How to Stabilize Footage in Post-Production Using DaVinci Resolve
Here’s everything you need to know about post-production stabilization in DaVinci Resolve.
There are two main ways to apply a stabilization effect to your footage with DaVinci Resolve. One approach happens under the Edit Tab. For the other, you’ll head to the Color Tab.
Before we dive into the “how-to” of it all—is one of these better than the other? Let’s go with “not really.” I’ve had success with both methods, and I feel like they’re pretty equally effective. They both let you get in and fine-tune your stabilization to a certain level.
Of course, to get the most out of either method, you’ve got to decide what “kind” of stabilization your footage might need. For instance, if your footage features some intentional camera movement, then you’ll probably want a stabilization effect that replicates a smooth track or dolly-type shot, like something you might get from a gimbal. (Picture “warp stabilizer” in Premiere Pro.)
If you’re working with footage that was meant to be steady—like a tripod shot that ends up with an annoying wind-based shakiness—you’ll probably lean on the Camera Lock feature in DaVinci Resolve. It does exactly what you think; it locks off the shot for a no-movement effect. (I use this all the time as most of my footage is shot in the wind-tossed wilderness.)
Now that you’ve identified your post-production goals, let’s take a look at how to apply these stabilization effects in DaVinci Resolve.
The Edit Tab
When highlighting a clip on your timeline, find the Stabilization option in the Inspector. Click it. From here, you’ll see a button that says Stabilize. You guessed it: Click it.
Once you hit Stabilize, you’ll get an Analyzing load screen as the effect begins affecting your footage. This shouldn’t take too long—maybe thirty seconds or so, depending on clip length and the amount of movement in the shot.
Most of my footage is shot with a tripod, so I usually hit Camera Lock. This basically tells DaVinci Resolve that your footage won’t be moving or, rather, it shouldn’t move at all.
Now, let’s dive a little deeper into ways you can fine-tune your stabilization effect. DaVinci Resolve gives you five options for further footage tweaking: Camera Lock, Zoom, Cropping Ratio, Smooth, and Strengthen. We’ve already looked at Camera Lock—here’s what the others do for you.
Zoom: Check this if you want Resolve to zoom into your shot in order to hide any movement near the outside frame.
Cropping ratio: This tells Resolve just how much you want to crop in on your footage (zoom) once it’s been stabilized.
Smooth: This is meant to tackle the bigger movements you want taken out. Heads up, though—this will zoom in even further on your shot.
Strength: This tackles unwanted micro-jitters, like those that happen without a gimbal.
In the video tutorial below, Jay Lippman does a great job of explaining how these effects work with the three stabilization modes offered by DaVinci Resolve: Perspective, Similarity, and Translation.
Again, Lippman explains the modes well in his clip, so give it a watch. For quick reference, here’s how the DaVinci Resolve user manual explains them:
Perspective: Enables perspective, pan, tilt, zoom, and rotation analysis and stabilization.
Similarity: Enables the pan, tilt, zoom, and rotation analysis and stabilization, for situations when perspective analysis results in unwanted movement and artifacts.
Translation: Enables pan and tilt analysis and stabilization only, for instances where only X and Y stabilization gives you acceptable results.
The Color Tab
To pull up this tool, go down to Color, then hit the target-looking icon in the middle of your screen. This will pull up the Tracker tab. This allows you to see the effect being applied via a graph that displays how the image moves and what Resolve is able to do with it.
At the bottom of the screen, you’ll find the option to play with Cropping Ratio, Smooth, and Strength, just like you can in the Edit tab. Honestly? It’s pretty much exactly the same as the Edit tab.
Again, as I mentioned up top, I’ve approached stabilization from both the Color tab or the Edit tab, and both options are solid. If forced to choose between the two, I do feel like I have more customization control under the Color tab. Plus, I just think applying stabilization is going to fall into your color grading workflow more often than it will the initial timeline build of your edit. (Also, I looked on Reddit, and it seems like more people have better luck with the Color tab. So, there you go!)
Even though DaVinci Resolve and other NLEs make it easy, stabilizing in post is always a gamble. It can help, sure, but it’s just not the best way to nail a clean final image. Ultimately, your project will be best served with the kind of careful planning that ensures that the footage you shoot is exactly the footage you actually want.
For more stabilization tips and advice: