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REVIEW: proDAD Mercalli V2 PRO

Resolution. Resolution. We hear this endless mantra as shooters demand larger and larger imagers with more and more resolution. Never mind the compression artifacts, the rolling shutter morass and umpteen storage challenges associated with the mammoth data load. When shooters go shopping these days for a camera, many seem interested in only two things: imager size — the larger the better; and pixel count — more is better, right? It’s a fad, of course, and it will pass. But for the moment we are living it — and have to deal with it.
One consequence of the current large-imager fixation is the increased demand for cheap CMOS-sensor type cameras with resolution to 5K (and beyond), which leave a great deal to be desired in terms of performance.

In the typical DSLR, FlipCam or other rudimentary video-capture device, the minimal sampling, crude video encoder and high compression ratios contribute to bountiful aliasing artifacts and a highly constrained dynamic range. ProDAD’s Mercalli V2 plug-in, for all its capabilities, can’t do much about these particular failings but it sure can address perhaps the most annoying shortcoming facing DSLR and FlipCam shooters: rolling shutter, the dreaded jello-like skewed effect seen in vertical lines during fast pans and tracking shots. For long-suffering RED and DSLR shooters the rolling shutter effect can be very distracting, and for folks trying to exploit the Large Sensor Revolution on a professional level the new Mercalli V2 plug-in is indispensable.

Traditional CCD sensors capture the entire frame at the same instant, much like a film frame is exposed in a cine camera. The analog stream from the CCD is then sent to the digital signal processor (DSP) where it is sampled and further processed in the digital realm. In contrast the CMOS imager converts the analog stream to digital at the surface of the sensor itself, requiring a systematic scanning of pixels like a computer monitor. The temporal displacement (seen in the photo, top) from the top to bottom of a frame can often be seen in vertically skewed elements during rapid panning or movement of the camera.


Not Just Rolling Shutter Compensation

The new Mercalli V2 PRO is not limited to correcting only rolling shutter skew. The plug-in also offers a state-of-the-art frame stabilization. Many of us are already familiar with Final Cut Pro’s built-in SmoothCam filter, which can be reasonably effective when applied to errant motion along the x and y-axes. 

Mercalli is vastly more sophisticated, and is in fact the only motion stabilization plug-in that compensates for camera shake along the z-axis as well. This aspect forms the basis for its so-called SmartBorder feature as z-axis compensation does not significantly impact the frame’s borders, reducing the need to blow up the image. Previously you had to do this at a loss of considerable resolution.

It’s important to note how effective the Mercalli V2 image stabilization really is. Ironically, one result after stabilization is the increased visibility of the rolling shutter. Take away the camera shake and lo’ and behold the skewed verticals suddenly become painfully obvious. Thus the parallel need for rolling shutter correction inside Mercalli to be applied at the same time as 3D stabilization.


Note for shooters with CCD cameras: because these cameras’ sensors do not exhibit rolling shutter defects, it is critical to uncheck this option when applying 3D stabilization. Failure to do so may produce unusable results.




Compared to other stabilization tools Mercalli’s SmartBorder technology greatly reduces the need to zoom in to correct for camera shake. There is little concomitant loss of resolution when using Mercalli 3D stabilization; the plug-in respects the original borders of the frame.



Efficient and Easy

The Mercalli plug-in is not only far more effective than than FCP’s SmoothCam, it is more efficient as well. Unlike FCP, which commits the SmoothCam reference file to a remote corner of the boot drive, Mercalli’s analysis file is discarded after rendering. This means one less important thing to worry about when managing and ultimately archiving your project. Simply stated, Mercalli V2 Pro is much more powerful and efficient than any other stabilization plug-in on the market.

There’s one more critical thing to mention here. Obviously there are many plug-ins available today serving many post-production needs. Supporting all the major editing platforms on Mac and PC, Mercalli V2 Pro is powerful, inexpensive and extremely easy to use.

We mustn’t forget this point. Unlike other plug-ins you might have acquired in the past, this is one you’re actually likely to use.

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