Image stabilization for video is different than image stabilization for stills. That’s because the nature of the shake to be corrected is different. For video, the correction has to last longer and the shakiness may very well be more intense (like when you’re walking and shooting video at the same time, for example.)
That’s why most modern digital cameras have a different, more aggressive system for correcting video shake. In addition to whatever optical stabilization the camera offers, the more aggressive way takes advantage of the fact that the number of pixels in a video (even a 4K video) is far smaller than the number of pixels the sensor has. So the camera might shoot a little wider than what you see in the viewfinder, and the camera compares adjacent video frames, aligns them (much like it does in HDR mode), and crops off the rest before merging it into the video stream. All in real time. The more you oversample (capture pixels outside of the intended frame), the more leeway you have for fixing a shaky hand.
I was reminded of this when I shot a very informal video giving a tour of my studio. Here it is, shot using an RX100 V and a small tripod-socket-based handle (mechanically similar to the VCT-SGR1 recently announced by Sony with their RX100 III vlogging bundle,) For this, the more intense "Intelligent Active" SteadyShot feature for movies was enabled:
As you can see, the shakiness of my hand often exceeded what the camera’s made-for-movies steadyshot could do. It bugged me a lot, but when I posted it to my youtube channel, only one person complained. (On the other hand, this is Youtube, where even the worst production values raises the average.)
Is there anything I can do in post-processing to smooth this out?
I tried several different solutions:
The first was the Warp Stabilizer smoothing function in Adobe Premier. For this example I decided NOT to have the program crop the excess black, so you can see the process of the overlapping-and-aligning-adjacent-frames technique in action: it will leave an animated black border. If this border were to later be cropped away, it would result in a slightly-zoomed-in final product. The amount of zooming-in would depend entirely on just how badly your original video was shaking. Here, have a look:
Here’s what the free video stabilizer from Google Photos does:
Notice the unintended artifacts: as the software lines up adjacent frames (and cropping off the excess), it distorts the background in eerie and nausea-inducing ways. Who among us would have predicted that?
I tried a few others. Magix Vegas comes with a free plug-in called "Vegas Stabilize" that always crashes no matter what you feed it. And Sony offers a free video stabilization product called Movie Edit Add-On that only runs on your phone and only works on video it thinks was taken with the RX0 II. (I didn’t have time to try to spoof it. Maybe one of you can try it and report back.)
Probably the best post-processing result I got was a plug-in (stand-alone also) called Mercalli from ProDAD GmbH:
Let’s be clear: If you really want smooth motion video, there’s only one way to get it: using a steadycam or gimbal device. There are a bazillion of them on the market; the most popular ones for the RX100 series seems to be the Pilotfly C45 for $349 and also the Zhiyun Crane M, which seems to be discontinued (and the current versions look to be needlessly large).
So, given that gimbals are the only truly effective method of eliminating camera shake when shooting handheld video, why don't I own one? Good question. Probably because I don't consider myself to be a videographer. I don't think like a director does - telling the story with a sequence of different shots not unlike how a graphic novel presents its story - and with the exception of my assignment in Vietnam last December, I rarely have a client that requires video as a deliverable. (Also, well, I have too much stuff... :-) )
In the Pipeline
Spanish A7 III now released!
French A7 III on the way!
Of course there will be books on the A7R IV and RX100 VII. (New layouts, too!) Let me know if you'd like to be on the waiting list for either of these books.
My decade-long quest to teach getting "Wow!" images to anyone with a camera in a fun and uniquely intuitive way continues. Email me (Gary at Friedman Archives dot com) if you're interested in attending any of these:
Santa Ana, California – August 10-11, 2019
Copenhagen September 14-15, 2019
Indio, California Jan 11-12, 2020
Kiawah Island, South Carolina April, 2020
St. Louis, MO May 30-31, 2020
How do these locations get chosen? Photo clubs in the area request them! Have your local photo club contact me regarding being a guest speaker for FREE!
A Personal Note
I wish to thank everyone who cared enough to express their condolences after reading about my mom’s passing in last month’s blog. It's heartening to have received so much support from readers all over the world! It made a difference. Thank you.
Until next time…
Yours truly, Gary Friedman