Camera Image Stabilization:
How It Works and Why It Is Important
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Camera Image Stabilization

Why is camera image stabilization so important?

Well… few things are more annoying to an audience than watching the constant motion and jitter in a video that has been shot while the camera was bouncing, shaking or vibrating.

Here's more about it…!

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The blurring that occurs as a result of unwanted bouncing or shaking of the camera has been a problem for camera operators... both amateur and professional... since the beginning of photography, filmmaking and videography.

Unless you're shooting your video using some sort of stabilization device such as a tripod or a SteadyCam... There is always potential for some sort of camera motion and as a result... blurred pictures.

Unwanted Camera Motion…

Camera motion such as:

  • The vibration you get when you are trying to shoot from a moving car...
  • The yaw and pitch of the waves if you're shooting from a boat...
  • The medium speed motion shake you get with just normal hand-shake or body sway when shooting with a handheld camera...
Videographer image stabilization
  • Or the motion (in the picture) you get when you're using a zoom lens. Of course, with a zoom lens even a little shake or bounce becomes magnified.

A jittery image caused by a shaky camera is frustrating to an audience and makes for a video that may be unwatchable. All of these conditions above can cause less than optimal results when you're shooting footage.

These days when almost all video cameras shoot in HD (High Definition) it is more important than ever to eliminate unwanted camera motion.

Professional videographers will normally use a camera image stabilization device , such as a tripod, but how about the rest of us who normally shoot holding the camera without such a device handy?

Two Ways of Stabilizing the Image within the Camera...

Camera image stabilization of course may not prevent all motion blur caused by the movement of the subject or by extreme movements of the camera but... It is designed to eliminate, or at least reduce, the blur that results from normal, minute shaking due to hand-held shooting or other environmental factors.

Video camera makers have tackled this problem of stabilization for hand-held cameras, video cameras and camcorders in a couple of ways.

There are two types of technologies that camera makers have used for camera image stabilization:

Electronic (Digital) Image Stabilization

* Electronic (Digital) Image Stabilization (EIS)... Electronically using the camera's image sensor.

Optical Image Stabilization

* Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)... Mechanically using mechanisms built into the camera's lens.

Camera Stabilization methodsStabilizing the Image from the Sensor or Stabilizing the Image through the Lens

Each one has its strengths and weaknesses so let's take a look at each.

Electronic Stabilization… Stabilizing the Picture Using Pixels and the Image Sensor

Using software within the digital camera or camcorder, this technique corrects the electronic image from the image sensor (frame to frame) to counteract any unwanted motion.

Digital video camera image stabilization

It does this by using pixels outside the border of the visible frame to provide a buffer for the motion.

If the camera position is slightly shifted the frame inside the camera is electronically shifted within this buffer area to the corrected position and keep it centered.

The more centered it is the less apparent  jitter or shake you see.

The only drawback is that it uses pixels to form this buffer zone that would otherwise be used in the frame. This means that you have fewer pixels to work with in each frame and thus you lose a bit of picture quality.

This type of stabilization is usually automatic in the camera and the camera operator has no need to worry if it's on or off. This technology is also called digital image stabilization by some camera manufacturers.

Optical Stabilization… Mechanical Stabilization by Shifting the Camera's Lens Position…

An optical image stabilizer is an electromechanical mechanism used in a camera or camcorder that stabilizes the recorded image by varying the light path to the image sensor through the lens.

Most camera makers use a floating lens element that is always moved to the optical center of the lens using gyroscope sensors and electromagnets.

If the camera moves or shakes the light path through the lens to the optical sensor is altered so that the image being shot stays centered on the sensor.

Optical image stabilizationThe Lens Can Simultaneously Change Tilt along the Z Axis + Very the Focus

This can also be done with the camera's image sensor also to provide even better correction of the image.

The key element of all optical stabilization systems is that they stabilize the image projected on the image sensor before  the sensor converts the image into digital information. This makes for a much clearer and cleaner picture.

In high-end camcorders and digital cameras you can turn the optical image stabilization on and off and there are also usually several modes that compensate for different types of movement. Some videographers like to turn the camera image stabilization off however if they're working from a tripod or if they have the camera on a SteadyCam.

Camera Image Stabilization… Brand Names for Various the Camera Makers…

The different camera makers have names for their camera image stabilization technology.

Here are a few of the names you might see when you're shopping for digital cameras or camcorders:

  • Image Stabilization – Canon
  • MegaOIS - Panasonic
  • OpticalSteady Shot – Sony
  • SuperSteadyShot – Sony
  • PureView – Nokia
  • Vibration Reduction (VR) – Nikon
camera image stabilization

When you're shopping for a digital camera or camcorder just be sure to pay close attention to what type of stabilization technology the manufacturer is using.

Is it optical stabilization or digital stabilization…? It makes a big difference…!

Here's a Short Video from Panasonic… It Explains Some of the Different Ways That Images Are Stabilized in a Digital Camera... Enjoy…!

What Type of Stabilization Should You Choose…?

Each type of camera image stabilization has its pros and cons.

A plus point for the Electronic stabilization is it's cheaper and does an adequate job of reducing minor camera shake, but this technology does reduce the picture quality by reducing the number of pixels in each frame.

If you're not worried so much about outstanding picture quality and just want to point-and-shoot... 

Blurred image stabilizationThis Is What You Don't Want!

Then a digital camera with electronic stabilization technology should be fine.

Also... most video editing software programs have a function that will let you do some  correcting for camera shake. So… if you do have a little motion in the frame you can compensate a bit for that during the video editing process. It (the video editing software) won't do anything major as far as correction but it will help a bit.

If you're shooting in high definition and high resolution images are important to you... then it would be better to invest in a more expensive form of image stabilization.

Optical stabilization will help you shoot sharper images by giving you better stabilization of the camera. But, of course, it won't come cheap! But if you are going to invest in a higher-end camera anyway... then the optical image stabilization that comes with it will help you to shoot better images.


If you are shooting hand-held then there's always the possibility that you will get some images that are blurred because of camera bounce and shake but...

These image stabilization systems do however give you a great chance to shoot a nice sharp clear image...!


VideoEditingSage.com

 Have fun...!  Dan

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