Some people were disappointed that the ZV-E10, Sony’s new vlogging camera, didn’t have built-in stabilization. But we were kicked out. You need as much stability as you can get if you want to shoot with your hands. At least in part, this is a camera for people who are just starting out, and they won’t understand why their “real” camera can’t stabilize video as well as their phone.
But Sony had the answer: gyro data that was built in. Even though the ZV-E10 doesn’t have a built-in stabilizer, it does have internal gyros that can record the movement of the camera frame by frame and embed it into the video file.
You can then use Sony’s free Catalyst Browse software on your computer to stabilize the video using the data from the gyro. In reality, it uses digital stabilization, but it does so by watching how the camera moves.
How digital stabilization works?
The idea of digital stabilization is not new. It can be found on many video cameras, either in addition to or instead of IBIS. Digital video stabilization might sound like an easy way out, but it makes a lot of sense.
It works by comparing how each frame of the video is set up to how it was set up in the frame before it. If it notices a change, it moves the frame to put everything back where it should be.
For this to work, there needs to be space around the edges of the frame so that this constant “reframing” can take place. This is why digital stabilization modes have a crop factor. The software needs some room for error.
Digital stabilization works the same way IBIS does, but instead of moving the camera’s sensor, it changes the frame in software.
But if the Sony ZV-E10 already has digital stabilization built in, why not use the data from the gyro instead?
I can think of two things. First, in-camera DIS has to be done quickly and on the fly because the camera only has so much processing power. When you do it later in software, you have a lot more control and probably get better results. Second, if you put it on in camera, it will be there forever.
Okay, but most video editors already have digital stabilization built in, so why would you need this?
Because video editing software uses generic algorithms to find movement, while Sony’s system uses real data about how the camera moves. That should be a much better way to do it technically, at least in theory.
Does the gyro DIS from Sony work?
We thought we’d try a few things, like a “run-and-gun” sequence where we filmed while walking, a few still shots with different focal lengths, and some slow pans and “crane” movements. What happened is shown below. Remember that both the stabilized and unstabilized versions are made from the same clips. Only one of these videos was made.
So, here are a few things to think about. One is how great the stabilization is. It works better than what we’d expect from an IBIS system and definitely better than the digital stabilization in most cameras. But the software crops the image more the more there is movement, and we can see shimmery artifacts where the stabilization hasn’t been able to stop movement everywhere in the frame at the same time.
But the short answer is that Sony’s Catalyst Browse software is a great way to use the information from the built-in gyro. Some people say that it works almost as well as a gimbal, but we wouldn’t go that far. We’d say it’s at least as good as Sony’s IBIS systems on other cameras, which aren’t the best, and we’d definitely use it again.
We also compared it to the digital stabilization in iMovie and DaVinci Resolve 18. Resolve came much closer to matching the results from Sony’s own data than did iMovie, and in our limited tests, if Sony’s gyro results were better, it wasn’t by much.
Sony ZV-E10 gyro data disadvantages
There is still a large crop factor, so if you shoot in 4K, your stabilized video will have a lower resolution, maybe closer to 3K. It will be upsampled if you use it in a 4K project, which means it will lose some detail.
You need to use Sony Catalyst Browse to stabilize the video, which means you need to add another video editor to your workflow.
To give the software full control, you must remember to turn off the DIS on the camera and probably any lens IS as well.
The only device that stores gyro data is the Sony ZV-E10.
Here are a few more examples:
- Sony ZV-1
- Sony A7C
- Sony A7S III
- Sony FX3
- Sony FX6
- Sony FX9
- Sony RX0 II
And not just Sony. Blackmagic has released an update for its Pocket Cinema cameras that turns on a “secret” gyro feature. These cameras include the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, Pocket Cinema Camera 6K G2, and Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro. These will now have gyro information that DaVinci Resolve 18 can use to automatically stabilize footage.
Is gyro data the way to stabilize videos in the future?
It’s not THE future, but A future. In the video, the real problem is often keeping the camera still and moving it smoothly, which requires a physical stabilization device for the whole camera, not just for the sensor or lens. As with digital stabilization, these only stop the movement and don’t fix all the problems it causes.