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Review: proDAD Mercalli V4 Stabilizr Plug-in

proDAD's Mercalli V4 is an irreplaceable yet inexpensive stabilization plug-in that every editor should have in their toolkit.

proDAD's Mercalli V4 Stabilizr plug-in is an irreplaceable yet inexpensive application that every editor should have in their toolkit. Big statement? Indeed. Big delivery? Even more so.

Mercalli V4 Stabilizr is a stabilization and CMOS and lens correction tool in one package, that may be used as a plug-in to Sony Vegas. It’s also available as a standalone app (Mercalli V4 SAL+) for those that aren't using compatible host platforms.

Writing this review of Mercalli V4 has proven one of the most difficult and time-consuming reviews I've undertaken in the past 20 years. This is not because it's a challenging application to use; not at all. The sheer depth of this application sits in a class all its own. Each time I opened the application during testing I discovered something new. The breadth of the application is instantly visible on first opening the app. The depth isn't quite so easy.

Installation

Installing the application as a Vegas plug-in was fast and easy without subjecting me to half a dozen "OK" screens. I did not install the standalone (SAL+) version; it uses a KLite codec pack that has caused problems for me in the past. Others have reported no issues installing this package of third-party codecs.

Choosing Settings Before Stabilizing

Once installed, I opened Sony Vegas and dropped some nasty handheld footage on the timeline, and then browsed the FX folders for Prodad Mercalli V4. To apply the plug-in, simply drag it to the clip(s) or track that requires stabilization. I recommend using the plug-in at the clip level, as different clips may require different forms of stabilization.

As soon as the plug-in is dropped on the clip, Mercalli fills the preview screen with a message saying "Video Analysis is required" (Figure 1, below).

Figure 1. Analyze first?

Your first instinct might be to immediately press the Analyze button in the plug-in.

Don't.

First, set up the application to the best of your knowledge of the camera, and what the camera is doing.
For example, if the camera is primarily moving side to side/panning, go to the Camera drop-down in the proDAD Mercalli v4 dialog box in the Vegas Video Event FX window (Figure 2, below) and choose GlideCam. If the camera is handheld pointing at a subject in a scene, choose Rock-Steady or Universal. Choosing the correct camera setting is a big part of achieving the best end result.

Figure 2. The proDAD Mercalli V4 dialog box in the Vegas Video Event FX window. Choosing the right option from the Camera drop-down before Mercalli analyzes your video will get you better stabilization results.

Next, if you know the camera model used for shooting the footage, make sure it’s selected in the Used Camera Optics drop-down menu (Figure 3, below).

Figure 3. Choose the camera used to capture your source footage from the Used Camera Optics drop-down.

At this point, you could hit the Analyze button, but I've learned it best to add one more option. In the lower portion of the dialog box shown in Figure 2, there is a Chart feature. In this feature, users may choose from a variety of charts for the application to display in the Video Preview Window. This will be helpful later on. The chart does not require another analysis, but it does save a few seconds overall in the processing and setting choices to be made later on. Choosing this now will provide visual feedback, making the smoothing/stabilization choices much faster (and is one of the secrets to why this software is simply a "gotta-have”).

Now it's time to Analyze the video.

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proDad's latest release is a standalone application called ReSpeedr, which the company touts as "the Ultimate Super Slow-Motion & Time-Lapse Video Producer"; here we check out ReSpeedr's usability and test its image quality compared to that available natively in an NLE on moderately and extremely slowed-down clips.
The new version of proDAD's popular video stabilization solution, Mercalli V4 SAL + works really well, and has grown into more than just a stabilizer, adding CMOS correction to remove the jello, wobble, and skew distortions caused by modern CMOS sensor cameras. Essentially it is two products in one.
Paul Schmutzler demos and discusses the first-ever Mac version of proDAD's popular and powerful Mercalli stabilization solution.