When we filmed The Listening Array last week we used a steadycam, a device that helps you hold the camera steady. This was our first time using one, and we found out it’s a LOT harder than we anticipated. Walking is an up-and-down sort of thing. Getting the camera to move in a way that avoids that–even with expensive gear–is extremely difficult, and practically impossible with our limited experience.
Our best takes have jerks and bounces. Normally we would hand animate them out. We do a lot of micro-editing like this. By animating the video’s scale, position and rotation in the opposite rate and amount that the camera jerks, you can theoretically remove unwanted camera movements. The problem, of course, is this takes a painful amount of time, patience and knowledge.
This is the kind of action, that in a perfect world would be done automatically by a computer.
I’m pleased to report that this time has arrived. To our delight, the new version of Apple’s Final Cut Pro has this feature and it works extremely well, even on aggressively complicated movements.
Final Cut Pro on our Apple Computer took 30 minutes to analyze our two minute clip’s motion and then mathematically altered the motion so the camera appears to move perfectly smooth. Almost too perfect. Amazing. In the clip above I’ve deactivated the “auto zoom” that hides how the computer fixes the clip. You can see how the computer smoothes the camera movement by looking at the clip’s edges constantly rotating and scaling.