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iLife '09 New Features
Illustration by John Hersey

Reviewing video stabilization


From:

iLife '09 New Features

with Garrick Chow

Video: Reviewing video stabilization

Probably one of the coolest and most useful new features of iMovie '09 is the built-in video stabilization. I think we have all been in editing situations where we want to use a specific clip in our movie, but the footage is just too shaky from being shot on a hand-held camera or out of a car window or for any number of reasons. iMovie stabilization capability can make previously unusable footage usable, and it's really easy to use. I have this footage here of this guy being followed up a boulder by the camera, and it's pretty shaky. Let's take a look here. Okay. So because the camera was being held by hand, it's pretty shaky.

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iLife '09 New Features
2h 17m Intermediate Apr 01, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

With the release of iLife '09, Apple has introduced intuitive new features for organizing, editing, and sharing movies, music, and photos. Instructor Garrick Chow demonstrates the wide range of enhancements to this already easy-to-use suite of programs in iLife '09 New Features. He explains iPhoto's new ability to organize and search images using face recognition and geodata, and moves on to iMovie, where he explores precision editing tools and real-time video effects. Garrick also covers GarageBand's new built-in music lessons, as well as iWeb's new ability to publish to any web hosting server. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Tagging a photo with geodata
  • Using the new iPhoto editing tools to enhance images
  • Sharing photos with Flickr and Facebook
  • Stabilizing video in iMovie to get rid of the "shaky cam" effect
  • Using green screen effects with iMovie
  • Exploring GarageBand's new amps and effects to use with a real guitar
  • Accessing GarageBand's built-in music lessons
  • Publishing finished projects with iWeb via FTP
  • Integrating iWeb's new widgets into web pages
Subject:
Video
Software:
iLife
Author:
Garrick Chow

Reviewing video stabilization

Probably one of the coolest and most useful new features of iMovie '09 is the built-in video stabilization. I think we have all been in editing situations where we want to use a specific clip in our movie, but the footage is just too shaky from being shot on a hand-held camera or out of a car window or for any number of reasons. iMovie stabilization capability can make previously unusable footage usable, and it's really easy to use. I have this footage here of this guy being followed up a boulder by the camera, and it's pretty shaky. Let's take a look here. Okay. So because the camera was being held by hand, it's pretty shaky.

Let me go ahead and add that to my project. Let's drag that up. Now I'm going to go to the Clip's pop-up menu and choose Clip Adjustments, and I'm going to check Smooth Clip Motion. Now iMovie is analyzing the entire clip, checking out frame by frame, trying to match the objects in one frame with the objects in the frames around it. The thing about clip stabilization is that it can take a long time. The longer your clip, the longer it's going to take. Now, this clip is just a few seconds long, but if you are stabilizing a clip that's a few minutes long, you can go grab a cup of coffee or find something else to do while you are waiting for iMovie to finish analyzing the clip.

All right. So now that iMovie is done processing the clip, let's take a look at it. So I think you can see a definite improvement in the motion of the clip, especially towards the tail end of the clip here, where it almost looks like the camera is on a crane. It's moving very smoothly. Ultimately though, it's up to you to be the judge of whether the clip is improved enough after stabilization is applied. In some cases you might think that the camera motion looks unnaturally smooth. If so, you can go back to the Clip's pop-up menu and open the Inspector and drag the Maximum Zoom slider to the left to bring back some of the original shakiness.

So maybe I'll drag that to about 126% there and let's see how that looks. So that adds a little bit more of the shakiness back to it and gives it a more natural feel. Incidentally, this is called the Maximum Zoom slider because that's how stabilization is applied. iMovie zooms in on the clip and moves the frames around on screen to try to match the objects on the screen up with the objects in the surrounding frames. Now, zooming all the way in like this might add a small amount of blurriness or end up cropping your shot a little too much, or as I mentioned, introduce an unnatural feeling to the clip. So make your adjustments using the Maximum Zoom slider on a clip-by-clip basis.

Now, as I have already mentioned, applying stabilization to even short clips can take a significant amount of time for iMovie to process, but there is no way around that. If you want to stabilize your videos, you have to give iMovie the time to process each clip. But you do have the choice of whether you want to process the clips while you are editing them together, or you can also do it when you first import the clips from your camera. I'm going to show you what I mean. I have my camcorder connected to my Mac, so let's turn that on and import some footage. I'll click the Open Camera button. So here among the clips on my camera I have got a couple of takes of myself walking outside my office, listening to my voicemail. Yeah, exciting, isn't it? But these are hand-held shots, so I know they have the kind of shakiness associated with hand-held footage.

Let's go ahead and import those. So I'm going to grab these three here and then click Import Checked. Just create a new Event here. Let's call it Walking and Talking. Here I'm going to check Analyze for stabilization after import. Notice that I'm being told here that this will analyze the clips for stabilization, but will resolve in longer import times. I'm fine with that. I'll click Import. So first, iMovie has to import my clips, and for the sake of this tutorial, I'll just speed this up a little bit. All right. So now that the clips have been imported, iMovie is now analyzing them for stabilization. I prefer this method myself, because I can connect my camera to my Mac, set up iMovie to import my clips and analyze for stabilization, and then go do something else.

It still takes the same amount of time to analyze each clip as it would if you applied stabilization to them after adding them to your project, but doing it this way gets them all analyzed at once, so you don't have to wait around for iMovie to process clips while you are trying to edit your movie together. I would highly suggest analyzing everything during import, especially if you have say an hour or more of footage to import. You could just let iMovie import and analyze your footage overnight or while you are at your day job, during the day, and then when you come back to your Mac, all the clips will be analyzed and you will be ready to edit without any further interruption. Again, even for these clips, which are 22 seconds, 16 seconds, and 11 seconds long, this is still going to take a while. So again, for the sake of this tutorial, we'll just speed this process up.

Okay. So the import and analyzation is now complete. I'll click OK and Done to close my Camera window here. All right. So here are the clips that I have just imported. Now, notice that some of them have these red squiggly lines. These indicate that iMovie thinks that these portions of the clips are just probably too shaky to use. So we see one there, we see one there, and if I play it back, you will see those portions are pretty shaky. We also see them in the previous clip that I imported up here too. I don't know if you can see there, but during that portion the movie just gets a little bit too blurry.

But these red squiggly lines in my event here also indicate to me that the clips are already analyzed for stabilization, because those squiggly lines wouldn't appear otherwise. Now, an important thing to keep in mind here is that even though these clips have been analyzed, stabilization won't actually be applied to them until you add them to your project. So don't be worried that the clips still look shaky when you are previewing them in your browser. Let me play this one for you. See that still looks pretty shaky, but let's add it to our project now. Let's look at its pop-up and go to Clip Adjustments. Notice that stabilization has already been applied to this clip. Smooth Clip Motion is already checked.

I don't have to do any additional processing or waiting or analyzation. Now when I play this clip back, I can see the effects of the stabilization. So that's a significantly smoother camera shot there. Just like before, I still have the ability to reduce the amount of stabilization if I think its zoomed in too much or a little too smooth, or I could just uncheck Smooth Clip Motion to remove stabilization entirely if need be. So again, it's up to you to decide when you want to analyze your clips for stabilization. You can do it on a clip- by-clip basis or analyze everything at once when you import your footage from your camera.

Now, I should have mentioned that the option to analyze your footage is only available if you are importing your footage from a camera. If you choose File > Import > Movies, and then go to import some movies from somewhere in your hard drive, notice that there is no option here to analyze for stabilization after import. But that doesn't mean you can't analyze imported footage beforehand. To analyze footage you have already imported, go to the Event containing the footage, and then select the clips you want to stabilize or just say Command+A to select all of your clips, and then click any clip's pop-up, choose Clip Adjustments, and choose Analyze Entire Clip. You can see here that iMovie is actually analyzing Clip 1 of 8, so it's going to analyze all of the clips for me.

Again, this may take a while, so just let iMovie do its thing while you find something else to do in the meantime. So that's the new video stabilization feature, probably one of the coolest new features in iMovie '09.

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