Ever wanted to get that cinematic Steadicam look to your walking shots without using any gear other than your camera and your bare hands?
I’ve developed a technique for shooting smooth tracking shots by stabilizing in post with Adobe Premiere CS6 Warp Stabilizer and using 60p footage for increased accuracy. While I find the Sony RX100 to be an ideal camera for this technique, it will work with any video camera or DSLR that shoots 60p.
1. Setup the camera:
- Shoot at 1080p, 60fps
- Use as fast a shutter speed as possible to minimize motion blur and rolling shutter artifacts, both of which add weird “shifty” artifacts when post-stabilized.
- Make sure the camera’s internal stabilization is on.
- You’ll probably to lock the focus at infinity unless you’re planning on pulling focus on the fly.
2. Shoot Smoothly
- Frame your shots just a bit wider than normal (about 5% wider) to allow for the software stabilization to zoom in a little.
- Holding the camera with two hands, move like you’re carrying a full glass of water. For walking shots, bend your knees and try to glide as smoothly as possible. For “crane” or “slider” shots, move slowly and smoothly with your arms as well as squatting with your legs. Think Tai Chi.
- Avoid letting any object in the frame cover the view completely. If something obscures the majority of the view, however briefly, it will cause the stabilization software to go haywire and produce erratic results. (see the zooming effect that occurs in in the video test’s “extended take + rotation” shot)
- Avoid whip pans or tilts.
- Running is probably not going to work…but if you get prove me wrong, send me a link!
3. Use Software Stabilization in Post
- Create a 1080p 60fps sequence in Adobe Premiere (command + N)
- Import your footage into Adobe Premiere and drop into the timeline
- Go to your Effects tab and search for “warp stabilizer”. Drop this on the clip, and it should start analyzing automatically. For complex or troublesome shots, go to the “Advanced” tab and check “Detailed Analysis”.
- Reduce the stabilization strength to the minimum necessary so you’re zooming as little as possible. I usually start with a Smoothness of 20 in Warp Stabilizer and adjust from there.
- Once you’re satisfied with the stabilization results, create a new sequence that is 1080p and 24fps. Drop your 60fps sequence into this one and apply further effects as desired.
Why I consider the Sony RX100 the perfect camera for this technique:
- Shoots ultra-sharp 1080p footage, much sharper than Canon DSLR’s. This holds up better when the stabilizer zooms and crops in post.
- 60p native shooting at 28mbps, the same bitrate as the professional Sony FS100
- Effective internal image stabilization.
- f/1.8 lens (at its widest setting) and 1″ sensor. Can handle low light situations about 4x better than other point-and-shoot cameras.
- Super small, so it makes a painless addition to your existing gear bag.
Steady as she goes!