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Synonyms: screenshot, screencapture, cap, frame grab, frame capture, telepic
See also: icon, picspam
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Screencap (n.) Abbreviated form of screencapture. A screencap is a still image created by a computer that is taken from a TV show, movie, or other visual media displaying on that computer. Some video player programs (notably VLC Media Player) come with the ability to take screencaps of video files, including copy-protected DVDs that cannot be screencapped with a printscreen command in some commercial programs (such as Windows Media Player). Smartphones can also take screencaps.

Screencap (v.) The act of creating a screencap.

Screencaps may be used in the production of icons, manip, or other fanworks that rely heavily on visual sources. The raw images themselves, once captured, are often also uploaded to communities or websites to share with other fans. A single post (or sometimes a webpage) of many screencaps can be referred to as a picspam.

See also List of Screencapping Communities and Websites.


Before computers, fans used analog methods to capture stills or images from the aired TV shows.

In the 1960s fans would set up cameras on tripods in front of their TV screens (often only 10 inch sized and in black and white) and snap photos of the actors. Even after the introduction of color TVs and VCRs, creating 'telepictures' or 'telepicks' required the something to display the image (a TV show being aired or being played back on a VCR) and something to record the screen (a camera).

See telepic for more.

Frame grabber equipment that could capture stills from videotape became accessible to fans around the late 1990s. In the early days it was widely used to illustrate fansites. Screen caps replaced artwork in some print fanzines in the early 2000s: not a universally acclaimed development. When livejournal came along, they were used to make icons. The early grabs were often very low quality: low resolution and sometimes dark and grainy. Screencapper Lisa C. Williams explains:

Raw frame captures from videotape take a fair amount of work to look good; they usually need to have contrast and saturation adjusted, and can often benefit from a little filtering to remove scan lines. You won't be able to get still-photo quality, because videotape simply isn't a very high-resolution medium...[1]

Fansites sprang up which collected frame grabs from television series, often arranged by episode. Galleries showing individual characters, or sometimes combinations of characters, were another common way of organising frame grabs. Captures were often ranked by number of hits, allowing quick access to the better-quality captures. Such sites were extremely popular, and high quality and/or well-organised ones were widely recommended within the fandoms they served.

The etiquette of reusing other people's caps could be tangled in the early days. Some frame-grabbers were happy for others to reuse their captures, on the grounds that the copyright resided with the source's originator. Others required attribution and some placed conditions on their reuse, for example they could not be manipulated even by adding text. These fans tended to stress the labour and skill involved in creating high-quality frame captures.


  1. Lisa's Video Frame Capture Library: Frequently Asked Questions (accessed 14 August 2014)
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