Pagan Wedding on the GH2 / How I fell out of love with Warp Stabiliser

My friends Sally and Ben got married Pagan style last week in Derbyshire, England. This was originally going to be my Warp Stabiliser project, all shot handheld (via the GH2’s built in EVF) with one lens (Voigtlander 25mm F0.95).

Warp Stabiliser is a new addition to Adobe Creative Suite CS5.5 but it is in After Effects, NOT Premiere CS5.5.

You can get some great results with Warp Stabiliser if you don’t mind quite a hefty crop. I recommend shooting in 1080p. Unfortunately I wanted slow-mo for this piece so shot in 720/60p. In the end I liked the end result enough not to use the Warp Stabiliser.

One of the positives of shooting slow-mo 60p is that it makes handheld camera jitter much less annoying so I didn’t feel the footage above would have greatly benefited from a crop + digital stabilisation.

I am not abandoning Warp Stabiliser for good, I’ll revisit it in future articles and show some footage. But here are my reasons for not using it on the wedding video:

  • A massive memory footprint locks my Mac. It really does take everything you throw at it, and leaves nothing left. I couldn’t even surf the net whilst Warp Stabliser renders – and for 6 hours solid that is an issue! Adobe have never been good at optimising their software and it’s getting worse – much worse!
  • For those not familiar with After Effects it is a pain to learn an entirely new app just for one effect plugin, which could have worked in Premiere CS5 no problem. It strikes me that they’ve kept some of the plugins for After Effects so you have to buy that as well, but what’s the point? Just put all the functionality in Premiere! It’s a cynical profit driven decision.
  • Large crop factor – Warp Stabliser really crops heavily into the image, depending on how much camera shake there is – and weirdly, pans (even small ones not sweeping movements) seem to adversely effect the crop when they should be ignored. Really you are still best off with a proper handheld rig than none and relying on digital FX.
  • Poor performance. Warp Stabiliser takes an age to apply. I have a 64bit CPU but Warp Stabiliser is only 32bit. Even most compact cameras do digital stablisation in real-time. This is more advanced but I don’t see why it should be so slow to render and apply the effect, and previewing the effect in RAM was all but impossible – I was getting 1-2fps.

When it does work it really does smooth out all the jitter which is a huge bonus and you can get some fantastic results with it. Just be wary of blanket usage like I tried – doing batch operations like applying effects to multiple compositions in After Effects requires a script!!

I have no idea why After Effects don’t support a drag and drop of an effect onto multiple clip selections like in Premiere – if you need every clip in the project to be stabilised you will literally have to toggle or paste the effect onto 70+ clips one by one.

After Effects is a layering / composition tool, and you don’t have a traditional sequence timeline like in Premiere either. Thankfully it does have a render cue for compositions.

Warp Stabiliser has a few options for maintaining some smooth motion in the clip (I like this, it simulates a handheld rig, takes out the jitter and the shot is not completely locked off), and even simulating the edges of the clip. That edge simulation helps avoid a crop but it only works if your background is a green screen or something, it can’t simulate detail that isn’t there and on most clips it just looks a mess.

I will revisit Warp Stabiliser soon and upload some footage. In the meantime… Since it is the end of the world – Here is the bride a few years ago in my short, shot on a Sony FX1 before the DSLR era began: