Videos that shake too much often look bad (we are not talking about making this an intentional style of story telling). This makes a tripod or other stabilization devices often a must. Tripods are great but they also slow you down. We shoot stills handheld as much as we can but our handheld videos (with lens stabilization set to on) looked always way to wobbly.
Of course we tried quite a few software solutions but none really worked too well. Some improved but then again added other artifacts we did not like. We soon also found an extra reason.
Rolling Shutter and Software Image Stabilization
All (at least all cameras we know) of today's cameras that use C-Mos sensors create some sort of rolling shutter effect. What is rolling shutter? The cameras with C-Mos sensors are not reading out the entire sensor at the same time but line by line instead. This means the top line is read earlier than the bottom line. Well known is the effect that vertical lines may show tilted if the camera or the subject move fast in the horizontal direction. But there is are also other things going on:
- If you move the camera up while the frame is recorded the image gets slightly squeezed
- If you move the camera down while the frame is recorded the image gets slightly stretched
- It can of course happen both (camera shake can be of high frequency)
While holding the camera without any support you may move the camera into all directions and up/down is part of it.
In consequence any image stabilization algorithm has to be aware of the rolling shutter effect to perform best.
Note: If it is windy you may even get shake even on a solid tripod.
Adobe After Effects Warp Stabilizer
Actually handheld shooting works in quite a few situation without extra software help:
- You can hold the camera more steady than we do (quite a few can)
- Wide angle lenses work better than tele (see also in stills photography)
- If the content in the frame has a lot of movement a slightly shaking frame does not matter much
We most of the time film more static/calm scenes and here shake is too much visible. We were nearly at a point to give up on hoping that software could help us much and resort to our tripods all the time. The Warp Stabilizer comes as a major surprise.
After Effects CS5.5 with Warp Stabilizer settings
Warp Stabilize was announced as the major new feature in After Effects CS5.5. We are always skeptical if something new comes along and did not really expect to be be impressed (we hoped it will be nice of course). But then after we a few tests we really got surprised (love that of course). Here are few samples that show our results (best you download the full clip from Vimeo).
We have to check way more clips but these results make us quite optimistic.
Some note about using Warp Stabilizer
As all software stabilization tools it starts with an analysis. This is slow but works in the background:
The step 2 is the stabilization part and that is quite a bit faster:
A few settings:
Select the Stabilization Method
Smoothness at 19%
There are first the Motion settings:
- Smooth Motion: Use this if your camera moves (e.g. pans). We used this in our demo clip #1. In case of this setting you can select the Smoothness strength (we used 15-50% in our tests).
- No Motion: If the camera should have been rock solid fixed. We used this in our demo clips #2+3.
There are more parameters to explore but the defaults worked for us very well.
Rolling Shutter Ripple
Settings for Rolling Shutter at Automatic Reduction worked for us in our samples. We have to find out when we need the "Enhanced Reduction". By the way with other stabilization software we often saw nasty ripple effects in the resulting images.
So far we are very impressed about the Adobe After Effects Warp Stabilizer. This maybe a situation where a new tool is really up to its hype and exceeded our expectations. Hard to describe how excited we are. If we find new things we will share this with our readers.