Correct Shaky Video & Stabilize Footage in Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro 14/12/2019 5 min read

Smooth pans, polished zooms, and steady still-shots are the hallmark of a professionally produced film. Unfortunately, unless you are using top-of-the-line Steadicams on your shoot, shakiness is almost unavoidable. Camera shakes and wobbles can be distracting and make your film look amateurish. Luckily, Final Cut Pro comes with a powerful one-touch stabilization feature that quickly fixes all but the most jittery of footage. 

This tutorial will walk you through the ins and outs of stabilization in Final Cut, including pro tips and a few recommended plugins. Let’s get stabilizing!

Part 1: How to Automatically Stabilize Footage in Final Cut Pro

For simple stabilization tasks, this three-step workflow for using the built-in FCPX stabilization tools should be enough. If you’ve never used it before, you’ll be amazed how fast and easy it is to transform shaky hand-held camera footage into a smooth, professional-looking video. 

Step 1: Prepare Your Clip

Digital stabilization in Final Cut Pro works across entire clips–not ranges–so you’ll need to load your clips into the Timeline and trim off any sections that you don’t want to stabilize. 

  1. If you haven’t already, create a new Project and load your clip into the Timeline
  2. Trim off any parts you don’t want to be included in the clip. You may want to remove sections with too much camera movement because they will diminish the overall stabilization quality. 
  3. Open the Video Inspector

Step 2: Turn on Automatic Stabilization 

The hardest part about this step is waiting for Final Cut Pro’s stabilization algorithm to analyze your footage. If your clip is long, it can take a few minutes. 

  1. Highlight your clip in the Timeline.
  2. Find Stabilization in the Video Inspector and turn it on.
  3. Wait for Final Cut to process the video. If you look at the viewer during this time, it should say, “Analyzing for dominant motion…”
  4. When stabilization is complete, move the Playhead to the beginning of your clip in the Timeline and press space to watch it. Your clip should appear much smoother. Pretty simple, right?

Step 3: Fine-Tune the Automatic Stabilization Options

The default stabilization method in Final Cut Pro is Automatic, which will choose a stabilization method for you. From here, you can adjust the stabilization controls, or even change the stabilization method yourself. 

InertiaCam

If your clip features camera movement such as panning or zooming, you should choose InertiaCam, which will stabilize according to the camera’s dominant motion. You can adjust the amount of stabilization by changing the Smoothing amount. You can also select Tripod Mode if your camera is stationary. 

SmoothCam

If your clip does not feature a camera movement, then you should choose SmoothCam, which will stabilize Translation, Rotation, and Scaling (zoom). SmoothCam controls allow you individually control Translation Smooth, Rotation, and Scale Smooth. Adjust these to achieve your desired effect.

You may need to try different configurations or even cutting your footage into clips to achieve the best results.

When you’re finished, rewatch your footage to check if it’s looking alright. You can toggle Stabilization on and off in the Video Inspector to see the before and after. Most of the time, the above stabilization process will be sufficient, but if your footage is especially jittery or suffers from rolling shutter distortion, then hang around for some pro tips below. 

Part 2: Pro Tips and Troubleshooting

Digital stabilization is convenient, but can produce undesired results sometimes and may require extra time and effort trying to get it to look just right. If you’re not quite happy with the stabilization effect you’ve produced so far, don’t give up! We have a few more tips for you.

1. Scale Up to Avoid Black Bars

Sometimes your camera movements are so extreme that Final Cut Pro must compensate by adjusting your footage beyond its borders–leaving undesired black bars at the edges. No thanks! The good news is that this can be fixed pretty easily. 

  1. First, try adjusting the Stabilization controls to see if you can get rid of the black bars with some simple adjustments.
  2. If that doesn’t work, locate the scale controls in the Video Inspector under Transform.
  3. “Zoom In” by increasing the Scale (All) amount until the black bars are no longer visible throughout your footage. You may also need to adjust the Position properties. 

2. Compensate for Rolling Shutter

Many cameras capture images one partial strip at a time, so fast that the human eye can’t detect it. If there are fast-moving objects or the camera moves too quickly, this rolling shutter can create a visible distortion. Luckily, Final Cut Pro comes with an automatic Rolling Shutter fix built-in.  

  1. First, identify if your clip exhibits signs of rolling shutter distortion. If fast-moving objects appear curvey when they should be straight, or your footage appears to shutter as if made of jello: it’s probably rolling shutter distortion.
  2. Highlight your clip in the Timeline.
  3. Open the Video Inspector and scroll down to Rolling Shutter. Turn this option on. 
  4. Scroll through your footage. The rolling shutter distortion effect should have disappeared or at least not look as obvious.

That just about covers everything you can do with Final Cut Pro’s built-in stabilization features. Hopefully, by now, you’re footage is looking great and you’re ready to keep editing, but if you’re still not getting those smooth results, you’ve got a few more options.

Part 3: Stabilization Tools & Plugins for More Advanced Controls

Final Cut Pro’s included digital stabilization is quick and powerful, but it’s not the best in the market. If you’re dealing with a lot of shaky footage, or you simply need the top quality stabilization available, you’ll need to go third-party. We’ve put together a list of some of the best options available to you below.

1. FCPX Stabilizer 2.0

This is a really unique stabilizer with a very attractive price point. FCPX Stabilizer 2.0 allows you to “lock on” to any object in your scene and stabilize all camera movement around that. The results are pretty amazing, and the effect is quite distinct from other stabilizers. At $29.95, this add-on is a must-have for any Final Cut Pro editor working with action-packed footage.

Download FCPX Stabilizer 2.0 Now

2. Better Stabilizer

If you’d like a simple, straightforward stabilizer add-on for Final Cut Pro at a reasonable price, Better Stabilizer is a good fit. It includes convenient presets for common stabilization situations like “standing hand-held,” “bike mount,” “drone,” and more. When compared to Final Cut Pro’s built-in stabilization, Better Stabilizer is better able to compensate for complex movements and differentiate subjects from the background. It’s available for a one time purchase of $99.

Download Better Stabilizer Now

3. Lock & Load

Waiting for rendering is one of the most frustrating parts of editing, and Final Cut’s digital stabilization just isn’t very fast. Lock & Load’s render times are 10x shorter than Final Cut Pro–which means you’ll spend less time waiting. It’s also more powerful, with better results, and more features. This is a great comprehensive option for stabilization, priced at $99.

Download Lock & Load Now

These three stabilization add-ons are all top-notch, shy of going back in time and holding your camera steady (which is ultimately the best option available for fixing shaky footage). With a variety of price points and feature offerings, there should be something for everyone. 


So how’s that wobbly footage looking? After walking through the basic steps of using Final Cut Pro’s stabilization feature, following our pro tips, and exploring all the add-ons available to you–hopefully a lot better! With stabilization out of the way, it’s time to move on to finishing your masterpiece. 

And if you’d like an assorted toolkit for upgrading Final Cut Pro with all the latest plugins, templates, and filters, check out Motion Array, which is jam-packed with everything you need for Final Cut Pro. Happy editing!

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