By Neil Bennett | on September 29, 2008
Price When Reviewed: 112 . 450
Shaky footage may be associated with amateur video, but it’s something professionals have to deal with on a regular basis. Whether it’s user-generated footage, something captured on the sly, a quick and dirty shoot or just a momentary case of shaky hands, it’s one of those things that seems minor enough to fix ‘in post’ – but can take a long time to get right.
Magic Bullet Steady attempts to help with this. It ships with a noise-reducer plug-in for dealing with the image noise problems that often accompany low-quality footage.
When you first apply the plug-in, a red hexagon appears on your footage with an exclamation mark to show that it hasn’t been analyzed or corrected. Before you press the ‘Analyze’ button, you select either the Automatic Motion Detect mode or Manual, to select a region of the video. This allows you to select an area without moving elements in it – and this can be keyframed over time.
Analyzing is remarkably quick. The plug-in worked through SD footage in almost twice real-time, and HD in footage in half real-time.
To see just how effective it was, we tested it on footage captured surreptitiously on a cheap Flip Video camcorder at the IFA trade show in Berlin, which combined low resolution (640-x-480 pixels), high compression, shaky camerawork, inconsistent lighting and people walking in front of the camera. The plug-in dealt remarkably well with the footage and the end result was a massive improvement.
You can modify the stabilization using a well thought-out set of controls. There’s a ‘Use Scene Change Detection’ toggle that spots cuts and analyzes shots individually. There’s a range of settings: Fast Shake, Wobble, Weave and All Motion (to give to look of a camera on a tripod).
Stabilization leaves black borders, as the footage is moved horizontally and vertically. Magic Bullet can automatically zoom in to eliminate this, though it’s better done in the Instant HD plug-in if you own the full Magic Bullet Suite.
The plug-in’s main weakness is that it doesn’t allow you to manually modify stabilization. Also while it’s faster and better than AE’s stabilizion tool, it might not be good enough to justify spending over £100 – but it’s a useful addition to the Magic Bullet Suite nonetheless.