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Probably one of the most useful features of iMovie '11 is the built-in video stabilization. Unlike professional videographers, casual shooters like myself probably don't use the tripod as much as we should. And I think we've all been in editing situations where you want to use a specific clip in our movie, but the footage is just too shaky from being shot on a handheld camera or out a car window or for any number of reasons. iMovie's stabilization capability can make previously unusable footage usable, and it's really easy to do. I have this footage here of my surfer strapping on his boots.
Let's take a look at this. (video playing) (birds chirping) So that's fairly shaky. Let's see what iMovie can do with it. I am going to click its pop-up menu and choose Clip Adjustments. Now, I am going to click Analyze Entire Clip. So you can see now iMovie is analyzing for stabilization. Basically what it does is it checks it out frame by frame, trying to match the objects in one frame with the objects in the previous frame.
The thing about clip stabilization though 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, but if you're 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're waiting for iMovie to finish analyzing the clip. But iMovie is done processing the clip now, so let's take a look. Now I need to add it to my project in order to see the changes. So, let's grab this. I am just going to drag it to the end of my project, and let's take a look. (video playing) (birds chirping) Now, I still see some movement in there, but it's a little bit smoother.
Ultimately, it's going to be up to you to be the judge of whether the clip has improved enough after stabilization is applied. In some cases, you might even think that the camera motion looks unnaturally smooth. If so, you can go back to the clip's pop-up menu, choose Clip Adjustments, and here you'll notice we now have Stabilization, which is checked. We have Smooth clip motion, and notice we have a Maximum Zoom slider here. By dragging that to the left, that can bring back some of the original shakiness. Incidentally, it's 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 screen up to the object in the surrounding frames. Zooming all the way in like this might add a small amount of blurriness or end up cropping your shot a little bit too much or, as I mentioned, introducing an unnatural feel to the clip. So make your adjustments using the Maximum Zoom slider on a clip-by-clip basis. If you want to de-apply the smoothing motion, just uncheck it. Now, as I've 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 to process the clips as you are editing, or you can also do it when you first import the clips from your camera. Let me show you what I mean. I have my camcorder attached to my Mac, so let's pretend I am going to import some footage. I'm going to go ahead and turn my camera on. That opens up the Import window here. So I'll click Import as if I am going to import some footage. Now notice we have the After import analyze for, and we can check that and choose to analyze for stabilization.
Now this is also where you can analyze footage and have iMovie to detect people, so you can use the People Finder feature we looked at earlier, or you can have it search for both. So if I want to choose Stabilization, I can select that, and 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 apply the 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'd highly suggest analyzing everything during import, especially when you have an hour or more footage to import. You can just let iMovie import and analyze your footage overnight or while you're at your day job during the day or sleeping at night. I am just going to cancel this. I'll just close this window, and of course, you always still have the option of analyzing on the fly. I'll select this footage of the surfers walking towards the water. I'll just go ahead and select all of it, click on the clip, choose Clip Adjustments, say Analyze Entire Clip.
Now, you'll most likely notice that some of your analyzed clips have these little red squiggly lines in them. Those indicate that those portions of the clips are probably too shaky to use. This also indicates to me that the clips are analyzed for stabilization because the squiggly red lines wouldn't show up otherwise. Conveniently, you can click the Now Available squiggly red line button at the bottom of the window to hide all the footage iMovie thinks is too shaky to use. You can see now that footage has disappeared. Go ahead and close this. That way you don't accidentally import shaky footage into your project.
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. So that's the Video Stabilization feature of iMovie '11.
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