Initial impressions of CoreMelt's Lock & Load X

[col-sect][column] I remember when I first discovered Final Cut’s SmoothCam filter. I was young and it was summer. I was doing my first helicopter shoot and needed some help ironing out the rough edges on what I learned later was a very clean shoot. Our time together was new and exciting. I was shooting on an HVX200 at 1080p and the client needed a 720p product so I never noticed SmoothCam’s faults. At the end of our shoot, Smooth and I went our separate ways as all summer relationships must. Years later, I needed SmoothCam again and found it lacking. I hadn’t noticed its slow calculations and its ridiculous handling of CMOS footage before, but now it was all I could see.

I found CoreMelt’s Lock & Load X while trying to find a better solution than VirtualDub’s Deshaker for rolling shutter removal.[/column]

[column]I don’t like leaving Final Cut to process my material any more than I have to, so The Foundry’s Rolling Shutter plugin for After Effects is not an option to me. Lock & Load X turned out to be a fantastic find.

The short review of L&LX is that it’s a powerful and quick stabilizer that handles CMOS roll OK.

Here’s a quick video I pulled together over the weekend while some good friends were in town. I shot on my 5D with a 24-105. I kept the IS on for most shots. I was at the back of the canoe so I couldn’t focus on shooting too much with my 8 months-pregnant wife insisting that I not let the craft drift into logs, palms, and alligators. This was made for a realistic worst-case scenario.[/column][/col-sect]

[col-sect][column]How does it work?

First off, you need to know that all digital stabilizers achieve their results by analyzing a clip, finding what objects are consistent in that clip, and then figuring out how to draw a box around those objects such that if that box where the frame it would look like a smooth shot. Basically it’s a dynamic, moving crop box. This means that if you are planning on using any digital stabilizer, you should edit on a timeline that is one size smaller than your source material. So, if you are shooting 1080p, use a 720p timeline. This way, your stabilized images will remain sharp and not be stretched.

As a stabilizer, I have never used a better product than Lock & Load X. It tracks clips quickly and does it in the background so you can keep editing while L&LX is thinking. Even on my laptop I found this to be a hiccup-less process. Once it’s done tracking, you have a lot of control over how the stabilizer plays out. You can control how much it compensates for horizontal, vertical, and rotational movements individually. You can even tell it to lock down a shot so that it looks more like it’s a static shot on sticks. From there, render time is dependent on the complexity of your codec versus your timeline.
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The soft spot in Lock & Load X is the feature I was the most excited about initially: shutter roll removal. For mild pan object-tilt and light handheld jello it works great, but when movements get a little complex the algorithm gets confused and gives objects a momentary vibrating effect. Is it better than the jello? Most of the time, yes; however I do find it distracting to watch when it’s bad, as you can see in the video above.

Is it worth it?

At $150, I would say it’s worth it for anyone who ends up having to digitally stabilize often in their post-production. I seem to never have sticks around when I should so the large reduction in render time was well worth it for me. As a shutter roll remover it’s the simplest solution around for FCP and if you are doing commercial work or a narrative film and can control most of your camera movements onsite, then Lock & Load X will help get rid of those little imperfections in your image for sure. That being said, it’s not really capable of removing the roll entirely and exaggerates short, fast movements like bumping the camera or moving from the focus to zoom rings. So if I have my eye piece and am being careful, I think the shutter roll removing function will have be really useful, most of the time….[/column][/col-sect]