Review: Deshaker Video Stabilizer

As I mentioned earlier, VirtualDub has become a big part of our production pipeline, and it’s largely due to the power of Gunnar Thalin’s excellent plugin Deshaker. Deshaker is the best image stabilization tool I’ve ever used. I’ve gotten slightly better results with the 3D tracker SynthEyes, and Avid’s built-in stabilizer is more workflow-integrated, but there’s nothing that can touch it in terms of the combination of power, speed, automatability… and of course, price.

It also has features that I haven’t seen anywhere else, like the ability to detect and repair the distortions that can come from cameras with a rolling shutter. It can handle interlaced video, which a lot of tools can’t, and it has the ability to reconstruct images to prevent edge flicker, which a lot of tools don’t. It even has scene detection built in so you can deshake footage that’s already been edited together (although this is obviously not ideal). Take a look at a very simple scene below. Even minimal stabilization adds a tremendous amount of production value.

As you can see, it’s best at taking out intermittent high-frequency shakes; the unavoidable fast jerks that you get when trying to handle a tiny consumer camera. If I cranked up the smoothness settings (which are adjustable on every axis, including zoom), it would be even more stable, plus I could isolate the area that I want tracked to just the sky, so the rippling ocean waves aren’t confusing the plugin. This is the only problem with Deshaker – it is so configurable that almost any shot can be properly stabilized, but it’s not automatic enough to get the perfect results every time when batch processing a whole drive full of clips.

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All Hail VirtualDub

Generally, our production pipeline involves editing all the footage down in Premiere to the final cut and then, depending on length and complexity, on-lining the project or project sections in After Effects for all color correcting, stabilizing, deinterlacing, frame rate adjustments, or whatever else is required. This the best way to maintain video quality, since you go straight from the source files to the corrected final in one shot, without multiple generations of adjustments and transcoded video files.

However, sometimes there isn’t time for all that, and sometimes video needs to be converted or processed prior to the editing phase (also, with a good codec, transcoding once or twice isn’t too bad). After Effects is great for this too, obviously, since it’s easy to set up batches of files with preset effects, but sometimes this is overkill, and that’s where VirtualDub comes in.

VirtualDub is a free video utility developed by Lee Avery. It’s not an editor per se, but it can append multiple video files or trim portions out of them. Its main strengths are capturing, processing, and compressing digital video. It can do anything from stripping or adding audio streams to AVI files without recompressing them, or heavy-duty image remastering using third party filters.

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