When it comes to video recording, you get what you pay for. The more expensive the video camera, the more high end features, like image stabilization.
What’s that? Some video cameras use image stabilization to smooth out video that would normally be shaky and unstable. Even iMovie comes with image stabilization feature built-in. Why do you need it and how can you make it better?
Shaky Hands, Shaky Videos
Less expensive video cameras are subject to your hand’s movements. If you’re not using a tripod, and the camera doesn’t have image stabilization built in, your video clips appear shaky, with abnormal movement.
iMovie has it and it works rather well.
Image stabilization basically works this way.
It zooms in slightly on your video clips, then it pans and tilts and zooms the video just a little bit, to account for the camera shake in your clip.
If your video clips seem to rock ‘n roll, and not in a good way, but a shaky way, your Mac can come to the rescue.
4 Apps To Stabilize Shaky Video
In the age of smart phone camera video, image stabilization is almost a necessity, which is probably why Apple includes it in iMovie ‘09. For more control, I found four Mac apps for image stabilizing.
Two haven’t been updated in years, one is expensive and complex, one is inexpensive and easy.
iStabilize – This moderately priced Mac app reduces video clip shake and works on both PowerPC and Intel-Macs. iStabilize hasn’t been updated in a few years, so caveat emptor applies.
fxStabilizer – Likewise, fxStabilizer works as a plugin for older versions of iMovie and includes support for HD video formats. A few extra features are included beyond stabilization—Ken Burns effect, and zoom and pan.
Again, iStabilize and fxStabilizer haven’t been upgraded since Apple stuffed image stabilization into iMovie.
Lock&Load X – My favorite Mac image stabilization app is Lock&Load X. It’s also the most expensive of the four, but updated more frequently, and, alas, not for iMovie users (Final Cut, Express, Motion, and After Effects).
It’s fast at rendering, displays less zooming and blur, and even reduces the so-called Rolling Shutter Artifacts from CMOS video cameras (inherent in many modern DSLRs which also record video).
Smoovee – If iMovie’s built-in image stabilization isn’t enough, try Smoovee. It’s the easiest to use of all the 3rd party apps, very affordable, and the results speak for themselves. It’s not an iMovie plugin so you’ll use it to import videos that also work in QuickTime (H.264, MPEG4, and others).
As a standalone image stabilizer I don’t think it’s possible to reduce image shake any easier.
First, it’s drag and drop. Drag the video clip to the Smoovee playlist.
Then use the Smoovee slider bar to move from Shaky to Steady to adjust the level of smoothness.
The side-by-side display makes it easy to compare the smoothed video clip from the original. It’s live, real-time, on-the-fly video image stabilizing. Shaky videos look smooth and stable.
At some point, Apple (and other smart phone makers) may include video image stabilization functions into future smart phones. For now, it’s shake, rattle, and roll, or use iMovie, or get more professional results with an easy to use entry level app like Smoovee or more expensive, professional level like Lock&Load X.