Using the Stabilize Effect

Late model Media Composers include Avid’s tracking engine, a potentially powerful addition to your visual effects arsenal. The tracker is included in several effects, the simplest of which is stabilize. If you’ve got a shot that’s too rocky to include in a scene, the stabilize effect might just make it usable again. It’s realtime and it’s easy to set up — once you understand how to do it.

Rather than explain the use of this tool with images and text, I’ve posted a little 3-minute video that will introduce you to it. If you can’t see the screen clearly enough in the small version here, check it out on Vimeo.

I’m thinking about doing more of these. Let me know how this works for you and whether it’s useful.

In more advanced applications, the tracker can be used inside the 3D Warp effect to connect one shot, typically a matte, to the motion of another. Avid has a very nice video tutorial that will show you how to do this. It’s in the free part of their Alex education site, near the bottom of this page.

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22 Comments on “Using the Stabilize Effect”

  1. Norman Says:

    This is great Steve, though I would have liked it larger so I could see the menu items better (even on blip.tv).

    Still, this is exactly the kind of user generated tutorials that Avid should be encouraging its users to create. The Final Cut community is flooded with people doing this, and it makes tech support easier.

    Thanks so much.

  2. Steve Says:

    Glad you like it — you hit the full screen button on the blip page, right? That blows it up big. It’s still a bit pixelated, but you should be able to see everything.

  3. Larry Jordan Says:

    Hi Steve,

    Great screen cast. But I have to agree with Norman in that the MC window is so small that unless you have a fairly good working knowledge of the interface, (or great eyesight) you might not be able to figure out what’s going on. Maybe there’s a way to pop-up to a bigger window?

    On another note, I wanted to let you know that I took advantage of the SDI Mojo/MC software only special Avid has been running for a doctor job on a feature I’ve been doing. It’s pretty neat as I was cutting the same project on an Adrenaline at a rental house before the holidays and when we started back up last week the producers had cloned the partitions from the Unity to a 1TB G-RAID drive, Here’s the nice part, when I opened the project up on my new home studio system everything showed up without a hitch. Media re-linked flawlessly and I was up and running literally in minutes.

    A few notes I think I want to mention. On my 2 x 2.66 Mac Pro Dual-Core Intel Xeon the software is amazingly fast. I turned off my most disliked feature (Super Bins) and have been EXTREMELY happy with the workings of the app. As I said, it really flies. However, I noticed that I was unable to do a few specific things such as caps lock audio scrubbing without crashing, Color effects aren’t working and the general (and arcane) sys errors MC gives when it’s grumpy seem to show up a lot although about 99% of the time those don’t crash the app. Upon further examination I discovered that 2.8 is not approved for Leopard yet, and that’s what I’m running it on! LOL. That could have been a disaster. Thank goodness this is just a short term re-cut which ends tomorrow so I’m pretty sure I’ll be OK. Once again, life on the bleeding edge. All kidding aside, I think someone brought up an excellent point in a previous post that there is NO EXCUSE for Avid not having MC humming along seamlessly on a major system upgrade by now. It’s things like that that make me question their real commitment to our market. They KNOW we all work on Macs, and as many of us are early adopters. This kind of treatment of our market is just unacceptable. But for now I’ll take what I can get and enjoy the speed and fluidity of the MC interface.

    Keep up the great blog and thanks again. I look forward for more great tutorials from splicehere.com

    Best,
    LJ

  4. Larry Jordan Says:

    Doh!

    Just found the BlipTV. link. Very nice.

    It’s funny because I saw the video on the site and my instinct was to immediately go to that.

    Raised on television, what can I say?

    LJ

  5. Steve Says:

    First, I’m surprised it runs at all under Leopard — it’s not supposed to. I don’t know anybody who’s tried it beyond just booting it up and moving video around. If you want Leopard, you’re best bet is to create a Tiger partition and boot from that when you need to use the Media Composer.

    Second, it’s not really a Mac thing — it won’t run under Vista either. Both are slated for late spring/early summer.


  6. Thank you for the tutorial. I’m actually bookmarking your bliptv site, so please make more of these!

  7. Harry Miller Says:

    Steve – Excellent demo. But here is a problem I’ve not been able to solve: what I often need to stabilize is a bobble during a camera move. Say the shot is pushing in and tracking right to left and there is a bump in the shot. Every time I try to smooth the bump, the tracker attempts to remove the entire camera move. Any thoughts? Thanks.

  8. Steve Says:

    Harry, you can edit the tracker data — either by manipulating the tracking points or in the mini-timeline in the tracker window. Check out Avid’s Alex tutorial referenced in my post for more.

  9. Norman Says:

    And here’s a shout out to you. I just used the stabilizer effect on a shot done from a small boat on the Mississippi — of a very bouncy St. Louis arches. With very little effort, the effect made the boat ride much less nauseating.

    Great screencast. This is exactly what the user group should be doing in order to help each other out!!

    [What software did you use to capture the Avid screen and also to record your voice over?]

  10. Steve Says:

    Norm, thanks for the support. I used something called iShowYou. It’s simple and inexpensive. Other choices on the Mac include Snapzpro and ScreenFlow.

  11. Helena Says:

    Thank you! Love these tutorials. Avid is such an incredible NLE, but the number of online tutorials pales in comparison to FCP. I would love to see more.

    In particular, I’d love to see a tutorial on how to use those plug-in effects that only work with mattes/masks. They still baffle me, and I’ve been using Avid for 2.5 years. But I’m self-taught, so I’ve never been able to ask anyone who can truly give me a step-by-step on how to use these things!

  12. Maria Says:

    Hi Steve and gang,
    This is one of the easiest tutorials I have seen on stabilization. My compliments! I am new to video and have been working for weeks (not days) trying to stabilize a 40-second video of a student talking. I am working on a PC, but have access to a Mac with Final Cut Pro. I tried Premiere first, using the stablize filter and it jerked the whole video at right angles (worse than I did originally) and also destroyed the audio component of the video. Next I exported 104 still images from Premiere into Photoshop and using one shot as a reference changed the the mouth on 35 frames to correspond to the original video. But the mouth looks a little twitchy, and I’ve given up after the 35th frame. My last attempt has been to splice the one video into 104 separate avi clips in Flash CS3 and then reposition them frame by frame on the stage. But even when I line all of them up exactly, the movement is still there. So now I’m trying to do slight rotation and zoom on the frames that shake, but it renders really weird in Flash, like a big zoom in and out. I am about to tear my hair out. My question is this, How can I get my hands on Avid? HOw much does it cost? Will it work on a PC? If not, what will I need on a Mac to use? I’d appreciate an answer at your earliest convenience. I am trying to get this video stabilized by Sunday, June 21. Thank you so much.
    Maria

  13. Steve Says:

    Media Composer costs $2500 for the software-only version, or $300 if you are a student. It will work on Mac or PC. On the PC it needs XP or Vista. Mac needs Leopard. Modern machines are better, with a lot of RAM – 2 Gigs minimum. Go to the Avid site for more system requirements.

    But it really sounds like you should find somebody who can help you with this. Both FCP and Motion have stabilize effects, too.

  14. Mark Says:

    Steve – You’re a life-saver. I tried figuring out stabilizer and it didn’t seem to make any difference so I gave up. On a whim, I googled Avid and stabilizer and got Norm Hollyn’s page that led me to you. EXCELLENT! WONDERFUL! It worked so well. We’ve just moved up from Meridians running a much older Composer to Adrenalin’s with HD and the latest and greatest. (We also had to finally say goodbye to Mac’s 9.something OS. Hello 21st century.) Now there are so many new bells and whistles — some of which I can figure out and some I can’t. So thank you, thank you, thank you, and add as many new tutorials as you can stand. It was great.

  15. Ra-ey Saleh Says:

    Steve,

    Great intro Tutorial to Stabilize. Although the effect is now far more simpler than the first Tracker in Avid, it still confuses people.
    The more tutorials on Avid the better in my opinion!
    Also, loved the additionaal note about the Auto-Crop. I did not know that.
    Cheers,
    Ra-ey

  16. Eddie Says:

    Help….
    I,m using MC 5 and i have tried doing some stabilizing which is kinda automatic in media 5. The results work fine but in playback it has some sort of strobe double image effect and is not smooth at all. any ideas

    Thanks

    i’m running Leopard osx 10.6.4, 2.4ghz intel core duo
    4gb 800MHz DDR@ SDRAM

    • Steve Says:

      I’ve seen cases where the effect works, but the first or last few frames will jitter badly. I assume it’s a bug. Sometimes, if you just remove the effect and re-apply it, it will work. Or you could try extending the shot, adding the effect, then extracting the added portion. Otherwise, I’m not sure what to suggest.

      Hope that helps —

  17. Gary Bradley Says:

    Your video intro to stabilize is very clear and helpful; but looking at it now fills me with nostalgia for Version 3.5 or thereabouts. After 10 years of using Avid to turn wavy camera shots into lock-offs, and now 8 months of struggle with Version 5, I ask– What happened to this software?
    I don’t care about the cute trick of invoking the effect when it’s dropped on
    the time-line; or all the new buttons… I’ve tried them all, I think.
    At the end of the day, the shot that should be rock-solid is wavering
    unpredictably.

    Here are links for a bin with a 2-second sequence and the media.
    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2464129/Stabilize%20test.avb
    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2464129/DC23MV01.C97380F9_44D4E16C9.mxf

    The result I’m looking for here– what I used to achieve easily– is a shot that doesn’t budge. Can this still be done?

  18. Steve Says:

    Gary,
    I didn’t look at your material, but I’ve just spent some quality time with the stabilize effect. See if this works for you. Basically, you’re going to turn all the automatic features off and then apply a correlation tracker with steadi-glide turned off.

    1. Apply the stabilize effect. Then hit the space bar to stop the automatic track. Return scaling to 100% and position values to 0. Turn off autozoom.
    2. Make sure the tracking tool window is showing (hit the button for it if it isn’t) and delete the tracker by hitting the little x in the tracking line.
    3. Add a new tracker. Select Correlation Tracker and turn off steadi-glide. Position your tracker over the image.
    4. Track this new tracker.
    5. Attach the tracker to your image by selecting it under the position parameter and then, finally, hit auto-zoom.

    That should give you a more or less locked off shot.

    And yes, there ought to be an effect called “manual tracker” so you don’t have to go through all that.

    Steve

    Steve

    • Gary Bradley Says:

      Thanks for looking at this, Steve… I tried all the permutations of SteadyGlide off, before and after processing– sadly, that’s not the answer.
      Ironically, the software seems to have become become more powerful; it just lost its ability to perform its core function, getting rid of shaky-cam.
      (In the DVD extra for Knife in the Water, Roman Polanski says that shaky hand-held makes him wonder whether the operator has Parkinson’s? or is he masturbating? And of course we don’t wish our camera people to be suspect.)

  19. Steve Says:

    Or you could try this — apply the effect, let it do its thing. Then turn off steadi-glide. That might be enough.


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