Stabilizing Your YouTube Videos

By Rob Ciampa, Theresa Moore, John Carucci, Stan Muller, Adam Wescott

One of the most important things you can do to give your YouTube video an air of professionalism is to stabilize your shot. Nothing says amateur video like extremely shaky handheld video. You’ve probably watched home videos that induce motion sickness as the camera whips around. Many tools can help you lock down your shot:

  • Tripod: The most useful stabilizing tool is the simple tripod. It has three legs; you attach your camera to the top, and your shot is as stable as stable can be. Tripods are readily available online, at camera stores, and at electronics stores, and they have a wide variety of price points. Invest at least $50 here. It can be helpful to get one that has a built‐in level to keep your shots from being crooked.

    When you’re shopping for a tripod, make sure you choose a model that has a fluid panning head. At some point, you’ll want to add a few camera moves to your repertoire, and you’ll need that fluid head when that time comes.

    A basic still photography tripod may be cheaper, but you’re going to regret it when you need to move the camera during a shot. Tripods with nonfluid heads cannot replicate the smooth motion that a fluid head can provide.

  • Dolly: A dolly is simply a set of wheels for the camera. The simplest dollies attach to the bottom of the tripod, and — voila! — your camera is now on the move, allowing you to create interesting motion and ­following shots.

  • Steadicam: A number of handheld Steadicam rigs are available these days, but they can be a little expensive. They also require a great deal of skill to use effectively. That means practice. If you want to get good handheld shots using a Steadicam rig, you have to practice, practice, practice to get the hang of using the thing. If you do put in the time and get good at it, you can create some pretty cool shots with these devices.

  • Sliders/cranes/jibs: A wide variety of devices are also on the market to create moving shots. Sliders allow the camera to move on rails, providing a sense of smooth motion in the shot. Cranes/jibs allow the camera to move from side to side and up and down in space, creating a smooth sensation of flight. Many of these are available as add‐ons to tripods.

    Though they aren’t absolutely necessary, a few nice moving shots do provide a feeling of high production value to almost any project. Sliders start at around $200; if you are ready to build something in order to save money, search YouTube for some DIY glider videos.