By Kevin P. McAuliffe (doddleNEWS)
In today’s productions, whether they are news, documentary or sometimes even primetime broadcast television, shaky footage always manages to creep its way in there. When you see shaky footage in a production, it’s there for one of two reasons. One, it’s intentional, or two, the editor was too lazy to attempt to fix it. With the availability of third-party plugins for all NLE and compositing applications these days, there is almost a plug-in to fix just about any problem you might run into, and shaky footage is no exception.
In this review, we’re going to take a look at Better Stabilizer from CrumplePop.
Now, before we get started, I want to mention that when you take a look at the examples that are given in their promo video, it’s very rare to come across situations like this, so what I decided to do was go with a handheld shot, with a “normal” amount of shake, that I took on a recent vacation.
With all of that out of the way, there is some housekeeping that we need to get to, before looking at how well the actual plugin works. First, this effect is for Mac users only, as it is part of Noise Industries FxFactory Pro (FXFP) plugin package. What’s important to keep in mind about FXFP is that it is not only an effects package, but it’s also a plugin building hierarchy that lets companies use it as a foundation to build effects, and that is exactly what CrumplePop has done here.
One of the biggest annoyances of a package like this is that when you install it, you’re going to be absolutely slammed with a ton of effects that aren’t licensed, and that you’ll have to constantly scroll through to find the effect you want. Well, not here.
You can tell FxFactory what effects you want to see, so you’ll only have access to the ones you’ve purchased in your NLE. With that being said, it’s also important to point out that the two supported NLE’s are Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro, I had a bit of an interesting situation arise between the two versions. Let me show you what I mean; here’s the shot we’re going to be stabilizing:
The first thing that you need to do, once the effect is dropped onto your clip, is analyze the shot. I ran into some issues later on, so I had to analyze in both Premiere and FCP X, and the time difference was staggering to say the least.
To give you an idea of the processing power I’m dealing with, I’m running a 32GB, 12-Core Mac Pro, so processing power is not an issue. Here’s a comparison of analyzing time difference between the two applications. Premiere on the left, and FCP X on the right.
As you can see, there is a staggering difference in the analyze time for both applications. I would have expected FCP X to be at least the same, if not faster at analyzing the clip. Keep in mind that the clip is 26 seconds long, so the FCP X processing time (and Motion, for that matter) is almost four times real-time. I analyzed the same clip with the standard FCP X Stabilization parameter, and it analyzed the shot in about 10 seconds. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but there is a pretty big issue that needs addressing on the FCP X/Motion side.
Also, I want to mention that I’m testing Better Stabilizer on Mac OS 10.10.4 (Yosemite). I’ve been informed by Noise Industries that they have seen better performance out of the processing times on 10.11.x (El Capitan), and even the latest 10.12.x (macOS Sierra), but I will not be testing the plug-in on 10.12, as there are always issues with brand new operating systems and NLE and Compositing applications, so look for an upcoming edit to see if the performance issues in FCP X/Motion are any better in El Capitan.
As for the actual stabilization, it was very impressive right up until the point where there was a big shake in the footage. As you can see from the below shot, around 10 seconds, there’s a weird Skew/Warp look that seemed very odd, as I’ve never seen that look in a stabilization effect.
I was ready to fix it by playing around with some of the other settings, but once I tried to switch over to a different preset, the effect wanted me to analyze the shot again, or at least it seemed to want me to, as the “Analyze” button became selectable upon changing presets. Um, wait a minute, shouldn’t the original analyzation be the same, and shouldn’t it be the reference for all presets that are chosen?
The fact that, if I was an FCP X editor, or Motion user, I would have to wait 2 minutes per preset to see what they all did, and made me stop looking, as that was a deal breaker for me for the FCP X/Motion version. The Premiere version seemed to do the same thing, but was different processing times based on the preset chosen.
I really wanted to like this plugin, as I’m a huge fan of Crumplepop, but the brutally long analyzing times in FCP X/Motion, and the weird skewing happing to large bumps in my footage makes this plugin a pass for me.
You can get more information on BetterStabilzer by clicking here [affiliate link].