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help with getting a steady look

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mons dayathelp with getting a steady look
by on Mar 22, 2010 at 12:56:24 pm

Hi everyone,

I have two questions/problems that i need help with.

1) i have footage that needs to be stabilized due to unsteady camera work. The problem is that the weight balance on the steady cam was not properly adjusted thus there's not only shaky footage but also wavy footage that gets me seasick.

The thing is that i do manage to stabilize the footage and remove all the shakiness using after effects tracker. But, the problem is that I still get wavy or more like floating image that looks like it was shot on a ship under a mad storm.

I've tried various settings to avoid the floating movement and try to achieve steady movement but nothing seems to work or help. the result i get is that the footage may get steady in the center of the image but still looks like the surroundings are floating or rotating up and down like a boat in the sea.

have a look at what i mean:

2) also, as you see in the video, the footage is shot in a studio surrounded with black background. My other question is, what is the best way to remove the background (in this case black) so i can replace it with another? in result, i wish that the foreground is the footage you see and in the background something else needs to be replaced with the blackness.

Any suggestions?

with regards

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Dave LaRondeRe: help with getting a steady look
by on Mar 22, 2010 at 4:28:29 pm

You have two problems, as you know, and I hope you have a Plan B for this shot. I don't think you can salvage it.

You could try using Mocha to help with the motion stabilization problem, but then in order to stabilize the shot, portions of the shot would disappear from the screen. Even with help from Mocha, I think you would still have to stabilize some of the shot by hand.

But there is nothing that will automatically help you replace the black background. I don't know why people think they can easily remove black. Why do you think people use blue and green screens in the first place? You will have to rotoscope because there are too many dark places on the set, and it would be complicated rotoscoping to boot. It would be like doing traditional frame-by frame cel animation. How are your cel animation skills -- could you work for Disney, perhaps? No? Then I don't recommend rotoscoping.

Your task would be tough enough if you only had one problem. But because of these two conditions, I recommend that you re-shoot. If you have no other choice but to use the footage, you literally face weeks of painstaking drudgery. This is no joke.

Dave's Stock Answer #2:

When you're out on a shoot, and you say, "we'll fix this in post" without knowing PRECISELY HOW you're going to fix it in post, don't shoot it! You'll only end up shooting it over again.

Since post typically costs three times the cost of production, fixing something in post is not a way to save money, but rather a way to spend more of it.

And, before you say "well fix it in post," always consider who's doing the work, especially if you're the one doing the work.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA

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Steve RobertsRe: help with getting a steady look
by on Mar 22, 2010 at 4:29:19 pm

A problem is the change in perspective of the items close to camera: they slide by each other. You cannot change this without a reshoot. All you can change in this clip is the Z-axis rotation. I don't think you can track and stabilize it in AE because of the tracking motion, but you might be able to track and stabilize in Syntheyes, or track in Syntheyes, use it to make an AE camera then use expressions to counter the Z-axis rotation, and maybe some motion.

By the way, it's not so bad. It's not dead-steady either, but if you nail the Z-axis rotation, you should be fine. And, in my opinion, a badly-weighted steadicam would just introduce rotation, not this, which is Y-axis motion. If you're using a JR, that's the operator's body problem: not smooth enough. I could be wrong.

Regarding issue 2, run your mouse over the footage and see what the info panel shows. If the black of the background is the same as the black of the dark table (for instance), you can't key out the black BG without losing the table (for instance). You need to mask out the black BG manually, which is called rotoscoping. The set should have been lit with keying in mind.

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Dave LaRondeRe: help with getting a steady look
by on Mar 22, 2010 at 4:39:10 pm

I take back what I just wrote. As Steve points out, there are changes in 3D perspective taking place in this shot which make stabilization almost impossible. I overlooked this very important detail.

If you're willing to accept a poor-looking shot, you can still spend weeks to salvage it. Otherwise, you have no other choice but to re-shoot.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA

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Bill KellyRe: help with getting a steady look
by on Mar 22, 2010 at 11:49:15 pm

If you have or know anybody with Final Cut or Shake, the Smoothcam filter may work on your shot as far as getting some stabilization.

I don't think you're going to have much luck getting rid of the black background without doing some serious rotoscoping, as Dave and Steve have said.

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mons dayatRe: help with getting a steady look
by on Mar 23, 2010 at 12:24:31 pm

Thank you Dave, Steve and Bill.

In relation to the stabilizing issue, i'll look into syntheyes. Sounds like it could be something. And yes Steve, it isn't that bad, at least not bad enough to re-shoot; you are right about the reason for causing this issue, the change of perspective is exactly it.

Anyhow, I might just go for the donkey work and try to stabilize some of the shots manually, it's always been the plan. I was just hoping for an alternative plan that could potentially ease the pain. It's one of those challenges where you work with what you have!

Dave, i am against the idea of rectifying or relying on post. In fact, i agree with you on all aspects when it comes to making sure things are done right on the shoot to avoid issues such as this. I'm a cinematographer, an old fashioned one, that strives to get everything done right whilst the film is raw. and i NEVER rely on fixing anything in post.

About removing the black; it was never the intention to remove the black. The idea is exactly what you see in the video. I asked you guys hoping i might find another way to work around the unsteady footage by replacing the background, basically to bring the story to another level; one that works with floaty footage....

Anyways, thanks for your input. This case is the consequences of taking poor and unlucky decisions! I wanted your opinion on this. Your advise is greatly appreciated.


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Dave LaRondeRe: help with getting a steady look
by on Mar 23, 2010 at 5:40:38 pm

I see your point: sometimes experiments don't work out as you would hope.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA

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Greuter DaysyRe: getting a steady look
by on Aug 13, 2010 at 6:17:41 am

Stabilize like Rock-Steady can made very easy with the mercalli plug-in. Some samples:,l-us.xhtml

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