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Pro Photo Rental

Choosing a Stabilizer for Video
By Zac Henderson

When stepping into video production, one of the first things you have to approach is stabilization for whichever camera you’ve chosen. How are you going to record your subject? Is this a static scene good for a completely stationary tripod, a handheld movement oriented shot, or a scene that requires fast movement or even running? There are a plethora of options available, so this post will serve as an overview for different modes of stabilization with the intention of releasing future posts detailing specifics of each.

Digital Stabilization

The first form of stabilization we’ll look at is stabilization via post production software. Software like Adobe Premier allows users to load in footage and stabilize it through warping and repositioning of the clip. Software analyzes the footage and does its best to isolate unintended movement and counteract it. Digital Post Production Stabilization can be a solid part of a workflow, though it shouldn’t be relied on completely. Hand holding a camera without any stabilization whatsoever and expecting post production to take care of vibrations may work for some clips and not work at all for others.

This technique involves some loss of resolution and subsequent image quality depending on the amount of stabilization required. If you’ve just had 5 cups of coffee and you’re recording handheld; digital stabilization may not work for you at all. This is because the only way the software can stabilize footage is to warp, crop, and otherwise manipulate the position of the footage. Too much movement could require a severe crop which renders the clip unusable. Additionally, clips shot with ultra wide angle lenses with corner distortion are more difficult for software to correct considering the edges of the frame warp different objects as the camera pans, turns, or is otherwise repositioned.

While certainly a useful tool to keep in your tool belt, software stabilization is not an end-all be-all answer (yet). Digital stabilization can also be found in many modern camera bodies and uses a few extra pixels on the edge of the sensor as a buffer, though again, this is good for only small jitters.

Shoulder Mounted

Shoulder mounted stabilization is exactly what it sounds like. Camera systems are mounted to a rig like our Red Rock Micro Shoulder Rig and placed on the shoulder of the videographer. Shoulder mounting is a simple but effective form of stabilization because it prevents the camera from having to be supported by your arms which have a tendency to get tired which increases unwanted movement. Since the camera sits on a part of the body that doesn’t move much (shoulder), the camera stays much steadier, and the rig itself can be outfitted with additional peripherals like a secondary monitor and follow focus.


Shoulder mounted stabilization is effective in removing distracting jitter and harsh movements, but allows subtle movements which can be pleasing to the eye. Shoulder rigs also tend to be more convenient than tripods. Significant movement like walking or repositioning while filming can be difficult and could lead to harsh, distracting shake. Therefore shoulder mounted systems are best used while the videographer is stationary or moving very slowly.

In-Camera Stabilization

Thanks to new developments in camera design we now have many camera bodies with IBIS (In-body-image-stabilization) via negative movement in the sensor. Cameras like our Nikon Z7, D850, and Sony A7RIII have built-in 5-axis sensor stabilization, the 5 axes being: up/down, left/right, rotation, pitch, and yaw.

This form of stabilization works quite well and, depending on the focal length being used, can allow for hand holding without any other systems assuming you have reasonably steady hands and are ok with subtle movement in your clip. IBIS also works with any lens attached to the camera body, so it's ok to break out those old film lenses collecting dust in the attic.

When combined with digital stabilization in post production, footage filmed in this manner can have very impressive results with minimal equipment. Still, walking or running are generally out and require more complex forms of stabilization as we’ll see.

Tripod + head

The good old fashioned tripod. Not much to say here other than tripods and fluid heads are staple options for videographers so long as repositioning isn’t required. Fast to set up and tear down. plus they're rock steady, tripods with fluid heads like our Manfrotto 502AH can pan across scenes seamlessly and allow for great control. Other fluid heads have cuztomizable drag settings for ruick movements or buttery long movements. Simple yet effective, the rig just isn’t going to be going anywhere.


Stabilizers like our Glidecam HD4000 and Merlin Steadicam 2 differ from the above options in that Steadycams use balance and counterweights to keep the camera stable. These systems offer some of the best mobility in the game with operators typically able to walk , go up stairs, and sometimes run with acceptable results. Because they aren’t motorized, this kind of stabilization doesn’t require batteries which is one less thing to think about on set. Movements also tend to be natural since they are directly controlled by a person making conscious decisions.


The downside to the Glidecam/Steadycam is that there is a somewhat steep learning curve to master, and the weight of these systems can cause operators to tire over time. Fortunately there are peripheral accessories which make Steadycam use easier on the operator like forearm braces as well as full on exoskeletons which move the weight from the arms of the operator to the torso.


Motorized gimbals are relatively new to the video world, yet offer some of the most sophisticated solutions for camera stabilization on the market. Systems like our DJI Ronin S, Ikan DS2-A, and Tilta Gravity for large rigs are designed to perform a myriad of tasks via brushless motors that offer extremely smooth tilt and panning. These gimbals can be programmed to adjust their panning motions to match those of the operator at varying speeds and intensities, and can even attach to certain camera models for control over focus via a wheel mounted on the handle. Though initially lightweight, motorized gimbals can be fatiguing over time like a Steadycam solution. Fortunately there are wearable supports like our Tilta Armor Man-2 Exoskeleton or our Easyrig Vario 5 Gimbal Rig Vest. These supports move weight away from the arms and spread the weight of the kit across your body, letting you film for much longer before fatigue sets in. Like Steadycams, motorized gimbals can be used for walking, running, going up stairs, and can even be handed off to other camera operators while filming (when planned accordingly). They can also be mounted to moving vehicles.

Motorized gimbals are fantastic solutions but don’t come without their drawbacks. These systems require balancing which can take time. Each time the camera is removed or a new lens is added could cause the system to require re-balancing. Thanks to those smooth as silk brushless motors, these solutions do require batteries to operate. When correctly balanced they can go for extended periods, but charging and power management is certainly a factor. Movements made with motorized gimbals also have a tendency to look robotic if left to their own devices. Tuning and customizing settings like deadband and maximum speed are a must for natural looking movement.


The above options cover most of what you’ll come across when choosing stabilization for your rig. There are other options for more speciality uses like our Kessler Killshock Mini. This stabilizer is designed to counteract more high frequency vibrations, like those from a car. These stabilizers can be combined with gimbals for even more control and greater stability of larger movements. Gyros are also available which perform similar tasks.

When considering which stabilizer to choose, it's best to have your shot list in front of you and consider how much stabilization you need for each shot. Sure, it might be nice to completely rely on in-camera stabilization, but you should be familiar with the limitations that option provides. Other factors to consider are time and practicality. If you’re a one man band you may not have the resources to strap on an exoskeleton and balance a huge cinema rig. Knowing the options are half the battle. The rest is up to you. Good luck!

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