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iMovie '11: Stabilize video motion

Stabilize video motion

Sometimes your camera moves a bit while you’re recording, making your video footage appear shaky. iMovie can smooth out playback in shaky video clips by analyzing them and then stabilizing the video when it’s added to a project. This analysis can happen either while you’re importing or anytime after you import. Once a clip is analyzed for stabilization, it never needs to be analyzed again.

Analyzed video plays smoothly in any project that includes it (though you can turn off stabilization for any clip, so that it plays as originally recorded).

Analyzing video for stabilization can take a while, so if you have over an hour’s worth of video to analyze, you might want to let iMovie analyze it overnight or while you’re going to be away from your computer.

To analyze the camera motion in your video:

Do one of the following:

  • When you’re completing the steps to import video, select “Analyze for stabilization after import” in the Import dialog.

  • In the Project browser or Event browser, select one or more video clips you’ve already imported, and then choose File > Analyze Video > Stabilization.

    The File menu appears in a light gray bar across the top of your computer screen.

  • Double-click a clip in the Project browser to open the Clip inspector, and then select the “Smooth clip motion” checkbox.

After iMovie has stabilized the camera motion in a video clip, to watch the video play smoothly, you can add it to a project and play it from the Project browser. If you want to preview the stabilized footage in the Event browser, select a range of footage, and then Control-click the selection and choose "Play with Stabilization Preview.”

A red squiggly line underlines any video in the Project browser or Event browser that has high levels of shake, as shown below.

Image of a red squiggly line marking a video clip.

When you move the pointer over a video clip in a project that has been analyzed for stabilization, an icon in the upper-left corner of the clip shows the level of stabilization:

Image of hand icon in corner of stabilized video clip
  • Hand with black background: 
    The clip is fully stabilized and required little to no zooming.
  • Hand with orange background: 
    The clip is partially stabilized and required extra zooming, so some areas of your video may be cropped out.
  • Hand with red background: 
    The clip is partially stabilized and required extensive zooming, so more of your video might be cropped out.
  • Hand with red background, with a slash through it: 
    The clip couldn’t be stabilized.

To turn off stabilization of a video clip in a project:

By default, video with camera motion that has been analyzed for stabilization plays smoothly when played within a project, but you can turn off stabilization so that the video plays back as it was originally recorded.

  1. In the Project browser, double-click a video clip with camera motion that has been analyzed for stabilization.

  2. In the inspector that opens, deselect the “Smooth clip motion” checkbox.

If you turn off stabilization for a clip, you can turn it back on in the inspector; iMovie doesn’t have to reanalyze the camera motion in that clip. You can also set iMovie so that by default, analyzed video is not played back stabilized. Choose iMovie > Preferences, click Browser, and then deselect “Automatically stabilize clips that have been analyzed.” The iMovie menu appears in a light gray bar across the top of your computer screen.

Last Modified: Jul 23, 2012
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  • Last Modified: Jul 23, 2012
  • Article: PH2157
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