Hyperlapse Stabilization: Comapring Final Cut Pro X, CoreMelt Lock&Load, and After Effects Warp Stabilizer
Most discussions of hyperlapses go something like this:
- Make sure you point your camera at the same spot as you move
- Move about the same distance between exposures
- Take exposures at regular intervals
- Create the video sequence in post and stabilize it in Adobe’s After Effects’ Warp Stabilizer. Yah, you can use other stabilizers, but they’re just OK. You really want the stabilizer in Premiere or After Effects.
All this sounds great, until you do the math. Most photographers are paying $9.99 a month for Photoshop and Lightroom. Many are even content to stay on Photoshop CS6 while paying annually for the latest version of Lightroom. For those who are paying Adobe’s $9.99 subscription fee, however, the question is: does it make sense to up the payment to $49.99 per month just to create hyperlapses? In a word: no – especially for your typical hobbyist or semipro photographer. “There just has to be an alternative”, I thought – as I set about finding a cheaper way. And, in fact, there is – if you’re a Mac user (yes, I said cheaper and mac user.)
First: the editor. Adobe Premiere is great, but for $299, Apple’s Final Cut Pro X is an excellent non-linear editor you can install on multiple computers. It’s really a no-brainer – even if you hate the Magnetic Timeline.
Second: the stabilizer. Surprisingly, FCP X’s IntertiaCam stabilizer is pretty good at working its magic on hyperlapses. Unfortunately, however, fine grain control (like the ability to choose the stabilization area, or the ability to adjust stabilization in a specific axis) just isn’t there. For that you need a third-party plugin.
One stabilizer that came up often in my research is CoreMelt’s Lock&Load. Looking through blog entries, I saw a slew of folks talking about Lock&Load, but I couldn’t find examples of it being used with hyperlapses. So, I lined up the three stabilizers (InertiaCam, Lock&Load, and Warp Stabilizer) and created the video below comparing my raw sequence with the stabilizers’ output:
As you can see, the three stabilizers are pretty close in terms of the job they do. I was surprised by IntertiaCam – I just didn’t expect it to do that good of a job. It’s not perfect, but it far exceeded my expectations. I was also pretty surprised by Lock&Load; not only was it pretty fast at analyzing the motion in the clip, but it also comes with a slew of controls letting you fine tune the stabilization area and amount. Warp Stabilizer, ofcourse, did a great job as expected.
What to get?
If you need to do the occasional hyperlapse just get yourself a copy of FCP X and use IntertiaCam. If you’re wiling to spend an extra $99, Lock&Load is a very capable stabilizer that will serve you well. It gives you a lot of control over stabilization and it’s FAST. It can also accommodate 4K footage if you’re shooting video. Yes, you’ll spend just under $400 for FCP X ($299) and Lock&Load ($99), but that’s still $200 less than what you’d pay for one year’s subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Finally, Creative Cloud (though expensive) comes with a ton of tools (Photoshop, Premiere, Illustrator – just to name a few) and many of you are already paying for the suite. If you’re already paying for the subscription then get out there, shoot, then fire up AE.
Note: CoreMelt provided a copy of Lock&Load for the purpose of this review.