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Old October 26th, 2007, 09:21 AM   #1
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Stabilization of wildlifefootage

Hi,
as a wildlifecinemaphotographer I often feel terrible about some of my footage which is jittering due to use of extreme long focal lenght. Even with a super steady tripod jittering is very common.
I have tried to improve my own technique at location but sometimes it's just not possible to get that jitteringfree footage you want. Especially when things start to happend around you and you too busy to just manage to get the action in your viewfinder.
Luckily I found a plug-in for my NLE, which I'm very satisfied with. As I have been reading several posts where people struggle with the same problem, I therefore post this tips which maybe help some of you out.

The tools I've used is called Mercalli and is a very easy to use plug-in for the most common pc editing suites, for more information visit their homepage:
http://www.prodad.de/

I have provided two samples for you to download where you can view what magic this small plug-in does to jittering footage. Even if it's not so noticable in the small video shown here, viewing it on a huge HD-TV or screen make a lots of difference!


Note! Please download to your computer before viewing!
Sample 1: A Brown Bear in the moor during a foggy night - http://www.video-film.no/snutter/stabilize-1.mov (32MB)
Sample 2: A meeting between Brown Bear and Wolf - http://www.video-film.no/snutter/stabilize-2.mov (44MB) Note: this is rarely seen by anyone as this is taken in the wild deep into the forest of Eastern-Finland from a hide/blind.

Sample 1 is shoot with Canon XLH1 + 70-200mm f/2.8 ef-lens at 200mm, focal lenght equivalent of 1440mm
Sample 2 is shoot with Canon XLH1 + 300mm f/4.0, focal length equivalent of 2160mm
Attached Thumbnails
Stabilization of wildlifefootage-bear.jpg   Stabilization of wildlifefootage-bear-wolf.jpg  

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Last edited by Per Johan Naesje; October 26th, 2007 at 09:51 AM. Reason: added text
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Old October 26th, 2007, 12:32 PM   #2
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Hey Per

Very interesting indeed. I still look at a lot of my Common/Grey seal footage and wince at the amount of shots that fell foul to the jitters. This could be well worth while to save some of them and completely iron out some of the lesser but still noticeable issues. Kevin R showed me something like this built into to Final Cut studio a while back. It also showed similar improvements in some footage.

Out of interest Per what head do you use with your 300mm? I'm looking for a new one at the moment as well as some long lens support although the Ronsrail just seems too expensive for me at the moment. I use a 100-300 Sigma F4 and at the moment its un-supported ! I do worry about the weight and I know it makes the rig as a whole more susceptible to wind shake.
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Old October 26th, 2007, 02:34 PM   #3
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Hi Mat,

I have a H1 which I use with a 70-200mm Canon L lens. Although it is within the weight limits for the mount I did find it unbalanced on the tripod (Miller 10 with solo legs) To over come this I had made up an alluminium plate to support the lens and body 25 including powder coating. I got the idea from the XL2 forum. I am not at home at the moment and therefore don't have with me the specs but maybe a search of that forum will get them for you. I works OK and is much more balanced, although I still have to be careful when useing it to avoid shake.
Hope this is of help and is much cheaper than a Ronsrail.

Regards

Mick
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Old October 26th, 2007, 04:19 PM   #4
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Per Johan

Would you guess whether or not Mercalli might offer any cure for the jitters caused by handheld video of bird flight? Is there any chance you could dig up a bit of bird flight to test it with ... if I remember correctly there was little bird flight in your ravens video and none at or above eye-level ... then again with your heavy gear handholding is difficult if not impossible. I suspect I'm wasting your time ... but I did enjoy your clips from faraway forests. Who skinned the deer?
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Old October 26th, 2007, 04:26 PM   #5
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I think I posted a photo similar to this a long time ago, but posting it again might help those who didn't see it the first time. I just did some measuring and made a drawing of a plate that would tie the camera and lens together as one unit, and had a local machine shop make it. I have been using this plate since 2000 when I purchased my first XL1. I just designed a plate for a friend that just purchased an XL H1 and a Cannon 100-400mm lens. The cost to have it machined was 100USD including the material. I use mine with three different lenses, but I have to use different spacers because of the height differences between the lens tripod mounts and the H1 mounting surface. It works for what I use it for, no complaints.

Also, I hope this post doesn't take away from Per Johan's excellent post, which I'm also interested in.
Attached Thumbnails
Stabilization of wildlifefootage-xl-h1-2.jpg  
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Old October 26th, 2007, 05:11 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mat Thompson View Post
Hey Per

Very interesting indeed. I still look at a lot of my Common/Grey seal footage and wince at the amount of shots that fell foul to the jitters. This could be well worth while to save some of them and completely iron out some of the lesser but still noticeable issues. Kevin R showed me something like this built into to Final Cut studio a while back. It also showed similar improvements in some footage.
Mat, I think you could rescue some of your seal footage with this one. I have seen the Motion in use for FCP and this is a stunning tool to get rid of jittering footage, unfortunately FCP/Motion only run on Macs. In the PC world, there has been a few stabilizators but I think this one is one of the best I've seen so far and it's very easy in use.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mat Thompson View Post
Out of interest Per what head do you use with your 300mm? I'm looking for a new one at the moment as well as some long lens support although the Ronsrail just seems too expensive for me at the moment. I use a 100-300 Sigma F4 and at the moment its un-supported ! I do worry about the weight and I know it makes the rig as a whole more susceptible to wind shake.
With heavy lenses 300mm and beyond I use Ronsrail for support. I think I have mention for you that I'm using the heavy Miller Arrow HD tripod system. The head has 100mm bowl and very sturdy in most situations but with huge focal length I don't think any tripod could support without any jittering.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brendan Marnell View Post
Per Johan

Would you guess whether or not Mercalli might offer any cure for the jitters caused by handheld video of bird flight? Is there any chance you could dig up a bit of bird flight to test it with ... if I remember correctly there was little bird flight in your ravens video and none at or above eye-level ... then again with your heavy gear handholding is difficult if not impossible. I suspect I'm wasting your time ... but I did enjoy your clips from faraway forests. Who skinned the deer?
Brandon, I will dig up some jittering footage tomorrow and try out, stay tuned!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don DesJardin View Post
Also, I hope this post doesn't take away from Per Johan's excellent post, which I'm also interested in.
Don, not at all, your pic was very interesting to look at, thanks for sharing!
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Old October 26th, 2007, 06:31 PM   #7
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Thanks for the new stabilizer, Per. The price is reasonable,too at less than $100 US. I use two stabilizers, the Steady Move, which comes bundled in Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0, and an oldie-but-goodie from DigiStudio. Both work well some of the time. They would be effective with your bear shots. When shooting flying birds, or a scene with surf they are worthless, as they try to stabilize the desired motion in the scene, as well as the shake. The result is that the frames whip to and fro wildly with edges sometimes coming half way across. Not a perfect technology yet.
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Old October 26th, 2007, 07:28 PM   #8
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Wow, I wish I had you guys money and resources.

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Old October 27th, 2007, 06:32 AM   #9
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HI Guys
Here are two more 1280/720 wmv files to look at done with Mercalli from a EDIUS HDV timeline.

Before
http://hdvunderwater.com/prodad/shaky2a.wmv

After
http://hdvunderwater.com/prodad/shaky2.wmv
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Old October 27th, 2007, 11:54 AM   #10
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Dave,
The DigiStudio stabilizer I mentioned is shareware. To actually buy it is $50.00.
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Old October 27th, 2007, 07:10 PM   #11
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Steve,

It's the ability to purchase quality camcorders, lens, and other items that creates my envy. I live in a very rich video environment. Whales, Sea Lions, Otter, Deer, Mink, Marten, Brown Bears, and millions of birds. All within a few miles of my home. I'm retired, disabled, and on a very limited income. I use a Canon HV20. No extra lens. So the only way I can get a decent shot, is sneak-up on them. I'm Just envious of what others can do with their equipment.

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Old October 28th, 2007, 03:31 AM   #12
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Thanks Per and Paul,

In five weeks we are off to Bandhavgarh India for a spot of tiger watching. We are based for 2 weeks in the reserve and have sole use of a guide and vehicle. We have been informed that sometimes it would be difficult to get the shots we want useing a tripod because of the limited space in the vehicle to set up quickly. Also some of the time we will be on elephants.

Having watched your clips I now know I have a way to stabilize some of the clips that I may have other wise thought unusable. I use Canopus Edius and therefore this plug in would work straight of the timeline.

Again many thanks

Mick
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Old October 28th, 2007, 08:02 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Per Johan Naesje View Post
Mercalli
Per Johan,

Thanks for the interesting post. You've been shooting in Kuhmo!

The Mercalli software seems to work rather well. It's obvious that BBC and other companies use such kind of software to stabilize their aerial footages etc.

The key issue is to have the mass center precisely over the center of the fluid head. The remainin problem is the rather large moment of inertia (mass far away from the axis). This means, once the lens is in motion, it won't stop until the kinetic energy is transformed to heat, and this is what causes the oscillation. To circumvent the problem, put as little mass on the camera as possible. Say, don't plug the battery or the mic to the camera body, but instead use external cords. Unplug the EVF, if possible and so on. Needless to say, this is a reason why good fluid heads tend to be expensive.
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Old October 28th, 2007, 09:46 AM   #14
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Shot 1 of the bear illustrates the downside of stabilisation software - even at this small size and reduced data rate, the loss of resolution is visible. As the stabilised bear is the same size as the original, I assume that Mercalli was set to give a constant size border and then both clips were cropped to match?

I have used the 2d3 SteadyMove Pro for this for some years now, and used the Dynapel SteadyHand, Digi-Studio and the Huber stabilisers before that. They all have their strong points with different kinds of material. I now use Mercalli for some material, but still prefer SteadyMove Pro for other material.

The problem with all the older stabilisers is that development has ceased, Mercalli is new and shows a great deal of promise. I hope that ProDad continue to develop it!

All of this software is designed to scan blocks of pixels to reduce the number crunching, and this reduces resolution. The image also has to be "zoomed" to avoid unpleasant borders. The best results are obtained using dedicated hardware stabilisers, and I believe that this is the approach used by professional broadcasters such as the BBC.

Even then it comes a poor second to a good tripod and head combination.
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Old October 28th, 2007, 10:30 AM   #15
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Allan,

"I now use Mercalli for some material, but still prefer SteadyMove Pro for other material."

If you have time, would you point out what you use the other software for as well.

The more information the better!!!
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