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As I was writing a plan for a video software which requires me to automatically scan the video. What is the right phrase to use? It seems I have heard both. scan through the video versus scan the video


By automatically, scan the video, I meant scanning the video using a computer vision methodology.

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Can you explain in other words what "automatically scan the video" entails? – Canis Lupus Mar 6 '13 at 22:47
Please see my edit – Stat-R Mar 6 '13 at 22:57
I don't see a difference in the practical aspects between the two. – Blessed Geek Mar 7 '13 at 1:30

The sentence "I ran through the building" tells us that we didn't, for example, run around the building or up the side of the building or into the building. The word "through" in this case has a function.

However, since "scanning" is always "through" something then I don't see its need as an adverb with regard to the verb "scan". So it is redundant in other words. Not only that, but "scan the video" sounds more eloquent.

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I agree; you can not scan through something. It makes it sound as though the act of scanning wore through the thing being scanned. – Carl Smith Mar 12 '13 at 3:33

I do believe that the usage should be determined by what one is scanning for — "scanning the video" makes me think of an analysis of a frame to, say, separate objects and background. "Scanning through" a video is essentially watching it on fast forward — what you are looking for is not found in the actual video data of each frame but rather in the video presentation itself.

But really I just came up with that; probably one should simply follow the rule that if the same thing can be said with fewer words and have the same meaning, it probably should.

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If you are old enough to remember when (5.25") disks replaced cassette tapes as the storage medium for home computing, then the distinction between scan through and scan is clear.

Tape cassettes were (metaphorically) one dimensional devices both mechanically and magnetically. The tape was run backwards and forwards through the reading heads and so you searched through the files stored on it locate the one you wanted.

Spinning a magnetic disk under a head that moved independently opened up the possibility of going directly to a location without passing through every other location between it and the "beginning" of the disk. We talked about random access being far superior to sequential access.

Insofar as a videocassette recorder was analogous to any other magnetic tape, we learned to scan through (probably using fast forward) to locate the section we wanted. On a DVD or hard-drive that is no longer necessary. Menu systems permit you to jump directly to bookmarked positions (typically the beginning of scenes) without going "through" the rest of the movie.

However, I suspect that you intend the software to "watch" the images in sequence in order to extract information. If so, the linearity of the process would make the (seemingly) old-fashioned scan through appropriate.

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I don't see a difference in the application of the two in any of the situation you mentioned. People, including myself, used to scan or scan thro decks of cards in a reader to feed programmes into IBM mainframes. – Blessed Geek Mar 7 '13 at 1:29

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