Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Up for Grabs

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Up for Grabs

Article excerpt

A new Media Lab device for those who can't stand stills from video

When President Clinton testified before a grand jury in 1998 it was Page One, above-the-fold news that required a picture. It's hard to forget the image that did appear on most front pages the next day apparent earnestness and resiliency amidst the blur.

News organizations worked with what they were given by the Independent Counsel's Office a single video tape. Photo editors grabbed a still and tooled it best they could, but the portrait of Clinton in newspapers the next day was not a high-quality photograph.

"People have been doing video-frame grabs for 30 years, but the quality hasn't been great," says Larry Rubenstein, assistant pictures editor at Reuters. "Frame-grabbing should be better, considering current technology."

Laura Teodosio thought so, too. Ten years ago, while pursuing the master's degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that she received in 1992, Teodosio set out to capture the essence of moving images in a single photograph. What she came up with is now the basis for a start-up company called Salient Stills. Based on her work at MIT Media Lab, the Boston-based company is planning several products that digitize video content to get better still photographs for print products.

VideoFOCUS is the first product to be released by Salient Stills, claiming to create 200- to 300-dpi (dots per inch) images from 72-dpi video grabs. To accomplish that, VideoFOCUS offers a simple turnkey solution consisting of a hardware/software package.

Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab and an investor in Salient Stills, says, "The initial impact [of VideoFOCUS] will be the repurposing of video into high-quality stills."

Those interested so far include The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Reuters, and Sports Illustrated E all of whom are potential beta-testing customers using VideoFOCUS. Salient Stills' asking price for VideoFOCUS is $20,000.

The hardware is made up of a CPU plus a Media 100 digitizing card, a SCSI disk array for captured video, Windows NT operating software, and the optional, but recommended, monitor (LaCie's Electron Blue). Designed for quick access in the newsroom, the digitizing box has a feed that handles content sources such as video, satellite, or cable. Once the content is digitized, it can be viewed as still frames on a computer monitor.

The application software, run only on a Windows NT system, allows a photo editor to select a focus frame, reduce video color noise, and improve the resolution. Teodosio was able to develop this by taking the frames surrounding the focus frame to draw the missing information. …

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