Working with the SmoothCam Filter

The following sections cover the basic steps for using the SmoothCam filter.

Applying the SmoothCam Filter

The SmoothCam filter is available in both the Effects tab and the Effects menu in the Video category. You can apply the SmoothCam filter to the current clip in the Viewer or to one or more clips in a sequence.

To apply the SmoothCam filter to a clip in the Viewer
  • Make sure the Viewer is the active window, then choose Effects > Video Filters > Video > SmoothCam.

To apply the SmoothCam filter to clips in the Timeline
  • Select one or more clips in the Timeline, then choose Effects > Video Filters > Video > SmoothCam.

    Each clip with the SmoothCam filter applied is submitted to the SmoothCam Analysis processing queue. The Background Processes window opens and analysis begins automatically on the first clip in the queue.

Note: The SmoothCam filter can be applied only to clips that refer to QuickTime media files. Also, the SmoothCam filter compensates only for the original video within a QuickTime media file; the results of filter and motion parameter settings are ignored. Make sure filters applied to a clip are ordered so that the SmoothCam filter is applied first.

About Motion Analysis States

A clip’s motion must be analyzed before you can see the results of the SmoothCam filter. You can monitor the progress of motion analysis in several locations and even stop analysis if you need to free up computer processing power.

A clip can have one of four analysis states:

  • Unanalyzed: The clip requires analysis but has not yet been analyzed for some reason. For more information, see Making Sure Clips Are Analyzed.
  • Analyzing: The clip is currently being analyzed in the processing queue.
  • Queued for analysis: The clip has been submitted to the processing queue but has not yet been analyzed.
  • Analysis completed: The clip has a completed motion analysis file on disk.

Checking Motion Analysis Status

You can check a clip’s motion analysis status in four locations:

  • Overlays in the Canvas or Viewer

  • The Background Processes window

  • The SmoothCam Browser column (and the SmoothCam property in the Item Properties window)

  • The empty area in the lower-left part of the Viewer Filters tab, to the right of the Current Timecode field

Overlays in the Canvas or Viewer

An overlay in the Canvas or Viewer displays the current clip’s motion analysis status. When analysis is complete, the status overlay for the clip is no longer displayed.

Figure. Canvas window showing the status overlay.

The Background Processes Window

The Background Processes window displays the name, queue number, and progress of motion analysis for each clip in the processing queue. To display the Background processes window, choose Tools > Background Processes.

Figure. Background Processes window showing the number of clips to process and the Stop and Pause/Resume buttons.

The SmoothCam Browser Column

The SmoothCam clip property can be shown in a Browser column, displaying each clip’s motion analysis status. The SmoothCam Browser column also allows you to submit clips to the processing queue even if your clips don’t have the SmoothCam filter applied.

Figure. Browser window showing the SmoothCam Browser column.

To display the SmoothCam Browser column in the Browser, Control-click in any column, then choose SmoothCam from the shortcut menu.

You can also view the SmoothCam property in the Item Properties window. To display the SmoothCam property in the Item Properties window, select a clip in the Browser or Timeline, then choose Edit > Item Properties > Format (or press Command-9.)

Starting and Stopping SmoothCam Motion Analysis

If you want to free up processing power to work on other things, you can stop motion analysis or temporarily pause analysis and then resume it again later. You can also submit clips to the processing queue, regardless of whether the SmoothCam filter is applied to them.

To remove clips from the SmoothCam Analysis processing queue
  1. Make sure the SmoothCam column is shown in the Browser.

  2. Select one or more clips in the Browser.

  3. Control-click in the SmoothCam column next to one of the selected clips, then choose Stop Analysis from the shortcut menu.

    Analysis for all selected clips is stopped. Analysis begins on the next clip in the queue.

Note: Motion analysis is applied to media files, not clips. Therefore, deleting a clip doesn’t stop motion analysis for its media file.

To submit clips to the SmoothCam Analysis processing queue
  1. Make sure the SmoothCam column is shown in the Browser.

  2. Select one or more clips in the Browser.

  3. Control-click in the SmoothCam column next to one of the selected clips, then choose Run Analysis from the shortcut menu.

To stop motion analysis for all clips in the processing queue
  1. In the Background Processes window, click the Stop button next to the progress bar.

    A dialog appears asking if you are sure you want to stop analysis for all clips in the processing queue.

  2. Click Stop Task.

    Incomplete motion analysis files are deleted if you stop analysis, so when you submit a clip for analysis later, the whole clip is analyzed from the beginning.

To temporarily pause motion analysis
  • In the Background Processes window, click the Pause/Resume button.

To resume paused motion analysis
  • In the Background Processes window, click the Pause/Resume button.

Note: Quitting Final Cut Pro also stops the processing queue.

Analyzing All SmoothCam Clips in a Sequence

Sequence clips with the SmoothCam filter applied must be analyzed before you can see the results of the filter. There are several ways to analyze sequence clips:

  • Render a selected clip or the entire sequence: All analyzed clips are rendered, and any unanalyzed clips are automatically submitted to the processing queue. Any clips whose motion analysis was not complete when you started rendering are not rendered, so you may need to render the sequence again when the remaining clips are analyzed.
  • Analyze all clips in a sequence using the SmoothCam Browser column: Sequences have a SmoothCam property just as individual clips do. However, a sequence’s SmoothCam property controls motion analysis for all unanalyzed clips in the sequence. Control-click in the SmoothCam column next to the sequence whose clips you want to analyze, then choose Run Analysis from the shortcut menu. Any sequence clip that uses the SmoothCam filter and still needs analysis is analyzed.

Reanalyzing Clips

If necessary, you can reanalyze a clip whose status is “Analysis completed.”

To analyze a clip that already has a completed motion analysis file
  1. Make sure the SmoothCam column is shown in the Browser.

  2. Select one or more clips in the Browser.

  3. While pressing the Option key, Control-click in the SmoothCam column next to one of the selected clips, then choose Run Analysis from the shortcut menu.

Reprioritizing Clips in the Processing Queue

If you want to analyze a particular clip before others in the processing queue, you need to remove any motion analysis jobs currently in the queue and then add the clip you want to analyze.

To analyze a clip before others already in the processing queue
  1. In the Background Processes window, click the Stop button next to the progress bar.

    All clips are removed from the processing queue.

  2. In the Browser, Control-click in any column, then choose SmoothCam from the shortcut menu.

  3. Control-click in the SmoothCam column next to the clip you want to analyze, then choose Run Analysis from the shortcut menu.

To analyze sequence clips before other clips in the processing queue
  1. In the Background Processes window, click the Stop button next to the progress bar.

    All clips are removed from the processing queue.

  2. Select and render the current sequence clip or the entire sequence.

Rendering unanalyzed clips with the SmoothCam filter applied automatically adds the clips to the processing queue.

Adjusting SmoothCam Filter Parameters

You can adjust controls for the SmoothCam filter in the Filters tab in the Viewer, just as you would adjust parameters for any other filter. However, you cannot add keyframes to SmoothCam filter parameters.

Figure. Filters tab showing the SmoothCam filter parameters.

About SmoothCam Filter Parameters

The SmoothCam filter parameters allow you to adjust how much camera movement the filter compensates for and how much automatic zooming the filter applies to remove black borders resulting from motion compensation.

Scale Parameters

You can also set Auto Scale and Actual Scale parameters:

  • Auto Scale: This parameter can reduce the amount of automatic scaling applied by the SmoothCam filter. For more information, see Using the Auto Scale Parameter.
  • Actual Scale: This parameter is not adjustable. The value shown here is the amount of scaling the SmoothCam filter applies to compensate for any black borders caused by the Camera Motion Smoothness parameter settings. For more information, see About the Actual Scale Value.
Camera Motion Smoothness Parameters

You can control the “steadiness” of your shot using three independent parameters:

  • Translation Smooth: Left, right, up, and down movement of a shot (x and y axes)
  • Rotation Smooth: Rotation around the center point of the image
  • Scale Smooth: Forward or backward camera or lens movement (z axis)
    Figure. Diagram illustrating the translation, rotation, and scale parameters.

Each parameter can be set to a value between 0.0 and 5.0. A value of 0.0 turns off the parameter, and a value of 5.0 applies the strongest possible transformation. The higher you set each parameter, the more camera motion is compensated for in that axis.

For example, if you want to remove horizontal, vertical, and rotational movement, you should set the Translation Smooth and Rotation Smooth parameters to a value above 0. You may need to experiment to see which values steady your shot the best.

Correcting Black Borders Around Your Clip

When the SmoothCam filter compensates for camera movement, it translates, rotates, or scales your clip in the opposite direction, potentially causing a black border around the edge of the clip in the Canvas. To correct for the black border, the SmoothCam filter determines which frame in your clip requires the most scaling to remove the black borders and then automatically scales the entire clip by that amount.

Figure. Canvas window showing a black border around a clip.

Factors That Affect SmoothCam Scaling

You can control how much the SmoothCam filter scales your clip in several ways, depending on the effect you are trying to achieve:

  • Reduce the Translation Smooth, Rotation Smooth, and Scale Smooth parameter values so that less motion correction is applied. This means that there is less black around your clip, so less scaling is required. Try to adjust these parameters to find a balance between acceptable scaling and adequate motion compensation.

  • Change your clip In and Out points to limit the SmoothCam filter to a portion of the clip without abrupt visual changes or severe camera movement. This reduces the amount of motion compensation that the SmoothCam filter needs to apply, so less scaling is required. For more information, see Setting Clip In and Out Points to Improve SmoothCam Rendering.

  • Reduce the Auto Scale parameter value to reduce scaling. Reducing the amount of scaling will reveal black edges around your clip, but this may be acceptable in some cases. For more information, see Using the Auto Scale Parameter.

About the Actual Scale Value

Too much scaling can cause your clip to appear blocky or softened, so you should try to limit scaling of your clip as much as possible. The Actual Scale value in the SmoothCam filter informs you of the current scaling applied to your clip. The value shown here is the result of many factors: the amount of motion compensation the SmoothCam filter needs to apply based on the motion analysis data, the current In and Out points, and the current value of the Auto Scale parameter.

Important: If the SmoothCam filter requires a very large repositioning adjustment to compensate for camera movement, the SmoothCam filter does not apply motion compensation at all, and the Actual Scale parameter is turned off. In these cases, your clip probably contains too much movement or too many abrupt visual changes. For more information, see Improving SmoothCam Filter Results.

Using the Auto Scale Parameter

In some cases, you may prefer to reduce the automatic scaling that the SmoothCam filter applies by lowering the value of the Auto Scale parameter. For example, you may want to reduce scaling if:

  • You know your project will be shown only on overscan monitors, so you don’t care what’s outside of the action safe area

  • You’re going to composite this clip beneath other elements, so you plan to crop the edges anyway

  • You are applying the SmoothCam filter to HD footage within an SD sequence, so you still have plenty of leftover pixels at the edges

By default, the Auto Scale parameter is set to 1, which means the SmoothCam filter applies the minimum scaling necessary for the clip to appear without black edges in the Canvas. Reducing the Auto Scale parameter to a value less than 1 reduces the amount of scaling, revealing black around the edges of the clip.

Setting Clip In and Out Points to Improve SmoothCam Rendering

The results of the SmoothCam filter are determined by the media between a clip’s In and Out points, so abrupt visual changes in your clip’s media may cause poor SmoothCam filter results. You can avoid abrupt visual changes in a clip by setting clip In and Out points to a visually stable portion of media. An easy way to define a visually stable portion of media is to cut a single clip into smaller clips and remove segments with unwanted movement.

Note: The SmoothCam Analysis processing queue always analyzes your clip’s entire media file (including subclips), regardless of the In and Out points set.

Here are some cases where adjusting clip In and Out points may improve your SmoothCam results:

  • If a large object moves across the frame of an otherwise stationary shot, such as a person walking close to the front of the camera

  • Excessive camera movement during shot setup

  • Large camera movement in a clip that is otherwise relatively stationary

  • Clips with more than one scene, such as clips with multiple takes

For example, if your footage starts with a fast pan and then settles into a relatively stable shot, set the clip In point after the pan is finished. Similarly, if a person walks into the frame and blocks the camera, set an Out point in your clip before the person appears.

Figure. Timeline window showing a selected segment of a clip ready to be deleted to improve SmoothCam rendering.

Avoiding Through Edits

Setting clip In and Out points can improve SmoothCam filter results by avoiding abrupt visual changes, but adding a through edit to a clip with the SmoothCam filter applied can create a jump at the edit point. For example, if you apply the SmoothCam filter to a clip and then use the Razor Blade tool to cut that clip into two clips, the SmoothCam filter results on each clip are different because they are based on different clip In and Out points. This means that each clip will likely have different motion compensation applied, and you will see this difference as a jump at the through edit point.

Using QuickTime Reference Movies to Limit Clip Analysis

One way to limit which frames are analyzed is to create QuickTime reference movies that contain only the portion of the clip you want to analyze.

To apply the SmoothCam filter to 20 seconds of a 15-minute clip
  1. Open a clip in the Browser and set its In and Out points so the duration is 20 seconds.

  2. Choose File > Export > QuickTime Movie.

  3. In the Save dialog, enter a name for the QuickTime movie in the Save As field.

  4. Choose Current Settings from the Settings pop-up menu.

  5. Choose Audio and Video from the Include pop-up menu.

  6. Make sure that the Make Movie Self-Contained checkbox is deselected.

  7. Click OK.

  8. Import the QuickTime reference movie you just created, then apply the SmoothCam filter to the clip.

  9. Only the media defined by the QuickTime reference movie is analyzed in the processing queue.

For more information about exporting QuickTime movies, see Exporting QuickTime Movies. You can also see Batch Exporting Clips and Sequences.

Rendering and Exporting Clips with the SmoothCam Filter Applied

Once the processing queue has finished analyzing a clip, you can render the clip to see the finished effect. Clips that have the SmoothCam filter applied and whose motion analysis files are not complete will not be rendered. If you need to make changes, adjust the necessary SmoothCam filter parameters and render the clip again. If your computer has sufficient processing power, you may be able play these clips in real time, especially if you choose Unlimited RT mode.

If you try to export or use the Print to Video or Edit to Tape commands on a sequence containing clips with incomplete motion analysis data, a window appears with three options:

  • Cancel: Cancels the Edit to Tape or Print to Video operation.
  • No: Renders the SmoothCam filter only for clips whose motion analysis data is complete and then continues with the export or output process.
  • Yes: Processes any clips whose motion analysis data is not complete and then continues with the output process.

Note: Clips with the SmoothCam filter applied may have a red render status bar when you turn on Digital Cinema Desktop Preview, requiring you to render your clips before playback.