iPhone Life magazine

Stabilize Shaky Vids with Emulsio

Camera phone videos, particularly of outside activities, are often rolling and jerky enough to make one practically lose their lunch when viewing them, which is why a camera tripod is a great tool. You can't lug one everywhere however, and it's usually impractical for your iPhone. Apple has added software image stabilization into the iPhone, but there are limits to its effectiveness. You can save yourself and your loved ones some replay discomfort by adding a more robust video stabilizer app to your iPhone library. There are online tools available on sites like YouTube, but for a finer level of control, you might try Emulsio (free), which was just updated on February 24.

Apple has recently submitted a patent on a hardware-based image stabilizer, so we can expect to see some of this capability to be cooked into our future devices (which evidently the Nokia Lumia already has). Until then, we have to rely on software. Instagram (who acquired Lumo—makers of a an imagery tool set no longer available) also provides cinema quality software stabilization for free, but without the fine-tuning. Emulsio (currently called Movie Stiller) is the only other app I could find to bridge the gap. If you want more technical background on image stabilization in iPhone 5 versus other cam/phone models, please read our resident tech guru Werner's blog on the subject here. Evidently whether you need it or not, it is turned on in the latest iPhone models.

There are three left-side buttons on the Emulsio interface which provide the key functions for turning shaky videos into something a little less jumpy. First, you select a video from your device, and the app will analyze and apply corrections thus: XY translation can be tuned to reduce motion along either the vertical or horizontal axis (or both), rotation correction can be used to trim out movement around the frame center axis, and another function is provided to reduce wobble. Though this all seems exceedingly technical, the parameters are auto-set after loading an image into the app, and actually quite easy to use. The app presents a frame collage display across the top similar to almost any video editing app you will find, making it easy to navigate or scrub to any part of the selected imagery (and also to delete frames).

You can split the view between the original and corrected version, and even rotate the split-view around the center point to see the effect of your changes as the video loops. You can also adjust the strength of the changes with a slider on the right. Videos can be adjusted for a more cinema-like experience by digging into a few advanced settings. The overall app experience is polished and responsive, processing video quickly. Processed videos can then be exported out, saved to the device or transferred to other apps.

The Verdict

Emulsio provides exactly what is says it does. It smooths and processes your video files, compensating for camera shake and motion, which is particularly useful for older model iDevices. It will not work miracles however. As you increase the power of the corrections, more and more of your reference imagery outside the frame center is sacrificed. The app could use some integrated social websharing functions, but other than that it worked fine in my tests. It does have something that majorly detracts. Additional purchase is required for a "Pro Pack." This pro pack lets you edit videos longer than 15 minutes (in the new version to be released), but you may not realize this until you hit that limit unless you carefully note this in the app description. A free version will be available to edit short clips up to 30 seconds. I suggest the developer reconsider this approach and potentially provide other add-ons like image filters and effects instead. (Just make the main app free without limits and offer effect packs and filters for 99-cent IAPs).

Pros

  • Lots of tweakable stabilization options
  • Video processing is quick and easy

Cons

  • Additional purchase required to edit videos longer than 15 minutes
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Nate Adcock's picture

Nate Adcock is a system and integration engineer with experience managing and administering a variety of computing environments. He has worked extensively with mobile gadgets of all shapes and sizes for many years. He is also a former military weather forecaster. Nate is a regular contributor for the iphonelife.com and smartphonemag.com blogs and helps manage both websites. Read more from Nate at natestera.drupalgardens.com or e-mail him at nate@iphonelife.com.