CMOS Rolling Shutter Removal – Plugin Shootout!

I’m getting away with whip pans like these.

Or just about, anyway.

That said, I’m not going to bore you with an explanation of what rolling shutter is. Chances are that – before you reached this blog – you already went through the torture of a few hundred posts and videos of everyone else demonstrating rolling shutter – without the slightest suggestion of a good CMOS skew and jello removal tool.

You can relax now, for I’m going to show you a comparison between the five filters that are available for doing just that, and the most professional one of the lot.

Better yet, the best one isn’t even the most expensive.

Following is our list of candidates:

  1. The DeShaker plugin for VirtualDub:
    • Free; requires that you convert your footage to AVI before importing.
  2. Adobe’s After Effects’ Warp Stabilizer, available since CS5.5:
    • Requires purchase of one of the Adobe suites. Not necessarily cheap.
    • Note: CS6 is equipped with a dedicated rolling shutter corrector, but I did not have time to download CS6 to try it.
  3. ProDAD’s Mercalli PRO Version 2
    • $249 from the ProDAD website
    • Sony Vegas – since version 10 – contains a simplified version of Mercalli; we’ll cover only the standalone.
  4. New Blue FX’s Video Essentials III plugin, which contains a rolling shutter removal tool.
    • Works with Adobe After Effects, AVID Media Composer, and Sony Vegas, amongst others. $130, plus the cost of your editor.
  5. The Foundry’s Rollingshutter plugin for Nuke and After Effects
    • A cool $500.

Do note that I’m taking this from the point of view of PC’s, though MAC users have a rolling shutter removal tool in Apple’s Final Cut 10, and the Foundry’s plugin is also MAC compatible.

Seeing as there is no better way to see the results than a video, I prepared three rolling shutter examples and ran them through each of the five filters:

Though not covered in the video, program usability presents a concern as well; after all, a timely workflow is essential to smooth editing.

Conclusions:

  • DeShaker is an absolute nightmare to use. Besides having to convert footage to AVI (I used Pazera MOV to AVI to do so – it was quicker than Adobe Media Encoder) before even importing it, setting the plugin up in VirtualDub is a hassle, and it takes ages to analyze the footage. You’ll wind up with some pretty big AVI files to clean off your drive too unless you install and compress with the x264vfw plugin.
  • Warp Stabilizer, along with the New Blue FX and Foundry plugins run the same as most other effect plugins for After Effects. New Blue FX had a tendency of crashing AE at times, while The Foundry’s plugin can become a long and drawn-out process.
  • Mercalli is ridiculously fast, and arguably the most user intuitive. It almost looks too simplistic and mainstream to be a professional tool, but – as proven by the footage tests – it is superior to everything else as a general-purpose tool.
    • At best, the only further improvement would be to correct individual extreme skew issues with New Blue FX before importing into Mercalli. With certain footage, this workflow could remove rolling shutter skew entirely.

One last option remains for CMOS skew removal (exclusively – this method will not correct for jello/jitter), if you do not mind a bit of DIY: Layer seven or eight feathered copies of the problematic footage over each other, with each successive clip (from top to bottom) playing progressively slower than the first – thereby correcting for the top-to-bottom scan delay in most CMOS sensors.

on Vimeo has a brilliant video tutorial of this method: http://vimeo.com/10130633

Regardless, a powerful filter does not negate that one can ignore CMOS rolling shutter when shooting, expecting that you can fix everything in post. That’s not a reasonable though – you simply cannot walk into a shoot and expect to get away with it.

If absolute perfection is what you need, the Black Magic Production Camera 4K – with global shutter – should be your next purchase, rather than a rolling shutter corrector.

In fact, I fully intend to become the Man with the BMPC 4K someday, but that’s the future.

Where did I leave my DeLorean?

No monetary compensation was provided for the mention of any of the products listed. All were tested during product trial periods or were purchased by myself.

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