Google Photos can now stabilize all your shaky phone camera videos

Google Photos is where all my photos are. Long ago I was a man of SmugMug, and then Flickr, and then at some point spent days and days copying years of images to iCloud Photo Library before eventually disregarding that and switching to Google. What can I say? I’m a simple person who can be easily delighted and swayed by automatic GIF creation and reliable backups. And Google Photos keeps getting better. Here’s the latest example: now the mobile app can automatically stabilize videos in your camera roll with a tap.

A lot of flagship smartphones offer optical image stabilization when shooting video, a hardware feature that helps keep footage smooth. Others, like Google’s Pixel, use software to try and stabilize jerky movements. Putting stabilization inside the Google Photos app could enhance results further if you’re already working with hardware OIS, or improve recordings significantly if your phone lacks any means of steadying things out of the box. The stabilized video is cropped in a bit, as you might expect, and the original clip remains in your Photos library; there’s no overwriting. Here’s a side-by-side demo someone else made of the app’s latest trick.

That said, it’s not going to produce miracles. Don’t expect a video that was particularly rough from the start to suddenly look like it was filmed with a Steadicam. I shot a terribly rocky video of my walk to get lunch (sorry, I don’t know how to ski) using my Pixel XL with stabilization disabled, and the Photos-stabilized version was indeed smooth — but with a fair amount of warping and other weird visual distortions to show for it.

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But if you just want to smoothen the pans of some vacation video you took with your phone for Facebook or Instagram, I’d imagine this should work pretty well. It’s at least something for Android users who never got Instagram’s Hyperlapse. I’ve asked Google for some nerdy specifics behind how Photos performs its stabilization but haven’t yet heard back.

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