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After Effects Tutorial: Smooth Video Footage with Warp Stabilizer

Evan Abrams

In this video tutorial we’ll share tips for stabilizing your shots with Warp Stabilizer in After Effects!

After Effects

Return from a shoot with shaky footage?  Follow this video tutorial for stabilizing your footage in After Effects!  The powerful Warp Stabilizer VFX can smooth out even the shakiest footage (and can also be used to stabilize footage in Adobe Premiere Pro).

Warp Stabilizer will analyze the video footage for tracking data and automatically add tracking points.  Although in many cases this will work to achieve a smooth shot, there may be instances when you will need to remove unnecessary tracking points for accuracy (you don’t want tracking on moving parts of the frame).  We’ll show you two ways of removing unwanted points – deleting them one by one or masking over your footage before stabilizing.

Further, we’ll dig into the advanced settings for the Warp Stabilizer in After Effects to tweak the stabilization for your shot.

Get smooth shots!  Check out our After Effects stabilization tutorial:

[color-box color=”gray”]This is Evan Abrams for Premiumbeat.com, and today we’re going to be stabilizing footage in After Effects, using a new and improved feature, the Warp Stabilizer VFX. We’ll be able to take footage that’s quite shaky, smooth out the motion, or reduce it to have no motion, like a locked off shot, even if there are moving elements in the frame. It’s quite easy to do, and all the operation takes place in the computer, and it’s very easy to shore up the effect. So let’s get into it and fix up that footage.

So inside of After Effects, you first have to import some footage, which can either be footage taken from a camera, or you can bring footage in from Premiere to stabilize, and you can use the Warp Stabilizer even within Premiere itself. So if you’re using Premiere, you can use it there. If you’re using Final Cut, then you’re going to have to do it in After Effects. So here in After Effects, take your footage and drag it onto a new comp. This will create a composition that is the size and duration of that footage, and we would like to trim it to be only the size that we need. So we go to the start of our trim and hit B to set the work area, and then we go to the end and hit N to show the end of the work area, and we’re going to trim the comp to the work area, and this is so we don’t have to analyze frames that we’re not interested in.

So in order to apply the stabilizing, we’re going to use the Warp Stabilizer VFX or the Warp Stabilizer button here in the tracker window. So either of these will apply the stabilized VFX plug in to your footage, and this works in Adobe CS6, and there’s an updated version in Adobe CC. We’re in Adobe CC here, so a lot of these features are going to be based around that update that is the Warp Stabilizer VFX.

So as you can see, it’s already analyzing, and this is step one of two, and what it’s going to do is create smooth motion right now, 50 percent smoothness, and it’s going to use the subspace warp style of correction. You can use position, position scale rotation, or perspective, but subspace warp will provide some segmentation and will try to make as accurate a correction as possible for things like rotation and movement. So once this is done, it’s going to move onto stabilizing, which is the second set of things. So we’re going to see just how well it has done with that, and it doesn’t look to be too bad. You can see here that it’s auto scaling to 106.7, so that’s how much it has to scale in order to accommodate the changes that we’re making, and it’s done a fairly good job, but there are things we can do to make this better, and one of those things is removing tracking points that may be on things that we don’t need to track.

Moving water has no bearing on how locked off this is. You want to only be using tracking points that exist on solid surfaces. So in order to remove tracking points, you show the tracking points, and then you may have to zoom in a little bit or make the tracking points a little larger. And all you’re going to do is go through and delete ones that appear on the water. So that one we don’t need, and then moving ahead, we don’t need that one or that one, and you can just go through and manually delete all of these if you would like, and selecting a bunch and deleting them. Because we have auto delete points across time, if we delete the points once, they do not repopulate. Before, in previous versions of this effect, they would
repopulate, and it was quite annoying, but now they’ve seemed to have fixed that problem. So this makes stabilizing a lot more accurate, and it’s definitely something you want to do.

But deleting all these points manually is actually quite annoying, so what we’re going to do is we’re going to take this footage, and we’re going to start over. So remove the Warp Stabilizer from that, and on this footage instead we are going to put on a mask, and we’re just going to mask around where the water occurs. It doesn’t have to be very accurate, but what we’re going to do is go into the mask, change the mask from add to subtract, and then we are going to pre-compose this footage as raw footage that we are going to then apply this stuff to. We want to move the attributes into the new composition, so it’s going to move that mask in there, and then bring up the Warp Stabilizer onto this. It’s going to stabilize everything except for that part of the water that we just cut out.

While we’re at it, I’m going to turn on detailed analysis so that it does a more detailed look at this, and it gets a lot finer into what pixels it should be looking at and what pixels it shouldn’t. You’ll be able to remove the rolling shutter ripple, and you can do crop less versus smooth more, and you can do all sorts of new things down here, but for our purposes we just want to make sure that when we do this analysis, we want to be as perfect as possible, and the good thing is you only have to analyze once.

So once this has been analyzed, we can go back, we can turn off that mask, and we can replace that chunk that we’ve taken out of the image, because those are pixels that we’re not interested in. We are interested in all the pixels around it, but definitely not of those pixels, so this is how you can use masks to avoid having to go in and delete a bunch of points. But if you don’t want to do the masking, you can always do that deleting of points that I showed you by showing the points and then deleting them manually, and it deletes them across time, which is good for errant points that just happen to be a little bit out of the way.

So it’s analyzed the motion, and, as you can see, it took a lot less time, and that’s because the water was eating up a lot of analysis time to figure things out. So that’s all been analyzed. We can go in here, and we can take the mask and set it to none. Then we return. Everything is still exactly as we left it, and there are no points here on the water. So we show the tracking points, there’s nothing in there, and it’s populated all of the points and more of the points elsewhere in the frame, because it’s only going to put so many points that it can find, and if it starts wasting them on the water, that’s not a thing you want. This is true for moving cars and trees, people’s faces, and all kinds of things. So if you ever have parts of the frame that are moving, you want to get rid of them and remove them from analysis.

So getting into the stabilizing things, we looked at many kinds of stabilizing. We don’t just have to have smooth motion. We can have no motion at all, and then it’ll do this stabilizing again, and it’ll do its best job to lock off this shot. But one thing you will have noticed in our example is that it does actually jump around from the first frame to the last. So it’s not a true lock off of the shot, but it is very close, if that’s what you want to do, and, as you can see, it’s only scaling to 113.8, which is well within tolerance for this kind of image, and especially because the new Adobe CC has this wonderful bi-cubic sampling that just increases the fidelity of these scalings so you don’t really have to worry about it.

All in, if you have shaky footage, this is a great way to fix it up. No motion will lock things off. Smooth motion is going to make it smooth. So if you have a locking shot, if you have a running shot, if you have a tracking shot, you had to do it by hand, you can just apply this, sacrifice some of your frame size, and then tweak this to where it’s acceptable. So usually somewhere around 5 percent was good before, and now that I can remove the tracking points of errant things, I don’t have to worry about that as much.

So this has been Evan Abrams for Premiumbeat.com, showing you how to stabilize motion using the new Warp Stabilizer VFX in Adobe CC. Hopefully this helps you in your projects, and stop by Premiumbeat.com to learn more about After Effects and other applications with the tutorials we have in our blog, and definitely come to Premiumbeat for all of your royalty-free music and sound effects needs. Again, I’m Evan Abrams. Thank you very much for watching, and we’ll see you next time.[/color-box]