How To Avoid Taking Shaky Video

Vomiting usually isn’t the response you want viewers to have when they watch your home movies, right? Let’s hope (and assume) you’re all nodding your heads in agreement. Good. Now that we’re on the same page, let’s talk about avoiding the barf.

Since it’s allegedly summer, a lot of you will probably be venturing out to take home videos of weddings, birthday parties, t-ball games and the like. Keeping that footage steady goes a long way toward making the viewing experience a lot more enjoyable.

Often, video shot with a hand-held camera features heavy doses of visual embellishment that can easily join forces to make the viewer feel seasick. Here’s a hypothetical stream-of-consciousness thought process of said videographer: “This lawn is bumpy. Better look out for mole hills while I’m clomping across the grass. Man, this puppy is fast. Better zoom in. Ooh, and now I’ll pan WHILE zooming. Better start running to keep up. Did I leave the oven on? Good thing this camcorder has a handy strap. Oh, look over there! There’s paint drying next to some growing grass! 4000X zoom is so cool. Never mind. That was boring. Hi, puppy. You’re so cute. But now you’re close so I’m zooming out. I’m pretty sure I left the oven on.”

So, odds are pretty good you see that hand strap on the right side of the camcorder and figure, “This must be the best way. They gave me a strap and everything.” But if steady video is your goal, let’s take a closer look. The human wrist is a wonder of engineering. It’s highly dexterous, but not particularly stable. The fact that you can easily make minute movements in just about any direction with your wrist also means the camera easily and often moves with it. All the time. All over the place.

I prefer an alternate method that certainly isn’t shake-proof, but it’s better. Tuck your elbows in tight to your body, place your left hand out flat under the camera and grasp the right side of the camera – but not through the loop.

This does a few things for you. One, it helps you remember to turn the oven off. Two, it restricts movement, especially up/down shaking or tilting. Three, it makes it easier to keep the camera level. Notice the loop hold how it’s easy to cant your hand just a little to the side, making your video all tilty? If you’re taking video of rugrats or puppies or shoes, it’s easier this way to quickly get the shots down low.

When it really comes down to it, there’s one investment you can make to help give your videos a steadier, and more professional look. But look, I’m realistic here. I know most of you don’t want to deal with it. Despite my constant nagging at work, (Maybe because of it.) my coworkers rarely use it. It’s not foolproof, either. It won’t do anything to stop the spread of the panning/zooming virus. But at least the pans will zip across in a relatively straight line, instead of looking like you followed a Richter scale reading.

– Derek Sheppard

2 thoughts on “How To Avoid Taking Shaky Video

  1. Cheap man’s tripod: cut a piece of string just over your own height in length. Tie a big metal flat washer to one end. Find a bolt that will screw into the bottom of your video camera. Tie the other end of the string to the bolt. Step on the flat washer and pull up on your camera until the string is taut. Keeping tension on the string will stablize your camera. Plus, it fits into your pocket a lot easier than a full tripod!

    1. Rich, You’re one step ahead of me. I was planning on an entry with this tip for people with Flip cameras!

      – Derek

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