Software steadicam – Or how to fix bad cameramen

So you’ve just come back from vacations (wohoo), having filled 10 gigs of photos and video, only to discover you’re a (let’s be honest here) shitty cameraman without your tripod?

 

Fret not, for this article will show you the secret to solve your problems!

 

In an ideal world, your hands are as steady as a rock, and you get Hollywood quality takes. In the real world, however, your clumsy hands could use a hand (hah!).

So here’s your two main options:

 

Hardware solution (for use while filming)

This is the proper solution: a system that will compensate for the vibration of your shaky hands and the movement of your body while walking – not unlike the springs on your car allow for a pretty comfortable ride through all sorts of bumps.

Ideally, it will compensate for all the 6 axis (3D traslation + 3D rotation), but in practice you may be limited to less than that. Unfortunately (for most), this depends on how deep your pockets are (buying a ready-to-use steadicam, ranging from 100 bucks to several thousand), or on how handy you are with your toolbox (building a home-built equivalent).

The result could (in theory) be similar to this:

(ah, yeah… a segway, minor detail)

Software solution (for use after filming):

If you can’t spare a segway + a steadycam backpack, there are affordable alternatives. And if you already have many shaking, blurry videos lying on your hard disk, then this is your only option!

We’ll rely on PC software to fix those videos. This, you can do for free at home. There are some payware software packages that may produce slightly better results: but what I’m going to show you is freeware, very quick to use, and good enough quality for most purposes.

The software method may not be that good when compared to an actual steadicam, but hey, it’s better than nothing!

 

The steps:

I’m not going to go much into details, so here’s the basics.

  1. Download VirtualDUB, an open source and free video editing software.
    (Make sure you can open your videos. E.g. you may need to install the ffdshow-tryout codecs and set them up, or whatever; Google is your friend! 🙂 )
  2. Once you can open your videos, you have to download the magic piece of the puzzle: Deshaker.
    (This free tool – though unfortunately not open source – will do all the important work)
  3. Now open your video, add the Deshaker video filter, choosing “Pass 1“.
    (If you have a rolling shutter camera (most likely), and know its speed (unlikely), you can also correct it by entering the necessary values in there)
  4. Click OK, and play the video through.
    (This will gather information about motion vectors and similar stuff, in order to find out how to correct the shaking, if present)
  5. Now edit the Deshaker video filter settings again, and choose “Pass 2“. Tweak settings at will, and click OK.
    (A progress window will be visible for just a few moments)
  6. Finally, export the resulting video, and you’re good to go!

For a more detailed guide (including rolling shutter values for some cameras), just read the official Deshaker page, or browse Youtube; there’re some tutorials there too.

The settings basically tune the detection of camera movement, as well as what method will deal with the parts of the image that are left empty after deshaking.

The results:

The video below is an example I’ve cooked for you. Each of the 3 processed videos uses a different combination of settings, and was created in no more than 20 minutes each.

I sticked them all together for your viewing pleasure. The improvement can be easily appreciated!

 

That’s it. Happy filming! 8)

 

Bonus track

If you insist on using hardware solutions (good!), here’s a neat little trick that’ll allow some smooth panning (provided you’re not walking):

Tags: , , , [en] | June 18th, 2012 |

One Response to “Software steadicam – Or how to fix bad cameramen”

  1. Yuki Says:

    Maybe you’ll like it: http://littlegreatideas.com/stabilizer/diy/

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