The History Of Video Stabilization

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Video Stabilization

Since the first film-based movie camera was invented in the late 19th century, amateur and professional filmmakers have searched for the best way to stabilize their video. Your eyes don’t shake when you look at something, so in order for footage to appear real, camera operators have had to come up with new ways to ensure films are recorded smoothly. Today, there are multiple different methods of video stabilization and film stabilization gear available on the market, many of which are used by our qualified camera operators and film crews.

Video Stabilization Before The 21st Century

In the late 1800s multiple inventors around the world came up with different ways to take a number of consecutive still images and convert them into short films. These cameras were initially quite large and placed on even surfaces, rather than held. Operators also had to manually move film material through the cameras, resulting in shaky footage.

In 1910, Polish inventor Kazimiers Proszynski created a handheld camera called the Aeroscope. The Aeroscope revolutionized film, allowing camera operators to record for up to 10 minutes without having to manually turn a crank in order to move the film material. Films became steadier, as the Aeroscope could be held with both hands.

But humans are not able to hold things very still, as our heartbeats and pulse cause cameras to move slightly. To remedy this shakiness, early camera operators would use tripods and film from multiple angles to capture a still shot, or use a dolly to track movement.

In 1975 Garret Brown invented the Steadicam, a stabilization rig that was used to film iconic movies such as Rocky, The Shining and Return of the Jedi. A Steadicam is comprised of a vest attached to an iso-elastic arm, which is used to isolate motion on one side of the arm from affecting the other end. Attached to the arm is the camera and a counter-weight, usually the camera’s batteries and monitor. By making the bottom of the Steadicam heavier than the top, Brown was able to create a video stabilization device that was not affected by the movements of its operator. Steadicams are still used in modern day film production.

​​​​​​Modern Day Video Stabilization

Video stabilization has advanced dramatically from the shaky film cameras of the past, with many multiple different stabilization options available on the market.

  • Gimbals

    Gimbals were first described by Greek inventor Philo of Byzantium in 280BC, and then later referred to as “little ape” by ancient Roman author Athenaeus Mechanicus. Essentially, a gimbal allows an object to rotate about a single axis. Ships, for example, use three gimbals to keep objects such as compasses upright in relation to the horizon, despite the ship constantly moving.

    In videography, 3-axis gimbals allow camera operators to stabilize film on any axis. Steadicam vests already come pre-equipped with mutliple gimbals.

    Today, gimbals come in handheld form. Accompanied by guided algorithms, gimbal stabilizers are able to distinguish between unwanted movement and deliberate movement. This creates the illusion of the camera floating through space, an effect that was previously only made possible by using a Steadicam.

  • In-Camera Stabilization

    In the past, camera operators had to find creative ways to mount video cameras in order to compensate for their own shaking. Today, videographers have no such issues. Many modern day digital film cameras come with built in stabilization technology that automatically compensates for unwanted movement. An internal image sensor works to smooth out any unintentional movements, making your film appear as level as possible.

    One of the biggest benefits of in-camera stabilization is the once-off cost. Film and production companies only have to purchase a camera body, and upgrade the body whenever needed.

  • Lens Stabilization

    Lens-based stabilization is primarily used for photography, although it is possible to use stabilized lenses to shoot videos. These lenses use an electronically controlled floating lens element to compensate for any unwanted shakiness, but individually stabilized lenses cost a lot more than a pre-stabilized camera body.

When it comes to creating a professional film, YouTube clip or even a corporate Instagram story, video stabilization is always necessary. At The Michael Group, we know that post-production video stabilization is sometimes impossible, which is why we’re committing to making sure your film is smooth and shake-free.  


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