Final Cut Pro and SmoothCam

I’ve been doing more playing with the SmoothCam effect in Final Cut:

What SmoothCam does:


Click to see this at 720p

It moves and rotates your source video to smooth a shot. It doesn’t make a shot look like it has been shot on a locked off tripod, it takes large translation, rotation and scale moves and smooths the movements.

As you usually don’t want the edges of your video to be seen when it is smoothed, it gives you the option of scaling your video up so that you don’t see past the edge of the video. That means you should make sure you shoot progressive, and frame to allow for what SmoothCam will do. As some HD video is delivered in 720p format, you can scale up your 1080p video by 50% without any loss in resolution.

The following video shows what is produced if your shutter speed is too low. If you shoot at 25p and your shutter speed in 1/50th, the motion blurs look like distortions:


Click to see this at 720p

So use a higher shutter speed that you would normally.

You can also smooth a (very long) series of stills too:


Click to see this at 720p

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5 comments
  1. elli safari said:

    Hi Alex, we just tried to use SmoothCam for a shot from our FCP Pro 6 edit.
    As soon as it is put apart in the SmoothCam mode, it becomes zoomed in to the extreme!
    We do not know how to correct this, which setting we should change. Can you maybe advise us?

    Greetings, Elli Safari

  2. Alex said:

    SmoothCam works by zooming the image and panning within the video frame to get rid of camera shake.

    The first thing to try is to get SmoothCam to smooth ‘less’: Change the settings from default 2.5 down to 1. Have a look at the ‘Actual Scale’ % figure. As you reduce the settings, the % goes down. You also have the option for SmoothCam not to scale at all – change the ‘Auto Scale’ parameter to 0. The footage won’t zoom, but you’ll see a border around your video.

    With ‘Auto Scale’ off, move through the shot and see how far the video is moved from the centre of the video. The frames with the largest non-video borders are your problem frames.

    SmoothCam smooths from the first frame to the last frame that is displayed on the timeline. That means you can use the Razor Blade tool to divide the clip you want to smooth into multiple parts. Razor before and after ‘problem frames’ and see the size of the border around your video reduce. You can then turn ‘Auto Scale’ back up to 1 to get rid of the border completely.

    If you shoot in 1080p mode and plan to distribute in 720p, you can afford for SmoothCam to scale up as much as 150% without any resolution loss. If you plan to distribute in SD, you can let the ‘Actual Scale’ go up to as much as 187% for PAL and 225% for NTSC.

  3. William said:

    Hi Alex, I am shooting with a Panasonic DVx100b, at 24p and mostly at shutter 1/24. When I use the smoothcam I get blurry areas changing one another.
    Could this effect be caused by the use of such low shutter speed as you mention on your posting.
    I appreciate your answer.

  4. Alex said:

    William, I think you’re right. I imagine you are used to using a 1/24 as part of a way of getting the film look. You need to allow for the ‘effective shutter speed’: If you plan to slow down your film to a quarter of the speed, you need to multiply your shutter speed by four. You might just want to smooth your shots and not slow them down, but smoothcam can do nothing about the blurs you have in each frame, and they’ll be more obvious if the shot is smoothed.

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