Welcome back to Living Room Filmmaker! Today we’re going to talk about how to stabilize your shots.
Unless you’re a military sniper, your hands probably shake at least a little bit. It may be undetectable while you’re shooting, but it’s going to be brutally evident when you’re looking at your footage later. Nothing hurts worse than realizing that your whole day was wasted on shaky footage. We’ve all been there.
The easiest way to stabilize your shots is with the trusty tripod. If you aren’t planning on doing any panning or tilting, you can make due with a standard photography tripod. Amazon has many affordable choices.
But unless your budget is severely constrained, I strongly suggest you get a fluid head tripod. These tripods are designed to allow you to make smooth pans and tilts that will look beautiful and cinematic. Velbon makes decent, affordable fluid head tripods, and I believe they’re definitely worth the additional investment.
Note: if your camera has image stabilization, turn it off if you’re using a tripod. You won’t need it, and it can burn down your battery more quickly. However, if you’re shooting handheld, turn it on – you’re going to need it!
Speaking of which, handheld shots open up a lot more creative opportunities – extreme low angles, moving shots, etc. Even if you’re making a found footage film like The Blair Witch Project, you’re going to need to stabilize your handheld shots.
If you’re shooting on DSLR, one of the easiest (and definitely the cheapest) way to stabilize your shots is to use your built-in camera strap. Place the strap around your neck and hold the camera with both hands and push the camera away from you. This will keep the strap taut, which is key. The strap should be adjusted to be just long enough to see the viewscreen on the back of your camera, but short enough that the camera stays close to your body.
If you need to pan or tilt, move at your waist and keep your hands still. Keep your breath even and regular to minimize bouncing, and if you need to move, keep your step size small.
Also, if you do own a tripod, you can actually close up your tripod, close up the legs, and hold the tripod itself aloft. The added weight can help keep your shot stable. I’m not personally a fan of this method, however, because I find the added bulk a bit awkward.
Lastly, if you don’t own a tripod and your camera lacks a shoulder strap (this includes many camcorders), simply make sure that your camera stays close to your body, and pan and tilt at the waist, as mentioned above. Also, many camcorders will also have integrated image stabilization – turn it on!
And when you’re editing it all together, you might need some new music to bring your whole production together. Give it a listen – I hope you’ll find it inspiring.
Anyway, enough of my yakking. Get out there and start shooting!