There’s no rule that your video footage has to be captured from a locked off tripod and be perfectly stable. Some directors will shoot a scene with a handheld camera to add some energy to the footage. After the Blair Witch Project movie kick-started the Found Footage genre, we’ve all become familiar with shaky handheld camera work in big screen dramas.
Having shaky footage suits certain productions, but there may be occasions when it is just too wobbly. Final Cut’s postproduction stabilisation tools digitally analyse for shake and then smooth it. This is done by cropping the shot and then moving it horizontally, vertically and even rotationally to counteract shake.
1. Shoot to edit
When filming handheld, try and avoid ‘hosepiping’ (where the camera moves mindlessly). Frame your subject and hold steady. This will help Final Cut do a better stabilisation job.
2. Create new event
Go to File>New Event. Label the event with a suitable name. Click OK. Click on the event in the Libraries pane. The event will contain a new project; click on the Project icon.
3. Import media
Go to File>Import Media. Browse to locate your folder of source files. Shift-click to select them and then click Import Selected. They’ll be added to the event that you created.
4. Edit your clips
Add your clips to the Timeline and trim them so that the action flows. By trimming the clips first, you don’t waste time trying to stabilise shaky footage that won’t feature in your film.
5. Turn on Stabilization
Click on a shaky clip in the Timeline to select it. Choose Window>Show Inspector. Tick the box next to Stabilization to turn it blue. The clip will be analysed for shake.
6. Smooth out shake
By default the Stabilization tool will use the Automatic mode to counteract shake and create a more steadily-framed shot. Remaining camera movement will be smoother.
If the camera still shakes, increase the value of the Smoothness slider. Be aware that this will crop more of the frame edge. A lower value will reveal more frame edge, but look shakier.
8. Preserve pans
Some of your footage might feature deliberate camera moves such as pans or zooms. To preserve these moves while smoothing out unwanted shake, set Method to InertiaCam.
To fine-tune the amount of horizontal, vertical and scale movements that the Stabilization tool produces, tick SmoothCam and adjust the sliders manually.