Salvage shaky video clips with Premiere Pro CS6

This year I’m working towards expanding my offerings to clients to include video production and editing. Recently I’ve been reacquainting myself with Adobe Premiere Pro (currently version CS6). I almost jumped for joy when I discovered the new “Warp Stabilizer” feature.

The Warp Stabilizer effect, before and after

Adobe Premiere Pro has come a long way since I last used it in CS3, and in the latest version those clever Adobe developers implemented the Warp Stabilizer feature. Now those shaky video clips I took after that fourth cup of morning coffee can be smoothed out—to some extent—by simply applying this filter to the affected clip.

Here’s a shot I took recently before the Warp Stabilizer filter is applied:

And here’s the same clip after Warp Stabilizer:

And side by side:

How is the stabilization accomplished?

My simple, non-technical explanation is that Premiere Pro analyzes each frame of your clip then chooses a reference point, let’s say, a stationary object, or maybe a face, then Premiere aligns each frame so the object is in almost the same position in each frame.

There are a few things to watch for when using this effect. Because some or all of the frames are being rotated, ever so slightly and therefore out of alignment from their original frame, Premiere crops and scales (enlarges) all of the frames so that you don’t see the new area of those frames. If your clip has a great deal of movement, you’ll find the final stabilized clip may be cropped and scaled up so far that it may appear more out of focus than is acceptable to you.

Here’s a different clip that was practically unusable. I’ve applied the warp stabilization, but turned off cropping and auto-scale to give you an idea what’s happening behind the scenes:

Wait! That actually could be a cool effect given the right project, don’t you think?

The good, the bad and the humanity

Good news: there are plenty of settings and adjustments you can apply to get the effect you desire. For now I’ll probably use this filter on shorter clips that I just have to have in my final projects. Having this tool increases the usable footage through which I’ll need to cull and log, but it’s worth it in my opinion. I don’t even want to think about all the clips I’ve skipped over in past projects because of shaky camera work.

Bad news: there are plenty of settings and adjustments you can apply to get the effect you desire. But beware of going overboard with this great tool. There’s only so far you can push it before you get a clip that looks like something out of an old sci-fi show (that’s probably where the effect’s name “warp stabilizer” comes from).

Lastly, consider that removing the handheld look can also take away from the charm of your clips. The handheld look can bring your clips to life and give your work character. A wobble here and there lends a sense of humanity, with the camera representing a living, breathing observer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>