Correct excessive shake and rolling shutter issues

You can smooth a clip’s shaky footage by correcting the stabilization, rolling shutter, or both.

The stabilization feature in Final Cut Pro reduces the camera motion in your video so that shaky parts can be played back more smoothly. At any time, you can turn off stabilization for any clip so that it plays as originally recorded.

Many camcorders and still cameras include CMOS image sensors that expose the picture they’re recording progressively, instead of all at once. As a result, if the camera moves a lot during recording, or if the camera is recording fast motion, image distortion can occur. This causes the picture to appear wobbly or skewed. Final Cut Pro has a rolling shutter feature that can reduce this motion distortion.

Fix a clip with excessive shake or rolling shutter distortion

  1. If the clip is not already in your project, add it to the Timeline and select it.

    Note: These operations act on whole clip selections, not on range selections. To get the highest-quality and fastest results, isolate the problem section by cutting the clip with the Blade tool in the Timeline. Then apply the correction to just the video footage that needs correcting.

  2. To open the Video inspector, click the Inspector button in the toolbar (shown below), and click the Video button at the top of the pane that appears.

    Inspector button in toolbar
  3. In the Video inspector, do any of the following:

    • To reduce the shake: Select the Stabilization checkbox.

    • To reduce rolling shutter distortion: Select the Rolling Shutter checkbox.

    When you turn on Stabilization or Rolling Shutter, its checkbox turns blue.

    Stabilization and Rolling Shutter controls in Video inspector
  4. To view the fix, play the clip in the Timeline.

To turn off stabilization or rolling shutter corrections for a clip, deselect the Stabilization or Rolling Shutter checkbox.

You can refine the corrections by adjusting the stabilization settings or the Rolling Shutter Amount setting.

Adjust stabilization settings

You can adjust how much of a correction is applied by the stabilization feature.

The stabilization feature has two independent phases:

  • When you apply the stabilization feature to a clip, Final Cut Pro analyzes the pixels in successive frames to determine the direction of camera movement.

  • During playback and rendering, Final Cut Pro uses the motion analysis data to apply a transform effect to each frame, compensating for camera movement.

Use any of the three independent stabilization parameter sliders in the Video inspector to control the steadiness of your shot. When you apply stabilization to a clip, all three parameters are set to an average value of 2.5 by default. Each parameter can be set to a value between 0.0 and 5.0. A value of 0.0 turns off the parameter, and a value of 5.0 applies the strongest possible transformation. The higher you set each parameter, the more camera motion is compensated for in that axis.

Three types of motion applied to clips during image stabilization: translation, rotation, and scaling
  1. Select a clip in the Timeline, and open the Video inspector.

  2. Move the pointer over the Stabilization item in the Inspector and click Show to reveal the Stabilization settings.

  3. Do any of the following:

    • To adjust left, right, up, and down movement of a shot (x and y axes): Drag the Translation Smooth slider.

    • To adjust rotation around the center point of the image: Drag the Rotation Smooth slider.

    • To adjust forward or backward camera or lens movement (z axis): Drag the Scale Smooth slider.

    For example, if you want to remove horizontal, vertical, and rotational shake, you should set the Translation Smooth and Rotation Smooth parameters to a value above 0. You may need to experiment to see which values steady your shot the best.

  4. Optionally, choose a different stabilization method from the Method pop-up menu:

    • Automatic: Allows Final Cut Pro to choose the most appropriate stabilization method.

    • InertiaCam: Applies stabilization optimized for video footage that has camera moves such as pans and zooms. Use the Smoothing slider to adjust the amount of the InertiaCam effect.

      Note: When you choose InertiaCam, Final Cut Pro analyzes your video footage and if it determines there is an opportunity, it also offers the Tripod Mode checkbox. Select the checkbox to create the effect of a static camera that is mounted on a tripod.

    • SmoothCam: Applies the default stabilization method described above, allowing you to adjust the translation, rotation, and scale parameters.

Note: When a clip has too much motion (excessive panning, for example), stabilizing the clip may result in black bars on the edges of the video.

To avoid the black bars, you can:

  • Reduce the values for the Translation Smooth, Rotation Smooth, and Scale Smooth parameters.

  • Cut or trim the clip in the Timeline to remove the sections with the most shake. (You can locate the sections with excessive shake in the Tags pane of the Timeline Index. Click the individual Excessive Shake tags to select the corresponding ranges in the Timeline.)

  • Crop the edges of the stabilized video to remove the black bars.