February 17, 2014

A Comprehensive Guide to Making the Most of Adobe's Warp Stabilizer

Digital post-production has come a long way since the Avid machines of the early 90's. Among the myriad post production tools that have surfaced in the past few years, none is more of a potential life-saver than Adobe's Warp Stabilizer. However, despite the fact that it is fairly easy to get decent results with the plugin, it takes a little bit of know-how and practice to make Warp Stabilizer do its best work. Luckily, Jeremy Bircher over at the soon-to-launch story-driven stock footage hub, Story & Heart, has offered up the most comprehensive breakdown of Warp Stabilizer yet. Check it out.

First and foremost, the process of becoming a power-user of Warp Stabilizer requires that you become accustomed to all of the various modes with which the plugin analyzes and corrects your footage. They are as follows:

  • Position: Stabilization is based on position data only.
  • Position, Scale, and Rotation: Stabilization is based on position, scale, and rotation data. If there are not enough areas to track, Warp Stabilizer chooses the previous type (Position).
  • Perspective: This uses a type of stabilization in which the entire frame is corner-pinned. Again, if there are not enough areas to track, Warp Stabilizer chooses the previous type (Position, Scale, Rotation).
  • Subspace Warp (default): This attempts to warp various parts of the frame differently in order to stabilize the entire frame, as if it's trying to isolate shaky parts of the image and then make them stable by distorting the pixels in that area. Again, if there are not enough areas to track, Warp Stabilizer chooses the previous type (Perspective).

Here's a visual example of how all of these different modes work on your footage:

It's important to note that Warp Stabilizer always defaults to the Subspace Warp method when you apply it to your footage. A good many people just stick with that option, as they assume that it will provide them with the best results. However, each of these analysis and correction modes work best in different situations.

Here's one example where the results from Subspace Warp make the corners of the frame undulate and zoom in and out awkwardly, an effect which is highly distracting in spite of the stabilized center of the frame. In this example, using the Perspective method provides the best results, especially after the "Detailed Analysis" option is also turned on. In most cases, the best results will come from having Detailed Analysis turned on, but this comes at the expense of longer wait times with footage analysis and rendering.

One of the toughest problems to fix in post-production is camera shake, an issue that often arises with footage from car-mounted cameras. In this next example, Jeremy goes through the process of removing camera shake so that the audience can focus on what's important, the people in the car and their interactions.

Lastly, one of the absolute best uses for Warp Stabilizer is to stabilize and smooth aerial footage. It's a tool that is uniquely capable of making shaky footage smooth, and smooth footage even more dreamlike. In this last example, Jeremy shows the best settings for making your aerial footage shine, and well as talking about the option of Smooth Motion vs. No Motion.

So there you have it, a comprehensive guide to both the settings and practical uses of Adobe's Warp Stabilizer. For more in-depth analysis of this fantastic plugin, head on over to Jeremy's post on the Story and Heart blog.

What do you guys think of these Warp Stabilizer examples? How have you used Warp Stabilizer in your own work, and what settings have you used to get the best results? Let us know down in the comments!

Link: Smooth Operators, Understanding Adobe Premiere's Warp Stabilizer -- Story & Heart Blog

Your Comment

48 Comments

Unpopular opinion here: I hate when people use the warp stabilizer. I can tell instantly, and it looks awful.

February 17, 2014 at 6:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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nav13eh

Not if it's used correctly, which is what this post is all about.

February 17, 2014 at 6:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I think that's because most people stick with the default settings, which can cause some really strange, and easily noticeable things to happen to your footage.

February 17, 2014 at 6:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Robert Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker's Process
4318

It is entirely because people use the default or wrong setting. It can make wonders even at 15% and be impossible to notice.

February 17, 2014 at 6:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Haroun Souirji

I always go down to 10 or 5% to smooth things out. Im grateful for this post by the way, great to see some good feedback and comparisons. I hate to use it by the way as well, but sometimes even with a few glitches its serves the shot better than even more ugly shake. Always better to get a steady shot though, but if your like me doing a lot of run n gun without a monopod & stabilised lenses you kinda need this.

September 21, 2015 at 4:10PM

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Gerbert Floor
DP / Director / Camera / Editor
233

Don't be a tool, that's simple enough.

February 17, 2014 at 7:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Natt

Warp stabilizer is a gun, in the right hands and at the right time it can be worth its weight in gold, but you simply don't want everybody using it all the time.

February 18, 2014 at 1:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Raul

+1 on that!

February 18, 2014 at 2:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Erik Stenbakken

Bullseye ;)

February 18, 2014 at 2:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Yes indeed! Tweaking the settings from the default is key. Especially in position, scale, rotation method with a low percentage on smoothness, the strange warping effect usually gone.

February 18, 2014 at 1:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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yeah I agree. I think to novice filmmakers there is an immediate sense that shaky footage needs to be corrected when, actually, it depends on the context of your scene. Sometimes these tools that aim to fix footage only sterilize and remove the vitality and a sense of authenticity from the footage. Use your tools wisely.

February 23, 2014 at 5:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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paul rand

I've seen TV ads where they've used it incorrectly. If the image is dancing, don't use it. Especially for a $20K TV ad...

June 17, 2015 at 6:07AM

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James Donovan
Camera Operator/Editor
74

The warp stabilizer is a great tool if used properly. I often do handheld stuff (figrig) and throwing on a 3-5% stabilize really helps bring the movement along really nicely.

February 17, 2014 at 6:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tyler

Same! I find it gives me the opportunity to save shots I otherwise would have had to throw out. See the full blog post for my take on this in detail :)

February 18, 2014 at 1:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I use warp stab for all my aerial footage, most of the time default settings with detailed analysis. most of the time it's perfect, itll be better with global shutter cameras, especially if you shoot architecture.

February 17, 2014 at 6:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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roberto

This is one of the best uses of WS in my opinion. One time, I had to shoot out of a Cessna (my shot came from literally opening up the window of the small 2 seater plane as the pilot banked right. A small seatbelt held me in...) Even with an IS lens the footage needed some smoothing out. But after a few adjustments, in WS it came out super smooth. Oh - and I didn't accidentally go sky diving - which was nice too...

February 18, 2014 at 2:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Agree with nav13eh - this not liking these examples and not a big fan of the tool

You do know that it is call "WARP" stabilizer for a reason right?

February 17, 2014 at 6:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Shawna Marks

Especially with default settings - sometimes WS dissolves all reality into a cacophony rubber ew yuckity yuckiness - YUCK! - This is when adjusting to a different method can sometimes solve the Warp effect - other times it just doesn't work.

February 18, 2014 at 2:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I guess what some people seem to misunderstand is that if you have motion blur within your shaky footage no post-stabilization will ever help you out. This and perspective distortion effects is probably why some people don´t like it, but properly applied it´s a great tool...

February 17, 2014 at 7:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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john Wahoo

good explanation John - well said.

February 17, 2014 at 7:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Shawna Marks

Perfectly said - In the right hands, it can help greatly. But any post production tool will never be a end-all solution to poor camera operation / settings.

February 18, 2014 at 2:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Absolute favourite feature in Premiere.

February 17, 2014 at 7:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jesper

Same!

February 18, 2014 at 2:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I'm just happy to see Gnarly Bay on the vids haha! Those guys are responsible for me getting my first camera :)

February 17, 2014 at 7:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kraig

I'm looking forward to more cameras coming out that utilize a global shutter. It doesn't solve everything but it sure solves jello.

February 17, 2014 at 8:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tim de la Torre

Shaking, as in the car scene, can be largely eliminated with the on-sensor stabilization. EOSHD claimed that a 5-Axis stabilized Olympus OMD EM-1 is the only camera that can be used handheld and still deliver excellent image. The sensor industry as a whole is moving in that direction, albeit primarily due to the desire to deliver higher quality smartphone videos. As for the woods scene, stabilization in post helps take out some poor shots. Over that type of terrain, the only reasonably smooth footage comes from either RC's or cable cams.

February 18, 2014 at 1:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

So true - and for those times when an RC rig isn't around or rough terrain is in your itinerary - WS can certainly help. I long for the day when when sensor based stabilization is the new standard. Though, what I really can't wait for is the day we'll all be toting 3D 8k cameras in our pocket-sized-quantum-super-computer-cell-phones.... :) -Jeremy

February 18, 2014 at 2:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I use warp stablizer with 3-10% depending on the situation and it's way better for it.

The jello effect that people get is from default settings. Poop.

February 18, 2014 at 12:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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ALERT: grammar police!, its 90s not 90's.
Yes I know... but couldn't resist

February 18, 2014 at 1:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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shaun wilson

You may be the police, but I'm the FBI. Allow me to correct your post.

"Alert: grammar police! It's "90s," not "90's".
Yes, I know... but I couldn't resist."

February 18, 2014 at 3:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Mr. Blah

The Police - "Dedodo, Dedadadah" is all I want to say to you".

February 18, 2014 at 11:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

should be "90s."

February 19, 2014 at 2:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Elliot Kramer

You will find grammar guides that say that either way is fine. 90s is more common.

February 18, 2014 at 2:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kevin

Project file size bloating was a nightmare while working in Pr CS6 in my previous project! Do you people experience it also in the newer Pr CC?
To explain myself while extensively using warp stabilizing inside a project the .prproj becomes quickly 500MB becomes sluggish when saving and in the end it cannot be opened!
Here is a post that addresses the issue: http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/3/925138

February 18, 2014 at 2:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Nikos Mamalos

CC is better by huge strides...brought my CS6 project sizes down dramatically after converting them to CC.

February 18, 2014 at 2:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gabe

I need to give it a try, thx!

February 18, 2014 at 4:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Nikos Mamalos

I use it a lot for stabilizing Edelkrone slider movements. It suppresses vibrations and for these shots you may never ask yourself if it was stabilized or not. Great tool when applied with caution.

February 18, 2014 at 3:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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manu

Absolutely - especially using the position, scale, rotation method, smoothing out any bumps in a slider can be quite easy - so long as WS doesn't introduce any weird effects. We have a preset for this specifically... position, scale, rotation with 5% smoothness. It seems to do the trick most times - sometimes needs to be tweaked of course... -Jeremy

February 18, 2014 at 2:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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We use Warp Stabilizer hundreds of times per week. No exaggeration.

It's a great tool, an amazing tool, but we've found a few issues:

1) First, Position, Scale, Rotation method is BY FAR the best method and SHOULD BE default. 8 times out of 10 it crops less and wobbles less than the default Subspace Warp. Doesn't sound as cool, but it's better...in our humble opinion of course (based on probably stabilizing 1000 clips per month that is).

2) Stabilizer has a caching BUG/ISSUE where when you use it a lot on multiple clips in multiple sequences, and then save your project, it causes a freeze delay...this issue SUCKS...but it's still a very effective tool and if used right, you can easily stabilize clips that need a little help without anyone knowing it wasn't shot that way.

3) Finally, and sadly, you can't save a custom preset of this effect. Well, you can, but when you drop that custom preset on a clip, it won't automatically start analyzing the clip like it would if you dropped the effect on there without the preset. Hope they fix this. Annoying.

It's already way better than FCP7's smoothcam. Way better. But, I do hope they care enough to read their bug reports and fix these issues.

February 18, 2014 at 3:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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SMD

I'm with you. I use it at least 30 times a week. Not being able to save a custom version of it drives me NUTS.
Still, love it. Given the constant CC updates I'm sure they'll get to it.
Great article by the way.
Also, those people who go 'oh I can always tell'. Yes, and? I missed the part where that mattered.

February 18, 2014 at 12:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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marklondon

Well said! And yes - it would be great if presets would start to render as soon as applied.

Hopefully this will come through in a CC update soon.

Glad you enjoyed the post! -Jeremy

February 18, 2014 at 2:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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In some cases you can make good use of the stabilizer function in Mocha (in combination with After Effects). No artefacts involved.

February 18, 2014 at 5:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Richard

I noticed in the car video when warp stabilizer was used there wasn't much of a crop, even when the it was put to 50%. When I use warp stabilizer at 50% my footage gets cropped so much that I can't evnn make out what it is anymore. When you try to take the crop off or turn it down you get the black edges going in and out on the side of the screen. What am I doing wrong?

February 19, 2014 at 2:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Eric

I just used AE CC Warp Stabilizer on a documentary, as every interview was done handheld (not my shoot), and something that this doesn't go into at all is actually deleting tracking points. When Warp Stabilizer analyzes, it puts tracking points on everything that it can, you can see in the car shots above that as his head bobs up and down, Warp grabs that for little moments. You have to go through the footage and delete what you don't want Warp to read as information to stabilize with, it is a little tedious but I turned some of the worst microshake-handheld shake to pristine smooth looking footage. Sometime tracking faces, other times shoulders, and other times books on a bookshelf. Just thought I'd share.

February 19, 2014 at 4:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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zac

Love the show I listened to the first epoidse before I watched the show on netflix. It looks like Dork Trek epoidse 2 is reviewing TNG epoidses 5 and 6. I want to be able to watch the epoidses that are being reviewed before I listen to the review. So are you going to have a schedule on the website for up coming epoidses? What happened to TNG epoidses 2, 3 and 4? Love it keep up the hard work it will payoff. (p.s. the volumes where a little low on epoidse 1 had a hard time hearing on my future phone)

March 16, 2014 at 10:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I am able to have a preset start automatically if you create it from an "analyzing" clip. While it's analyzing with your settings drag it to the Effects & Presets window. Voila! Hope this saves everyone some time!

Thanks for the post!

April 17, 2014 at 5:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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And FAIL. nevermind. it didn't store some of the other settings but it did start automatically on application.

April 18, 2014 at 7:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ah ha! Figured it out. If you select UU in the timeline and drag just the modified options from the timeline of Warp Stabilizer to the effects presets it will save the options and start automatically from the preset.

April 18, 2014 at 7:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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