Walk Like a Steadicam (Part 2)

It’ s long been my geeky dream to be able to get those fluid Steadicam-style tracking shots without any external gear.  Last year I posted a couple tests using warp stabilizer to smooth out the bumps, to mixed results.

I’ve been practicing my walking technique, and I recently downloaded a trial of the stabilizer plugin Lock and Load.  So today I brought my RX100 along to shoot another test while I walked to a laundromat in Austin.

I’m a bit more satisfied with these results.  Here are my tips:

  • On the Sony RX100, use the “Active” image stabilization setting
  • Use a fast shutter speed to minimize motion blur and rolling shutter artifacts.
  • When walking, keep your knees bent like you’re doing the Egyptian walk.  Try not to lift your legs up too much as you walk – this is what causes a lot of the jerking and bouncing.  You’ll look like you’re shuffling your feet a bit.
  • Try resting the camera on one hand’s plam and pushing down with the other hand to simulate added weight.  I believe this helps eliminate the jitter created by small cameras due to their lightness.
  • Mentally picture the camera floating on its own, and you’ll begin to automatically compensate for bodily jerks and bumps, much like the steady head of an owl as its body moves around.
  • In post, use Lock and Load instead of Warp Stabilizer or FCP X’s native stabilizer.  It’s far more customizable, most importantly allowing you to keyframe the intensity of the effect.  So if you do a sudden turn while walking, you can just reduce the effect to zero until you’re done turning.  This keeps it from doing anything crazy while it attempts to analyze your sudden motion.

Is this a replacement for a true camera stabilizer? Perhaps in limited circumstances. I still haven’t attempted any running or extreme low/high angles yet.  Maybe one day in-camera image stabilization will be so good that we’ll all have home videos that look like a Scorcese fluid master…or maybe not.


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Latest Comments
  1. Max Spiker

    It would be cool to see a video demonstration of your tips (and for your other shooting techniques).

    • Brandon Li

      I agree – I plan on doing a video tutorial once I have someone to film me in action.

      • Jason

        If you ever find yourself in Boston, I’d be glad to film you to help you make the tutorial.

  2. Ivo Beerens

    Nice! What mode, shutter speed and recording settings did you use on the RX100 during this film?

    • Brandon Li

      Thanks, I used aperture priority mode at f/2.8 or so, and I just let the shutter be whatever it had to be to maintain exposure – usually no less than 1/640. This reduces motion blur and rolling shutter, both of which can add artifacts when stabilizing in post. The color was set to sunset mode (-2 contrast, -1 sat, -3 sharpness) and graded in post with FCP X’s color tools.

  3. Sy Morrison

    Thanks for that mirror shot at the end. Just curious about the music you used for both. What were they?

    • Brandon Li

      The music was from the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack. I’m a big fan of Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor.

      • Brandon Li

        Oh, and the track in Walk to the Laundromat was Alexandre Desplat – The Wonder of Life.

  4. Øivind Hoem

    Thank you for all the great information on your site. Absolutely superb for anyone like me who has recently acquired a RX100 but know little about its capabilities or how to do post processing.
    I see that you recommend Lock & Load for image stabilizing. As far as I understand it is not possible to use this on a computer running windows, do you know of any good alternatives for an amateur who wants to try his new camera in the world of great movie making? 🙂

  5. Pablo Fassari

    I’ve become a huge fan of your work over past year! Your site is what got me inspired to start shooting ML Raw with my Canon DSLR.

    I have 2 questions (please keep in mind I’m a newbie when it comes to video):
    1) You mentioned that your shutter speed was no less than 1/640 in one of the videos above (I’m supposing to reduce motion blur and rolling shutter), other sites I’ve been to say to use 24fps and 1/50 for the “film look” (?). So what’s the scoop and your recommendation behind the “correct” shutter speed to use?

    2) I have problems stabilizing my Canon since it’s a bit heavy with a 24-105, or other heavy lens. Any tips for handheld with DSLRs? Did you ever make a video tut for handheld stabilization? I’d love to see that, if it’s out there!

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