In this tutorial you learn how to stabilize a shaky clip using the mask tracker of Adobe After Effects with the extension MaskTracker+. The advantage of this technique compared to using the Warp Stabilizer is that you have accurate control how the image should be stabilized. Our sample clip his a hand-held shot on a boat that we . We stabilize it in two different ways: First, we stabilize it such that the horizon moves steadily and then we stabilize it such that the boat moves steadily. You will be surprised how different the two stabilizations feel.

Stabilization is just one of many functions of MaskTracker+. This extension turns the mask tracker of After Effects into a powerful general purpose tracker that you can use to stabilize or move layers, do corner pins and more.


Hello, this is Mathias Möhl for and in this tutorial I show you how to stabilize a shaky clip in After Effects using the mask tracker and the extension MaskTracker+. After Effects already comes with a great stabilizer on board - the warp stabilizer stabilizes most clips easily with a single click. But sometimes you need more creative control. Let’s take a look at this clip, for example. It is a hand-held shot from a boat, hence the camera is moving relative to the boat and the boat itself is moving relative to the horizon. Therefore we can stabilize it in two different ways. Here I stabilized the horizon. As a consequence the horizon moves smoothly but the boat is pretty shaky. Here is another variant, where I stabilized the boat instead of the horizon. As you can see, now the boat moves smoothly and the horizon is shaking more again. In other words, the first variant feels like the camera is flying smoothly in the air, like a drone that moves independently of the boat, whereas the second variant feels like the camera is on the boat. Let’s quickly compare those two variants with a stabilization created with the Warp Stabilizer of After Effects - here with default settings except for setting smoothness to 100%, just to exaggerate the differences. The warp stabilizer tries to stabilize the entire content of the image, so is is not able to focus on either the horizon or the boat. It tries to stabilize both the horizon and the boat, and even the women in the foreground which covers a significant portion of the frame. As a consequence, everything stays a bit shaky and the result feels unnatural because the warp tries to create the impossible, namely stabilizing everything in the frame. So in these situations, the mask tracker gives you more creative control what exactly you want to stabilize.

Let’s create those two stabilizations in After Effects and start with the one where we stabilize the horizon. I have already created this mask here which includes the part of the image that we want to be as stable as possible. I included the horizon and also some clouds as they move with the horizon and offer a nice texture for the tracker. Notice that I’ve set the mask mode to “None” such that still the entire clip is visible. We select the mask, right click and choose “track mask”. Then we make sure the tracking method is set to “Position & Rotation”, since there is no scaling going on in this shot, and start the track.

Once the track is finished, we open MaskTracker+ which you find at the bottom of the Window menu once it is installed. We simply select the mask and click “load” such that MaskTracker+ extracts the tracking data from the mask. You can also select several masks simultaneously and MaskTracker+ will combine their movement into a single track. Now we choose the stabilize function, make sure our footage layer is selected and click apply. Now we choose to smooth the movement and click ok. Now our layer is stabilized. MaskTracker+ also created this null layer which contains various effect controls to refine the stabilization. Lets increase the smoothness of Position to 370 frames to make the movement even more smooth. Finally we increase the scale here to about 120% to get rid of the borders.

And this is the result with stabilized horizon. To stabilize the boat instead of the horizon, we would need to do exactly the same steps, except that we would track a part of the boat instead of the horizon, as I’ve done in this composition here.

That’s how easy stabilization with the mask tracker is: Track the region that you want the stabilizer to focus on, load the mask into MaskTracker+ and apply the stabilize function. And if you ever have issues getting an accurate track with the mask tracker, alternatively you can use the mocha tracker and MochaImport+ with a very similar workflow. For more infos about this, please visit the tutorial section of, where we have plenty of tutorials about MochaImport+, MaskTracker+ and other After Effects techniques.

Again, this is Mathias Möhl for, and I am looking forward you see you in the next tutorial!

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