Almost nothing makes a video look worse than shaky footage. I’m not talking about the purposely-added shake you see in Bourne Identity fight scenes — rather, the little bumps and wobbles that DSLRs and phone cameras are so bad at hiding. They're the kind of thing you may not even explicitly notice, but it's the easiest way to tell if you're dealing with footage shot by a pro or an amateur. That’s why our entire staff — video team included — was so excited when we found out that Instagram's Hyperlapse app actually did an incredible job of stabilizing video.
Now, a company called SteadXP is looking to sell a third-party solution that brings the smarts of Hyperlapse to almost any camera you’d like to use. What makes the stabilization so good is how it works — more specifically, how it works differently from stabilization software like you'd find built into Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, or other stand-alone stabilization applications.
Those all analyze a scene after it was shot, meaning the software has to latch on to many parts of the image to figure out what motion should be smoothed out. Hyperlapse — and now SteadXP — are recording data in real time with the footage being captured, meaning there's no guesswork involved. In the end, you wind up with much more accurate stabilization. If that still doesn't make sense, here's our video explainer when we got our hands on Hyperlapse last year:
SteadXP is essentially a tiny box that houses an accelerometer and gyroscope, and when you attach it to your camera it can record your camera's movements as you shoot. You then take the footage to your computer, where SteadXP's software matches up the stabilization information.
The company has actually created two models: one that plugs right into the back of a GoPro (Hero 2 and higher) and another that can hook into the hot shoe of a DSLR or professional cinema camera. There are different stabilization profiles for filming fast action, one for locking onto the horizon, a mode for shooting hyperlapses, and ones calibrated for things like handheld or shoulder-mounted footage.
SteadXP has a number of sample videos available on the Kickstarter page, and the results look pretty wild. But it’s important to note that image stabilization is a feature that many of the biggest camera companies are rushing to build into their cameras. Sony already has 5-axis image stabilization working on a couple of its full-frame A7 cameras, including the video-first Sony A7s II. Many others are close behind. SteadXP's stabilization only happens along three axes, and while it looks like it could be a decent solution in the short term, it has tough competition waiting on the horizon.
You could say that Ryan Manning, one of The Verge's video directors, is excited.
As is always the case with Kickstarter projects, there is the chance you could be waiting for a while (or forever) if you choose to back it. SteadXP even admits as much at the bottom of the page. "We may face unexpected delays from our suppliers, and this could delay the production and shipping for several weeks," the company says.