David Ruether

Recently I have been using the ProDAD Mercalli Expert video image stabilizer video editor plug-in for smoothing hand-held camcorder footage (which works in many different programs). It works quite well if the footage is fairly steady to begin with, if reasonably high shutter speeds are used while shooting with the camcorder, and if some presharpening is applied to the footage. It also works better if you can remove especially shaky footage from clips before processing - but since this often occurs near the ends of clips, this may not present much of a problem. I put all other FX earlier in the string of filters, then the sharpening (I often use "0.250" in Sony Vegas Pro 8), and last the Mercalli stabilizer so that only one compression pass is needed for an MPEG-2 HDV clip before exporting it to the final video. This program has many presets (often with peculiar descriptive names due to poor translations ;-), but it is very effective with a wide range of conditions, and its previewing is very fast (especially if RAM previewing is used in Vegas). Oddly, the samples on the Mercalli web page are poor, with the stabilized footage always looking noticeably softer than the original even though the samples are quite small. If it weren't for having tried the downloadable trial version, I would not have bought it. The initial HDV results were softer than the original (and somewhat cropped, of course), but since the Canon HV20's VFs crop anyway, and since presharpening works well for almost completely offsetting the effects of Mercalli's cropping of the image and its dropping of half of the scan lines during processing, who cares about the "tweeners" when the final footage looks so smooth...? ;-)

Some frame grabs of "THE CHICAGO BEAN" (in which Mercalli was used for many scenes) are here. An ExposureRoom HD version of this video is here (play the "Md" size version - the compression is too high on the 720p version for either smooth tones or smooth motion). A low-quality YouTube version of this video is here

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