How steady is the Steadicam Curve™ shooting with the GoPro 3+? We find that out right now.
The flat, cargo pants pocketable Steadicam Curve is the smallest Steadicam, and it weighs nothing, allowing you to shoot very long scenes. But with what added degree of stability?
The quick answers are these. You can shoot until your arm gives out. Still, stability over hand-held or pistol grip support is considerably enhanced.
I ran these shots long to demonstrate a bit of endurance. Each clip is the better part of a full minute long, and the camera was getting old in my hand by the end. Holding a camera out at arm's length (so you can see the viewfinder) is a relatively new problem for photographers and the human body has not evolved special muscles to cope with it. Yet.
I shot first with the Curve in "pistol grip mode". In this configuration, the handle is locked against the frame, so no stabilization occurs. I shot a duplicate scene with a P&C pistol grip under the camera, just to remove any odd variable from our test.
Results with the real pistol grip and the Curve in pistol grip mode were identical. Meaning horrid.
As you see in the first test shot, the image is completely unusable. Jerky, twitchy, shaky, trembling, unsteady, wobbly, teetering, unstable—take your pick. It's awful. And shame on you if you try to walk the length of St. Mark's Square in Venice for your vacation movie with such an unstable camera.
I'm walking at a normal pace. It looks like I'm trying to cause the camera to be unstable, but I'm actually trying to keep it as steady as possible while still maintaining forward momentum.
The second shot covers the exact same ground at the same walking pace with the Curve handle now unlocked, so the GoPro is floating on its gimbal with only slight finger pressure on the camera base to overcome wind and to provide corrective steering.
The instant result is that the shot loses about 90% of its lack of stability. It is far more stable. The fact that I'm walking at a normal pace on a hard surface is a constant source of upset, but here's a shot you can use.
But it still isn't perfect.
How can we fix that?
I edit with Final Cut Pro X, and one of its Video tools is Stabilization. You highlight a shot, click on Stabilization, and the program enters into an analytic mode, reading every frame, comparing frames to each other, quantifying the amount of upset over frames in a row. After analysis, you decide how much stabilization to add to the shot.
To stabilize the image, FCPX enlarges the frame slightly. More or less, depending on the numerical stabilization number you dial in. Optional Methods include our choice, "InertiaCam" which is an intelligent balance of Translation, Rotation and Scale. At a setting of 1.0, the amount of enlargement is quite minor. About 5%. The program repositions the frames within its enlargement tolerance, essentially "cropping out" the jumps that make the shot unstable.
Our tests with HD images have shown that people can't detect degradation of the image until it is enlarged by about 10%, so we are comfortable with a 5% enlargement.
Now the camera is floating along on glass rails. The stability is amazing.
The last shot is a split-screen image comparing pistol grip mode to fully stabilized mode using both the Steadicam Curve floating and added FCPX InertiaCam.
Night and Day.