How to Use VirtualDub Deshaker

What is Deshaker?

Deshaker is a filter for the video editing program VirtualDub that reduces unwanted motion in your videos.  It can be used in any video with distracting camera movement but is especially well suited for time-lapse because the large photos mean you can crop your subject without reducing the video to less than full HD.  However, the following instructions work just as well for any other type of video. If you’ve never used either program, you might want to take a look at my VirtualDub for time-lapse tutorial before you begin.  This tutorial assumes you’ve already processed your photos into a video.  My only suggestion is to make the video slightly bigger than your imagined final version to allow room for cropping.  If you’re using a video shot live, this isn’t an option but the software can still help.  It just means your final video will be a bit smaller.

The Software

The newest Deshaker software might require a VirtualDub update.  Both are completely free to use for Windows systems.  Deshaker only works with 32-bit PCs for the moment.

VirtualDub software link

Deshaker software link

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Extract and Run the Filter

Unzip the file and copy the Deshaker.vdf file into the VirtualDub plugin folder.  VirtualDub doesn’t have an installer, so you might have to search for the folder if it’s been a while since you downloaded it. The plugin folder should appear as soon as you open the main VirtualDub folder. Once the filter’s in the right place, start VirtualDub and your filter should be available.

Open the file you want to deshake and right click the videos to make both the input and output fit in the screen.  Click Video>Filters and then click “Add.”  The Deshaker filter should be visible in the top half of the list.

VirtualDub Deshaker Filter

Click “OK” and you’ll come to the window shown below.  Deshaker takes two passes, so we’ll begin by accepting the default settings on the first pass.  You can change this later if you have trouble or select “rolling shutter” if you took the video with certain video cameras.  For time-lapse videos made from photos, this option is unnecessary.  Click “OK” to return to the main window.

Deshaker pass one

At the bottom left of the screen are three tiny buttons:  Stop, Play input, and Play output.  Make sure the video is at the first frame and hit Play output.  This is the play button with the almost invisible “O” under it.  The filter should start comparing frames and deciding which way the camera was moving and how to correct it.  You should see an output screen covered with white and red dots that shift along with the subject.

The tiny white and red dots show the filter deciding which subject to keep centered.

Yawning Lemur

 Compress and Run the Second Pass

Select a compression codec even if the video was originally compressed.  After running your video through this filter, the video file will be far bigger than before.  I use the Xvid codecalready on my computer.  Select Video>Compression and pick your favorite. Once the first pass finishes, go back to Video>Filters and double click on the already selected Deshaker filter.  In the upper left hand corner, click on “Pass 2.”  From here you have two main choices.  You can choose the default mode, which will keep most of your video intact but give you moving black bars around the edges, or you can select one of the “no borders” options.  I recommend choosing one of the “no borders” choices if you want a polished video.

Choose a fixed or variable zoom to avoid black lines at the edges.

The downside is the video has to be cropped in order to keep the moving edges from showing.  This is why this filter is ideal for time-lapse, you can make your original video larger than HDTV’s 1920×1080 so you probably won’t have to compromise on the final quality.  By contrast, a video originally shot for HDTV has to be cropped below the true 1080 level.  If this is confusing, save a copy of both so you can compare.

Save and Refine if Needed

The second pass will run without rewinding the video or playing it a second time.  You can save it soon after you click “OK” in the Deshaker filter.  You can also tweak how the second pass looks without running the first pass again if you’re not happy. I’m almost always satisfied with the default settings, but I should mention that some subjects are more difficult for the filter than others.  For example, when I made my walking time-lapse video, I used the Deshaker filter extensively to smooth the very rough cuts between photos.  However, I found that the filter was less effective with fewer photos and useless against the spinning fountain shot.  For the latter, I had to manually line up the shots in Photoshop.

Wrap Up

I might make a video tutorial for this if I ever get over disliking the sound of my recorded voice.  If you think one would be helpful, please let me know in the comments or send me an email through my contact form.

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