How to Take Fullscreen DVD Screen Captures in Mac OS X Using FreeSnap

When it comes to taking screen captures in Apple’s DVD Player, the built-in Mac OS X screen capture tools are useless. Try to use the built-in screenshot shortcut (Shift-Command-3) while DVD Player is running, and you get nothing more than an error beep. Using Grab, the screen capture utility that comes on your Mac, you get similar results–an error message that says “Screen grabs are unavailable during DVD playback. Please quit DVD Player first.”

In spite of these limitations, there is a way to capture fullscreen shots from DVD’s. Actually, there are a couple of ways, but only one that is simple and straightforward.

The not-so-easy way is to download VLC Player from Version Tracker, http://www.versiontracker.com/macosx/. VLC is a free open-source video and audio player that is capable of playing almost any kind of video you give it, including VCD’s (video CD’s) and MPEG-4 files. It has a built-in screen capture feature, but it won’t take shots at fullscreen resolution. This is fine if you don’t want to blow up your screenshots to fullscreen size. The built-in Mac OS X shortcuts also work in VLC, but screenshots taken this way are saved as PDF’s, so if you want to be able to use the images in iPhoto, you will have to download a program like DropJPG (free) to convert them into JPEG files. The big problem with VLC Player, besides that it isn’t fully developed yet, is that you can’t step through individual frames, making it very difficult to catch the perfect shot.

The best way is to use DVD Player and FreeSnap, a free screenshot application. There are other freeware programs that some people might find more to their liking (SnapNDrag, GrabMac, & Capture Me to name a few). But I found FreeSnap to be the easiest to use for the purpose of taking fullscreen DVD captures.

All it takes is five steps:

1. Download (again from Version Tracker, http://www.versiontracker.com/macosx/). FreeSnap requires Mac OS 10.2 or higher.

2. Install (Drag application icon to your Applications folder).

3. Start and set up FreeSnap.

4. Launch DVD Player in fullscreen mode and pause the scene you want to capture.

5. Use the FreeSnap shortcuts to take the picture.

When you start FreeSnap, a settings dialog box pops up. Since FreeSnap documentation is scanty, here is a rundown of the settings:

Snap: You can choose to capture the whole screen, a selection of the screen, a window, or a fixed location (which is a selection with specific dimensions).

Timer: Check this box if you want FreeSnap to count down a specified number of seconds before it takes the shot.

Scale Screenshot: Choose from a number of percentages to set the scale for the shot.

File Type: There are ten different file types to choose from, including JPG, PDF, TIFF, and PNG. If you choose JPG (which is the default), you can click “Options” and set the compression level.

File Name: Click “Set” to specify a name for the screenshot.

Destination: You can choose to save the image as a file, save it to the clipboard (for later pasting) or send it straight to your printer.

By default, FreeSnap saves the screenshots to your desktop, but you can change this in Preferences under the FreeSnap menu. Preferences is also where you specify the boundaries for fixed location shots, choose how FreeSnap indicates that it has taken a shot, and view and customize the shortcut keys. These you will want to memorize because it is the only way to take shots in DVD Player’s fullscreen mode.

The default FreeSnap shortcut keys are:

Shift-Command-7 for grabbing the whole screen.

Shift-Command-8 for grabbing a selection. (The mouse pointer turns into cross-hairs and you click and drag to select the portion you want to capture. The picture is taken when you release the mouse button.)

Shift-Option-Command-9 for grabbing a fixed location selection.

That’s all there is to it. I must say though, that I give you this information trusting that you will only use it for personal, legal uses. With that said, have fun!

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