Stabilize Wildlife Videos for Free!!!

There have been times when I captured a moment on video without a tripod and well…we all know what happens to such videos…they are too shaky to be useful.

In this video, I will share two methods to stabilize videos using the free version of DaVinci Resolve 18 and also look at one technique to get a clean background.

I will use a recent video of a Laggar Falcon feeding on a Spiny Tailed Lizard. After taking quite a few shots of this scene, I switched to video and leaned my back against a car to make myself as steady as possible.

No prizes for guessing how the video came out. This is the original footage from my Nikon D850 and this is what we will be working on in DaVinci Resolve.

You can get DaVinci Resolve (free version) from their site or download it from the Mac App Store on a Mac. Currently, I am using the free version downloaded from the Mac App Store.

I will not get into any details about using Resolve since there are plenty of tutorials around for it, instead, I will only go through the how-to when using Resolve.

For this example, we will use the default untitled project and then directly drop the video file on the Edit Panel in Resolve and take it from there…

Since audio is not required for this video, I will put the video in the media pool and then put only the video on the timeline for editing.

Basically, what we need is a “Camera Lock” which simulates a tripod so to speak.

Now, the first method to make this video rock solid and no shake.

Make sure the inspector window is open. First, select Stabilization and make sure that Zoom is off and the Camera Lock is checked. The Mode is something you can experiment with for your videos, for now, I will go with the default Perspective. Now if we click on the Stabilize button, Resolved will analyse the footage and select the centre point (generally) as the camera lock point.

We can see that the video is stable, but, the cropped-out edges need to be fixed. In this case, I will zoom into the video and adjust the crop and edges.

To do this, scroll up in the Inspector windows to the Transform option on the top. We will set the zoom to around 2 for this video and adjust the Y position to around -500 and the X position to -250.

This is as steady as a tripod or even better…

Now, in case this method does not work for your video, let us look at an alternate way of achieving the same using the Color Tab instead of the Edit Tab that we have been using for the first method.

The first thing we need to do is to figure out which part of the video we should choose for Resolve to track and stabilize. For this video, I will select this branch using a curve selection from the Window tab.

Right next to the Window, is the Tracker option. I will remove the 3D and Rotation…Maybe Zoom as well in the tracking options and do a Track forward and reverse so we cover the entire clip.

Now, we have the Stabilizer option right next to the Window Tracker. We will check the Camera Lock and remove the Zoom and click on Stabilize.

Now, just like in the first method, we have a rock-solid video and we need to use Sizing (instead of transform) to zoom in and fix the edges. -500 for Tilt and -150 for Pan while keeping the Zoom to 2.

That’s it. We now have a rock-stable video.

What if, like with our still images, we wanted a clean background in this video? Well…I have mentioned in some of the earlier videos that as long as you have the subject in the clear, the rest becomes easy. The same applies here.

Since our subject, the falcon, in this case, is in the clear, we can remove the tree branches from the video. Let’s see how this is done from the Color Tab in Resolve.

Add a serial node, add the alpha output and connect the new node to that. Now, we will make a selection of the branches to remove that area from the video. If there is a need to make multiple selections, then, you can keep adding serial nodes for each selection or use some other similar path.

Ideally, we should let Resolve track the selection, but, since we already have a stable video, this step is not really needed.

Now we go back to the Edit Page and add a select Paper from the Generators in the Effects menu. Expand the Paper to match the video clip and then move the Paper layer down. Now we just need to adjust the Gain for the Paper to match the background in this video.

That’s it. We have a stable video with a clean background!