Delay's Blog is the blog of David Anson, a Microsoft developer who works with C#, XAML, HTML, and Azure.
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When I transfer clips from my digital camera to my computer, I briefly check that the video transferred successfully. For images, this is usually a matter of opening a few of them - for video files I usually load them in Media Player and seek to a couple of different points. Mine is hardly a fail proof system, but it's fairly quick and it makes me feel a little safer about deleting the originals from the camera. :) One day I got to thinking that it would be pretty easy to automatically generate a set of video thumbnails instead of seeking around manually...
So I did some research into video frame capture with WPF and found that it boiled down to a few main ideas:
Because of the asynchronous nature of the video frame updates, attempting to capture multiple frames in rapid succession (ex: seek, capture, seek, capture, ...) resulted in duplicate frames every time the capture occurred too soon for the frame's content to update (which was most of the time!). This was clearly unsuitable for my scenario because I wanted my application to generate its thumbnails as quickly as possible. After a bit of experimentation and playing around, I arrived at a technique that seems to work quite reliably in practice.
I wrote a simple WPF application to show how it works - here's an image of VideoThumbnailer displaying a summary of a video of someone tubing in the snow:
(The complete source code to VideoThumbnailer is available as an attachment to this post.)
The technique itself is fairly simple, if not entirely as straightforward as it would be if changes to the Position property were synchronous:
There's nothing particularly clever going on here, but there are a few complicating circumstances worth mentioning:
Having implemented the technique above, we should have a fast, reliable solution for video file thumbnail generation that works with a wide variety of file types by virtue of the underlying operating system's support. And, indeed, VideoThumbnailer works fine with all the WMV, DVR-MS, MPEG, and AVI files I've tried (and probably supports some other types I didn't try). There are plenty of changes one could make to VideoThumbnailer to make it a more useful application, but I hope it serves pretty well as a concrete example of the concepts discussed here.
Happy frame grabbing!