Shaky video footage is a common problem for beginning videographers, especially when a tripod or stabilizer isn’t available. There are several ways to stabilize video both while shooting and in the editing process. In this article, I will share my recommendations for the most cost-effective ways for beginners to avoid and fix shaky camera footage.
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1. Invest in a tripod
You’ve shelled out the money to purchase a camera at this point, so it would make sense to buy a tripod. Even if you’re not making money from shooting videos yet, there are affordable and reliable tripods for under $75.
My recommendation: Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod
Manfrotto, a leading name in tripods, has their Compact line of portable tripods that features their Compact Action tripod model, suitable for video use for beginners. This model features a “photo-movie selector” which allows you to switch from static or “still” shooting to completely free movement stabilized by the tripod. Another unique feature of this model is its pistol-style head that locks into position via a rubber scroll-locking wheel under your thumb.
While my camera setup has since outgrown the Compact Action tripod, I still use mine for various things including to attach my Zoom H4n Pro Recorder to for backup audio. It is also a more-than-capable tripod for still photography. The Compact Action tripod is a tripod that you’ll have for many years to come.
Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod
2. Shoot with a wide angle lens
Shooting with a wide lens won’t eliminate shaky camera movement, but what it does is make the shaky camera movements less noticeable because it is capturing a wide field of view. By comparison, a telescope has a very “tight” field of view that exaggerates the smallest camera movements; this is better suited for singling out one subject like a star, the moon, or a person who is very far away.
3. Use your body
Your body can act as a conduit of stability between the ground and your camera; you can take advantage of this by maximizing the number of points-of-contact with your body and your camera.
- Always hold the camera with BOTH hands – Holding your camera with both hands distributes the weight of the camera and lens evenly between both arms instead of one. This rule also applies to all of the below bullet points.
- Keep your elbows in – Shoot with both elbows in, against your body, while holding the camera with both hands close to your body.
- Use the viewfinder – Using the viewfinder instead of your camera’s LCD monitor when shooting allows you to use your head as an additional contact point with your body to stabilize the camera, not to mention the viewfinder is easier to see when shooting outside during the day than the LCD monitor on the back of your camera.
- Lean on something – Stabilizing your body on something like a table or a wall while holding the camera with both hands helps to stabilize footage.
- Turn the camera with your entire body when panning – For panning shots, keep both feet planted on the ground and, keeping the camera always in front of you, turn your body with the camera while keeping your elbows in.
4. Use “Warp Stabilizer”
There is only one way to fix shaky video in post production apart from not using the footage at all. In Adobe Premiere Pro CC, there is an effect that is designed to make shaky footage smooth called “Warp Stabilizer.” While it isn’t a 100% fix all the time, and it sometimes adds a weird visual effect in it’s stabilizing process, it certainly makes really shaky footage a lot easier to watch and/or at least usable in some part.
5. Invest in a camera stabilizer
Glidecam is the brand that professional videographers often go with, but these can be overkill in terms of price for someone just starting out with video. Luckily, there are a lot of companies who think they can build knock-offs for less money. You won’t be getting Glidecam-quality, Made in the USA products, but the goal here is smooth footage and not breaking the bank.
My recommendation: Flycam HD-3000 Steadycam Stabilizer
The one brand that I’ve used and trust is Flycam and their Flycam HD-3000 Steadycam Stabilizer. The Flycam HD-3000 sits right between the Glidecam HD-2000 and Glidecam HD-4000 models in terms of weight capacity (up to 8lbs), its micro-balancing top plate, and adjustable base plates, yet costs $300 less than the Glidecam HD-2000.
Flycam HD-3000 Steadycam Stabilizer
Let us know your tips for getting smooth video shots in the comments!