East Grinstead photographer and filmmaker Nitsan Simantov. Wedding photography and commercial video production in London and West Sussex.

How I avoid panning stutter and make camera movement feel natural

This is a common question I get so I'd like to write a little post about it. The question is, "I get stuttering in my video when I pan - What do I do to fix/avoid it?"

It's possible there is a technical method in camera settings or editing that fixes this. Usually people ask me this question after they've spent a lot of time on forums without finding a solution.

I think the reason I've never had that issue in my own videos is that I almost never do traditional "pans", especially not on a tripod where the consistent speed probably makes stuttering visible or more prominent. I don't find flat panning to feel very natural, even without stuttering. I haven't spent a lot of time analyzing Hollywood films for how much they pan or how often, but usually what I see is that flat left/right pans are not very common, and when they are there they are usually pretty slow. Probably not because of stuttering issues, but because slow panning usually looks/feels more natural.

Here are two examples of my filming style. As you can see, any panning is either really slow and not moving very much, or it's just following the subject while the camera is moving.

So here are some things to try:

  • Slower pans done on a shoulder rig rather than a tripod, because the less consistent speed might help reduce stuttering somewhat
  • Following the subject when using a slider/glidecam. Basically the opposite of a normal pan. Move the camera and keep the subject in the middle of the frame.
  • For wide/establishing shots, move the camera rather than "pan",
  • Pan very very slowly, although this likely will still show some stutter.
  • Reduce camera's sharpness setting to zero.
  • Shoot in 50p/60p slow motion for those panning shots. 
  • Try viewing the raw files on another computer, or viewing the raw footage uploaded to Youtube without editing. This might help figure out if the issue is coming from the video editor or computer.
  • Any more suggestions, please comment below.

Here are tutorials about how the videos above were filmed:

More info about how the cat video was filmed: Konova K2 slider and Flywheel and Glidecam HD1000 + Aputure wireless follow focus.

Suggestions from readers:

  • Not really the same stuttering issue that I'm discussing above, but maybe turn off your camera's image stabilizer and see if that helps.