Testing Every Type of Stabilization Technique to Pick a Winner

In this latest Film Science video, the team at Syrp Lab tests every kind of stabilizer — digital and physical — in order to determine which provides the smoothest footage.

In the six-minute video, the Syrp Lab team covers everything from software-side Warp Stabilizer to gyro-assisted stabilization to discern which will provide filmmakers and editors with the smoothest video while at the same time explaining why it is almost impossible to get perfect shake-free footage. Spoiler alert, the winner might be announced in the opening seconds of the video and that alone might be most surprising.

The first thing that needs to be understood is how stabilization actually works, and what methods are being used by the various devices. In this setup, there is the method of motion detection and the method of motion compensation to consider for stabilized video. Both of these will result in some rather large variations in the performance and outcome of the footage.

For motion detection, stabilizers will either use a motion-sensing chip called an IMU (a collection of sensors with an accelerometer and a gyroscope) or the motion of the camera is calculated using feature recognition from the footage itself. This is where the system will track objects in the frame to then interpolate where the camera moved. Both methods have some advantages and disadvantages.

Once the motion has been identified, there are several ways to counter it, this includes using a gimbal to steady the shot (this becomes more difficult as the cameras become larger and heavier), using the in-body image stabilization (limited to the space inside of the camera and cannot accommodate large shakes like from a camera mounted on a mountain bike), digital stabilization using tools like Warp Stabilizer in Adobe Premiere Pro or what is found included in software like with a GoPro or iPhone (this method will end up cropping the footage, sometimes by up to 30%, to create incredibly smooth videos but can often leave behind odd motion blurs).

Since each of the cameras and stabilization systems leverage different combinations of tools, the team set up a rig consisting of an iPhone 13 Pro, a GoPro Max, a Sony Alpha 7S III using its in-body image stabilization, a Canon EOS R working in tandem with Warp Stabilizer, and a Canon C200 on a pro-level gimbal to be able to capture the same tests in a single take across every device and software combo.

The resulting test footage in the video shows that while each system has its own pros and cons to how they “fix” shaky video footage, the winner for the smoothest and most natural-looking stabilized video is actually the GoPro Max.

“Action cameras often avoid weird-looking footage after stabilizing by having a short shutter speed, effectively eliminating all motion blur,” the team determines.

Granted, the footage may be smooth, but it will lack the “cinematic” look and feel the other systems can provide. According to the Syrp Lab team, while the GoPro has the best stabilization, creatives should still research the right camera for the job.

“If you shoot action sports buy a GoPro instead of strapping a cinecam to your head, and if a cinematic masterpiece is your goal, then use a proper professional gimbal.”

To see more tutorials from the Syrp Lab team be sure to visit their YouTube channel and official website.

Image credits: Syrp Lab