How to Get Smoother Footage for your Travel Videos
New in our series of travel video tips, we're sharing ways to improve that dreaded shaky video footage. One of our viewers recently asked Wes how he gets such smooth footage in our YouTube videos so we were inspired to share 9 tips that have helped us. If you're creating travel videos, I'm sure you understand the frustration that comes with trying to edit footage that is so shaky, it's practically unusable. About 90% of our travel videos are made while shooting handheld and you can watch Wes explain the top tips that consistently help him get smoother video footage:
#1 Hold Your Camera with Both Hands
Two hands make quite the difference! Grip the side of your camera with one hand, hold the base of your camera with the other and tuck your elbows in to your sides to gain more control over your video. If you want to achieve an even smoother shot, keep your upper body still while moving your legs from side to side (think side lunges) or forward and back. Wes uses this technique to achieve an affect similar to a camera slider.
#2 Pause and Plan
It's easy to get excited once you see the opportunity to capture something amazing but jump the gun too quickly and you might not be getting the best possible shot. Once you spot a scene worth filming, pause to reflect on how you can best capture it. Are you going to film a reveal shot? Pan the scene? Get an establishing shot first? If you can take a moment to reflect on how you want to portray this scene in your video, you may just save yourself from a shaky and unusable clip in your edit. Practice makes perfect and the more you film/edit, the more you'll be able to identify what shots you're missing or how you could have avoided shaky footage with better planning.
#3 Shoot in Slow-Motion
Filming at a higher frame rate will let you slow down a clip and minimize how shaky it appears in your video. Shooting at a frame rate like 60 fps or higher means that you end up with more than twice as many frames as you'll need in your timeline. When you're editing, you're able to extend the length of your clip by 50% while maintaining fluid movement in your slow-motion because no frames are lost.
#4 Use Warp Stabilizer
It's important to try and reduce shakiness as much as possible when filming but there are also ways to get smoother footage in the edit of your travel videos. When done right, these stabilization tools can help reduce excessive shake in your clips caused by camera movement. Wes edits our videos in Premiere Pro which has an effect called warp stabilizer that helps stabilize and smooth out shaky clips. Final Cut Pro also has a stabilization feature as does most editing software out there. Keep in mind that overusing stabilization in your editing can lead to a warped effect that looks amateur.
#5 FILM WITH a Gimbal
There are times you just won't be able to get smoother footage when shooting handheld and that's okay because some genius invented the 3-axis gimbal stabilizer. This works by placing a motor with sensors on 3 different axes of your camera to detect and counteract motion. The technology prevents any excessive jitters and jolts from ever reaching your camera which results in smoother footage. We considered cost, weight, ease of use and battery life before buying our gimbal but are very happy with the results from the Zhiyun Crane. We might not use it as much as we thought we would but, when paired with our GH5, it gives us exceptionally smooth footage. For a more compact setup, DJI has the Osmo line of portable gimbals and cameras that work wonders considering their size and weight.
#6 Choose the right lens
Increased zoom will exaggerate shakiness in your footage. You'll notice that (even when filming on your phone) the second you zoom in, your video starts to look more unstable. That's because the longer the focal length, the more your camera movements will be magnified. If you're hoping to get smoother footage, avoid zooming in and get closer to your object when you can.
#7 Shoot on a Tripod
The foolproof way to ensure there's no shake in your footage at all? Don't move the camera. Set up your camera on a tripod, monopod or flat surface and you've eliminated the cause of shaky footage altogether. If you've framed your shots well, they won't look stale. Adding a subtle Ken Burns effect may also give your stable shots a more dynamic look.
#8 Capture Movement
Another way to get smoother footage for your travel videos is to focus on the actions of your object(s). When you minimize your camera's movement while filming and instead think about capturing movement, you reduce the probability of shaky footage. Film the action in a crowd. Film from a moving vehicle. Film the objects passing you by. A stationary camera doesn't mean stationary footage.
#9 Be aware of in-body stabilization
These days, more and more cameras and lenses have some sort of built-in stabilization feature. If avoiding shaky footage is a priority for you, consider investing in a body or lens with in body image stabilization (IBIS). While this usually comes at a higher cost, it can significantly help you get smoother footage for your travel videos. The GH5 that we use has dual IBIS meaning both the body and the (compatible) lens work together to stabilize footage. Another reason we love shooting our videos with the GH5!