In this latest Film Science video, the team at Syrp Lab tests every type of stabilizer — digital and physical — to determine which provides the smoothest footage.
In the six-minute video, the Syrp Lab team covers everything from the software-side Warp Stabilizer to the gyro-assisted stabilization that will provide filmmakers and editors with the smoothest video possible, as well as explaining why achieving this It’s almost impossible to do. Shake-free footage. Spoiler alert, the winner may be announced in the opening seconds of the video and that alone could be the most surprising.
The first thing that needs to be understood is how the immobilization actually works, and what methods are being used by the different devices. This setup has a motion detection method and a motion compensation method to consider for still video. Both of these will result in some major changes in the performance and outcome of the footage.
For motion detection, stabilizers will either use a motion-sensing chip called an IMU (a collection of sensors with an accelerometer and gyroscope) or the camera’s motion is calculated using feature recognition from the footage itself. This is where the system will track objects in the frame and then project the camera to move. Both methods have some advantages and disadvantages.
Once motion is detected, there are several ways to combat it, including using a gimbal to stabilize the shot (this becomes more difficult as cameras get bigger and heavier), Inside the camera using in-body image stabilization (limited to space and cannot accommodate shocks larger than a camera mounted on a mountain bike), digital stabilization using tools such as the warp stabilizer in Adobe Premiere Pro or GoPro or That’s what’s found in software like the iPhone (this method will end up cropping footage by up to 30%, sometimes by up to 30%, but can often leave behind weird motion blur) to produce incredibly smooth videos.
Since each camera and stabilization system takes advantage of different combinations of equipment, the team set up a rig consisting of an iPhone 13 Pro, a GoPro Max, a Sony Alpha 7S III, with its in-body image stabilization, a Canon EOS R is working. Coupled with the warp stabilizer, and a Canon C200 on a pro-level gimbal to be able to hold the same test in a single test across each device and software combo.
The resulting test footage in the video shows that each system has its own advantages and disadvantages in how they “fix” shaky video footage, with the winner for smoothest and most natural-looking still video really being the GoPro Max.
The team determines, “Action cameras often avoid awkward-looking footage after stabilizing by having a short shutter speed, effectively eliminating all motion blur.”
Granted, footage may be smooth, but it will lack the “cinematic” look and feel that other systems can provide. According to the Sirp Lab team, while the GoPro has the best stabilization, creatives should still research the right camera for the job.
“If you shoot action sports, buy a GoPro instead of strapping a cinecam to your head, and if a cinematic masterpiece is your goal, use a proper professional gimbal.”
Be sure to visit their YouTube channel and official website to see more tutorials from the Syrp Lab team.
image credit: Sirp Lab