Tuesday, April 14, 2020

An amateur digiscoper's guide to video stabilization

I want to introduce fellow birders to a super-neat option I became familiar with some time ago (thanks M). With improving phone cameras, and high-quality scopes (like my Swarovski ATX85), shooting digiscoped phone videos has become an option again - most suitable for field documentation. I find myself shooting more videos recently, especially now that eBird/Macaulay Library enabled video upload.
However, very often videos come out horribly shaky, in windy conditions, or when a phone adapter is not used, or when hands are shaking and heart is beating fast while watching a rarity. This is a brilliant solution, using a widget built-in in Google Photos app, easy to use, free, readily available in the field on every Android phone (I assume there are similar solutions on iOS phones). Now, shaky videos can be salvaged, and used for documentation purposes.

This is a step-by-step guide how I stabilize my videos.

Step 1 - shoot that shaky video

This is a short Woodchat Shrike video I shot a few days ago during authorized fieldwork. Quite awful, isn't it?

Step 2 - open Google Photos on your phone, in Google Apps

Step 2 - open that shaky video in Google Photos

Step 3 - press Stabilize icon

Step 4 - Stabilize

This process often takes 10-20 seconds, depends on video length. The app crops the video slightly, keeping the object perfectly still in the center. I assume that the shakier the video is, the tighter crop is necessary. 

Step 5 - Save Copy

This process takes a few seconds as well, depending on your internet connection. 

Step 6 - ta da! Magic. You're done.

Now the stabilized video can be used - it is saved in your phone gallery.

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