Hoya filter looks keen, and I will probably pick one up later this Summer when things slow down a bit (er, hopefully they will). After seeing the picture, I think I have seen those before at dealer shops, and even recall seeing a variety of different types/colors. Even so, checking around on eBay and other online shops, it looks like I can pick up a decent filter for around $45, as you suggest. Thanks again for the insight on this — I’m keeping your number on speed dial in case I have any more questions about lenses and filters. Cheers :)

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Perishable Press is operated by Jeff Starr, a professional web developer and book author with two decades of experience. Here you will find posts about web development, WordPress, security, and more »
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