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Review: proDAD Mercalli Version 4 SAL+

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.

I’ve had the privilege of doing a number of tutorials and reviews of the proDAD line of video utilities over the years. A while back I heard rumors of a really amazing update to Mercalli coming in version 4. All I was hearing about it was how it was going to be phenomenal. Recently, I received a pre-release version so I could start on some tutorials and a review. All I can say is, “WOW.” Mercalli V4 SAL + works really well, and has grown into more than just a stabilizer. I was anxious to dive in and try it on some footage of my own.

What Do “SAL” and “+” Mean?

The first item that is different is a small modification to the name of the utility. It’s now called Mercalli Version 4 SAL+. SAL stands for Stand Alone Application. At the moment V4 is available only as a standalone Windows clip processing tool. Plug-in versions may be available at a later time. The nature of a plug-in frequently limits the processing power that can be used, so only the standalone application can deliver the full features of the new functionality.

The “+” indicates that Mercalli has become more than just a stabilization program. V4 now adds CMOS correction to remove the jello, wobble, and skew distortions caused by modern CMOS sensor cameras. Essentially it is two products in one.

Introducing the New Mercalli Interface

Upon opening the application the interface looked very similar to version 3, but if you look closely, you’ll see a few new things that are at the core of the application as shown below in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The updated Mercalli interface. Click the image to see it at full size.

CMOS Correction

The first thing I wanted to check out was the CMOS correction. Often, CMOS distortions are confused with shake, so if the CMOS is fixed first there may be less need for stabilization and the stabilization will then be more effective if needed. If CMOS were the main issue in the footage then very little, if any, zoom in would be needed to correct your footage. This means you retain more of your original footage.

Before you start working with your footage in Mercalli, set an In/Out point on the timeline below the clip, or Mercalli will process your entire clip. This allows you to isolate those special sections you want to include in your main project.

To fix the CMOS issue, use the Rolling Shutter Compensation option and the drop-down menu to pick your CMOS correction options, as shown in Figure 2 (below).

Figure 2. Choosing CMOS correction options. Click the image to see it at full size.

There are multiple options available, ranging from quick Jello/Wobble correction to extreme Vibration/Waves correction. The more extreme the option you select, the longer it will take for Mercalli to analyze your clip. If your CMOS issues are minor, then perhaps the lowest setting will do the trick. If your CMOS issues are more extreme, you may need to use the advanced features under the Vibrations/Waves option. The Stars in Figure 2 indicate the level of CMOS Correction being performed.

If you click on the down arrow, the dialog shown in Figure 3 (below) appears. The menu allows you to customize the CMOS Correction to the needs of your footage. I can tell you that if you select the Vibrations/Waves option, the processing is going to take a significant amount of time to process. For example, at the most extreme settings for my bike footage (included at the end of this article), my clip was set for 6.5 seconds, and the processing easily took about 20-30 minutes. It takes a while, but the results are worth it if you need to use that footage. My sample clip had pretty bad CMOS issues so it probably took much longer than footage that was not as bad.

Figure 3. The CMOS Correction dialog

While your footage is being analyzed, Mercalli displays the progress screen shown in Figure 4 (below). Note the three options shown. These are the steps Mercalli is using to fix your footage. The first step is to analyze the CMOS. Once Mercalli understands how your sensor is creating the CMOS issues it will start correcting them as shown in our example. This is the part that takes a significant time to complete. Next, Mercalli analyzes and fixes your camera movement. Note the CMOS map on the right. It uses a spectral color type of display to show you the CMOS patterns it is finding. As you can see, my clips had some serious issues.

Figure 4. Serious CMOS issues. Click the image to see it at full size.

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