What Does Stabilizing a Video Do: Image Stabilization 101

What Does Stabilizing a Video Do: Image Stabilization 101
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Image stabilization is a variety of techniques used to minimize motion-associated blurring in imaging devices like cameras. So, what does stabilizing a video do?

In general, stabilizing makes up for the device’s sudden movements such as angular pan and tilt. Stabilizers are commonly used in binoculars, astronomical telescopes, and cameras.

What Does Stabilizing a Video Do?

Camera shake is one of the most particular problems brought by slow shutter speed and lenses with extended focal length. Video cameras, for instance, shake due to jitters that take place per frame as you record a video.

For video-cameras, there are several ways to stabilize footage, while for cameras that do not require movements, using a tripod will suffice. On the other hand, for cameras that need to move constantly, using a Steadicam or gimbal will guarantee vibration-free movements.

The shaky footage that arises from holding your camera by hand can be distracting to the audience. For this, using a camera stabilizer can help save the day.

Video vs. Still Photography

In still photography, stabilizing the images is necessary to guarantee sharp images especially when using slow shutter speeds. For videos, slow shutter speed is not an issue since it is normal for video cameras to have slow shutter speeds ranging from 1/48th to 1/60th second.

This often results in motion blurs that are visible on individual frames and can surprisingly improve motion footage. Nevertheless, stabilizing is still ideal for helping lessen the footage unsteadiness.

What Are the Types of Image Stabilization?

There are three forms of image stabilization, and these include the following:

1. Manual Stabilization

This can be done by using tripods or handheld stabilizers. Manual stabilization is typically done with the help of a compatible device like Steadicam or gimbal. However, for some videos that do not require camera movements, propping the video camera against a steady object will suffice.

2. Optical Stabilization

This type of stabilization system is built into the lenses and operates by using a floating lens element that compensates for the shakiness of the camera. Optical stabilizers typically use gyro-sensors that detect and transfer the detected shakiness to a microcomputer, which then process them to counteract camera movements.

One of the advantages of using optical stabilization is its compatibility with most cameras. Also, it is more effective in stabilizing movements compared to sensor-shift stabilization, particularly in cameras with longer zoom lenses.

That said, readily-stabilized lenses are more expensive and not to mention, heavier compared to lenses without stabilizers. The range of movements is also limited.

Built-in lens stabilizers typically compensate for movements from the pitch to the yaw axes. In addition, because this type of stabilization needs to have the moving elements inside the range of the lens, the quality of broken images can be affected negatively.

The only disadvantage of optical stabilizers is probably the cost. With this system, each lens will require its own stabilizer. Moreover, your option will be limited, as not all lenses have available image-stabilized versions.


Sensor-shift or in-body stabilization works in a similar principle as optical stabilization. In this case, the stabilizer is built in the camera’s body and not in the lens. Like with lens stabilization, gyros are used to transfer info on the camera’s movement to a microcomputer that will process the shakes and vibrations of images.

One of the pros of using in-body stabilization is that even older types of mechanical lenses or any other lens used with the camera will benefit from it. Likewise, sensor-shift can stabilize movements that are not corrected with optical stabilization. Some cameras with sensor-shift stabilization use up to five stabilization axes including the pitch and yaw, roll, x-axis, and y-axis.

Another advantage of using in-body stabilization is that you won’t need additional stabilization system for the lens, allowing you to work with any unstabilized lens and further reducing the weight and making the operation less complex.

One disadvantage of using this, though, is that you can’t see the stabilized image through the viewfinder. Fortunately, this is not an issue if you are using a camera with an EVF or electronic viewfinder.

3. Digital Stabilization

Digital stabilization or electronic image stabilization is a version of video stabilization that takes place in-camera. This is done using non-linear video editing software. In digital stabilization, the image sensing chip of the camera only records 90 percent in the chip center rather than using the full area of the sensing chip.

Which Stabilizing System Works Best?

While a tripod will always be the best stabilizer, the next choices are the optical and mechanical stabilizing systems. Lens stabilizers give you the advantage of showing the image to be stabilized through the viewfinder. With the help of a lens stabilizer, using long zoom lenses becomes easier.

In-camera or sensor-shift stabilization works with almost any lens, so you don’t have to invest in other stabilizers. Sensor-shift stabilizers usually cost around $100 to $200, while in-lens or optical stabilizers may require you to add no less than $200 for every lens you will use.

Generally, both stabilization systems work well and provide similar stabilization levels for normal, wide, and short zoom lenses. For long telephoto lenses, though, optical stabilization may be more effective compared to in-camera stabilization. This is due to the proportional focal length of the image shift, which can be quite high when it comes to extended focal lengths.

Image Stabilizing Tips

Here are some useful tips to help improve your shots and stabilized images:

  • Switch off image stabilization systems when using the handheld device with other stabilizing gadgets like gimbal or tripod. Using the system in conjunction with other stabilizers can cause unwanted issues.
  • When using optical stabilizers with some cameras, it is not guaranteed that the stabilizers will get activated once the record button is pressed. If this is the case, remember to take a second before starting to shoot to avoid image jitters.


So, what does stabilizing a video do? Stabilizing a video makes it better by minimizing jitters, shakiness, and undesirable movements that will otherwise make your footage vertigo-inducing. If using a gimbal or Steadicam is not an option, the best way to improve your videos is to use image stabilization systems.

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