video stabilization

Physical vs. Optical vs. Digital Video Stabilization: Which Should You Choose?

Anyone who’s ever attempted to record a video on their phones or cameras while walking knows that keeping the image still is a bit of a struggle. Numerous camera and cellphone makers have introduced the concept of digital video stabilization, but in some cases, optical or physical stabilization is far better. Below, you can learn more about the differences between physical, optical, and digital video stabilization so you can determine how best to approach your project.

What is Optical Stabilization?

Optical stabilization is most often used in still photography, and it involves a variety of complex hardware fitted inside a camera lens to keep things still and sharp. Though it’s been used for decades, the technology has only recently been miniaturized to the point where it can fit inside tiny cameras and even smartphones. It can certainly stabilize your video to some degree, but it’s more to remove the effects of shaky hands when taking a still photo than to help stabilize a video you recorded while moving. This is important to remember.

What is Digital Stabilization?

On the other hand, digital stabilization is more or less a software trick. If you’ve ever used digital zoom on your camera or smartphone, then the concept is fairly similar. The lens doesn’t actually “zoom” any more than the device actually stabilizes itself, but thanks to new technologies, you can create the appearance of either. More specifically, digital stabilization uses a sensor to select part of an image or video and then adjust the video or photo so that it appears the camera (and the focus subject) are moving less than they really are. It’s a neat trick and one that works well in many instances, but often not enough for those who are serious about producing high-quality films.

What is Physical Stabilization?

Finally, physical stabilization is the process involved in using equipment outside of your camera to stabilize it and produce clean, sharp videos. The physical stabilization device that even amateur photographers and videographers are most familiar with is the tripod. It is designed to limit camera movement enough to completely negate the need for either optical or digital stabilization, and it does a fantastic job – until a videographer wishes to move the camera. A tripod is designed for still use, after all.

Which is Best for You?

All three forms of stabilization will have their place in your videos. Physical stabilization via accessories designed to work with your camera is important if you plan to take shots while moving, but optical and digital measures can take that stabilization even further. Fortunately, there are numerous affordable stabilization products on the market you can buy and try on your own alongside your favorite video software or programs.

The truth is that optical, digital, and physical stabilization all have their places in filmography, and the exact form of stabilization you need will depend on several factors – your camera type, your goals, and how you plan to capture your shots. Fortunately, with just a little research, you can find a wide bevy of products that will help provide you with the base physical stabilization you need – even if you take shots on the go.

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