Final Cut Pro Smoothcam vs Coremelt Lock and Load X

Guest post by Jeremy…

Video stabilization is a great tool for tweaking and smoothing video that was shot with out (or even with) the use of some sort of rigging to keep the vibrations at a low rate. I use Final Cut Pro to edit my video, and have always been impressed with the results of the default Smoothcam filter/effect. I was asked by Alain to do a review on CoreMelt Lock and Load X and give my honest opinion.

I ran the video through 2 different tests, the first was a simple pan that was shot without the use of my tripod. The footage was about equal on both parties results. I was impressed with Lock & Loads X (LLX) speed. It took Final Cut Pro over 2 minutes to analyze the footage, while LLX analyzed it in under 15 seconds, with a render of about 20 more seconds. The final end product were about the same. I left everything on the default settings for this run and was impressed with the results.

For the second footage, I decided to test a moving object, an old spinning mill wheel at a local resort. FCP’s Smoothcam took over 5 minutes to analyze the footage, while LLX took only 45 seconds with a render time of 30 seconds after that. These results were not as cut and dry.

The Smoothcam render has a noticeable wave coming from the right side of the screen, at the base of the mill. If your looking at it, the footage seems like it is spinning. I know this is due to the fact of how Smoothcam processes the data.

LLX’s footage was a bit rough around the edges, I had to go in and play with the settings to get a decent shot. I actually ran the footage through two different ways, one in the “lockdown” stabilization mode, the other in the “smooth single shot” option. I was not as impressed with the footage. I did some tweaking on the “lockdown” mode to get it as smooth as possible. I admit, I could be doing something wrong, but compared to the “smooth single shot” the footage was better. The “smooth single shot” mode is the default setting when you start LLX to process the footage, and what I have noticed on the video I shot (along with the video on the demo real on Coremelt’s website) is that when using this method, the stabilized video becomes wavy, almost like your video was being projected onto a white screen blowing in the wind. With the hints of movement, it can make your audience feel seasick. I am going to continue using the trial and if I come across findings that alter my judgement, I will post them below.

Pros

It’s fast, and non intrusive to the editing process. The whole process is very easy and the support from CoreMelt’s website walks you through step by step with great explanations on the science that goes on behind the scenes. Coremelt’s plug ins have a reign of success because they are efficient at what they do. For panning shots, I encourage you to try the LLX plugin.

Cons

I was not impressed with the really shaky footage. The warping effect would deter me from using this plugin on anything more than panning shots. Any action shot I ran through the process was playing too many tricks on my eyes. Even though I got the same experience with the Smoothcam filter, I was more impressed with the footage for shots like this. Even on the footage they have on their website’s demo reel, the you can see there are issues with the periodic wave of pixels going in and out.

Result

As stated before, panning shots are awesome and LLX is a time saver. Is it worth the $150 price tag… not in my opinion. Even the time ratio equation doesn’t work for me. Since Smoothcam can work in the background, it isn’t so intrusive I would consider buying a program to help, I would invest it in better stabilizing gear to get the proper shot in the first place. I am not badmouthing CoreMelt’s programs, they have other great plugins you should try for yourself.

About Shane Brown-Daniels

I'm a freelance writer and event photographer who is always up for an adventure. From capturing the beauty of a woman, the strength of a man, onto the adrenaline-pumped action scene, you'll find me aiming for the shot.
  • http://www.redmastmedia.com Peter Melly

    Thanks for the info I have used smooth cam on a few occasions and it’s saved my bacon. Good review

  • watcher_skys

    not much of a demo with so little movement in the orig footage. would like to see it with something like handheld footage from a moving car. these shots really don’t show much

    • admin

      Well, they do show enough to see the limits of the stabilization you can get. If you want to shoot from a moving car, the best tip I can give you is to use a suction cup + IS lens + postprocess unless you can get access to a gyro.

  • Amadeo

    I applied the smoothcam filter on one of my hand held shots and it only worked for some of the footage. There was this part where I kind of jerked the camera a little and the rest had regular Hand held motion. After applying the filter, the part where I jerked the cam looked about 5x’s worse than the original footage but I have to admit that the rest of the footage looked really good. In the end I ditched the filter and just left the footage as is.

  • http://www.smallbusinessdoer.com Greg Lam

    A colleague of mine uses the smoothcam filter and has done some cools shoots with a tripod on wheels. I was looking into doing the same thing with Premiere CS5, but it doesn’t seem like there are any good plugins.

    I did try some After Effects work, but didn’t find anything that looked good by simply applying a filter.

    I was just going to write that I didn’t know of any good plugins for Premiere CS5 and that Mercalli by proDad didn’t have anything out yet, but it appears they do as of August. I’m downloading it now to see if it is any good.

    Does anyone else know of any good one-click image stabilization software for Premiere CS5 on Windows?

  • Jeremy

    Greg, I have been reading on NewBlue, and it seems to do a pretty effective job. I have been tossing the idea around of moving to CS5 from Final Cut but haven’t made the jump yet. If you try it, let us know how it goes!
    Newblue: http://www.newbluefx.com/stabilizer.html

  • http://www.seanstudio.com seanvision

    Since I started to use LLX, I did not re-use SC,I think LLX is much more better