I am hoping this is the right area to post this. I have 1080p trail camera footage of someone stealing equipment. The truck plates are a little too far away in the video to clearly make out the numbers.

I was just taking screenshots of the video using print screen, or using the snippet tool to get them into GIMP. I think the quality got degraded from doing that. I am trying to magnify the video frames but I don't think this method will work.

I originally used GIMP and a open source application called smartDeblur to see if I could get it. I was using GIMP to increase the scale without losing quality but it was too distorted the bigger it got to make anything out.

Does GIMP have any sort of video to image capture I can use? Is doing the snippet or screen shot of a video indeed losing image quality from what was originally on the frame?

  • 1
    CSI - it's much less nonsense than you expect. There's some essential info available - namely "it's a license plate". It is possible to calculate which license plate content is the most probable cause of the captured video frames. Police uses license plate recognition tools routinely. Read this: securityinfowatch.com/article/10561691/…. Something is possible to try at home. Zoom in the plate, watch the video (not separate frames) with anti-shake processing ( both are in video editors) and let your vision to do its job. Search also for license plate recognition software and services.
    – user82991
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 1:42

4 Answers 4


In general, if it's unclear and unreadable watching and pausing the video, you probably aren't going to be able to "enhance" it enough to make it readable.

Technology just doesn't work the way tv shows such as CSI would have you believe it does. There's no "zoom and enhance" that suddenly makes an overly blurry small number remarkably readable.

Taking screen shots is customarily not much better (or worse) than copying clips from the video and pasting them into an image editor. Video has a set (low) resolution. The whole 480/720/1080/4K all refer to the width and height, not the pixel resolution.

And in reality, sometimes reducing the size of a 720/1080/4k video can make it clearer. If you view a 1080 video, pause it, then reduce the dimensions down to 480... the pixel density of the video increases possibly allowing a bit more clarity. It doesn't change the actual video, only how the pixels are interpolated on a display. This is the entire theory behind retina and 4k displays... larger images reduced to increase pixel density. It allows pixels to be displayed tighter together which can, at times, make a video appear sharper even though it's the same video.

Of course, I'm generalizing. It may be possible to sharpen enough to tell if "that" is a B or an 8. However if you can't even see enough where you know it's either a B or an 8 it may be a lost cause.

Without a sample image I don't think I could be definitive in what may or may not work.

  • Yea I was thinking that too. Although, I was looking at some YouTube videos of program called, "Amped five" that looked to do some remarkable things. It's probably pretty expensive though, but looking into it, it's only available for law enforcement, lawyers, crime investigation etc. So I was hoping maybe I would have some success if I could get the image bigger without quality loss.
    – eaglei22
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 17:37
  • ...or it's a hoax video. I'm pretty certain if the technology existed Adobe would be selling it.
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 17:40
  • didn't think of that. That is very true!
    – eaglei22
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 17:41
  • 1
    @eaglei22 There is no way that reducing the image is going to provide more detail or make it easier to read. Like saying an image on cellphone looks sharper than the same image on a computer monitor. The illusion is it looks better because it's smaller. But if you zoom in on the cellphone you wont see any new details. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 19:08
  • So I assume that's where the down vote came from... My point was if you take a 1080 video, pause it, then reduce the dimensions down to 480.. the pixel density of the video increases possibly allowing a bit more clarity. It doesn't change the actual video, only how the pixels are interpolated on a display. This is the entire theory behind retina and 4k displays.. larger images reduced to increase pixel density.
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 19:11

I was able to export a bunch of still images from the video using Photoshop. I tried VLC, but the more frames I wanted to capture the more the video would freeze up; VLC would only capture the frozen frame a bunch of times. So I used Photoshop (free trial), which worked much better. I took those images and stacked the images on top of each other using the open source software, "Enfuse." That did a pretty good job of getting the license plate clearer. I messed around with the color levels, and was able to get a much more detail of the characters on the plate.

Link to Enfuse: Link


  • Amazing. Thanks for sharing the open source solution. Why don't you leave a link to the software in your answer? Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 21:32
  • @LateralTerminal Updated.
    – eaglei22
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 23:37

Like Scott said this isn't CSI so there's a limit to how much clarity you can get out of an image. Pixels are pixels and can't be enhanced beyond their limits.

A better method to extract the video frames to attempt to enhance them would be to use VLC.

NOTE: You might need to run VLC as an administrator. To do this opposite click on the icon and select run as administrator.

  1. Create a folder to store your frames and copy the path to it.

    C:\Users\[USERNAME]\Desktop\Video Frames for example.

  2. Click Tools -> Preferences in VLC.

  3. Under “show settings”, click “all”.

  4. Under “Video”, select “Filters”. Tick “Scene video filter”.

  5. Expand “Filters” and select “Scene filter”,

  6. Paste the path from earlier into “directory path prefix”.

  7. Decide what proportion of the frames you want to export. For example, if you want to export 1 in 12 frames, type “12” in the “recording ratio” box.

  8. Click “save”.

  9. Click Media -> Open Video and find your video. Patiently let the whole thing play.

  10. Click Tools -> Preferences. Under “show settings”, click “all”. Under “video”, select “filters”. Uncheck “Scene video filter”. Click “save”. This is so that VLC won’t generate thumbnails the next time you play a video.

  11. Open the folder you created earlier. The thumbnails should be there.

  • Thanks, I'll give it a shot! All this CSI talk, maybe after this I will apply to be on CSI.
    – eaglei22
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 18:45

Use VLC with a 1080p monitor

(I say 1080p because that's the resolution of your video if it was 4k use a 4k monitor etc.)

  1. In VLC press the E key to go frame by frame until you can find the clearest image you can find.

  2. VLC has options to zoom in as well in it's effects settings. (That will be useful if you're not using a high res monitor. That's because a screenshot is just using the resolution of your monitor. NOT the resolution of the video file.)

After you've tried this...

So, you've gone frame by frame. Hopefully you're viewing this on a high resolution monitor. Even if it's not, you've zoomed in using VLC to see as much detail as possible that exists. After all that if the video isn't clear then their is nothing you can do. You can't "zoom in and enhance" information that's just not there. This is not a hollywood film. In that case you're out of luck.

Try to figure out the make and model if you can't get the plate.

  • What about image stacking? I was reading about stacking some time ago, with different focus points. Wondering if maybe I can take a few different images VLC has and stack them?
    – eaglei22
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 19:50

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