When making a film or video, the goal is usually to get the smoothest shots possible. So why would you add a camera shake preset in post-production?

Camera shake presets are great. They have been around for quite some time, and as long as I’ve been interested in VFX and compositing, I’ve found plenty of uses for them. However, the whole prospect of camera shake presets can be a little confusing. Why did I spend all of this money on that expensive gimbal, or that new dolly system, if I’m going to add camera shake to the shot in post? What is the benefit of using a camera shake preset instead of just shooting the shot handheld on set? Who even wants shaky footage to begin with?

These are valid questions, but to answer them, you need to understand the utility of something like a camera shake preset. There are many uses for them beyond just giving a shaky look to your footage. And sometimes, you just want to add a bit more excitement to your scene. In the below video, Josh Noel from Sonduckfilm shows us how to add some free camera shake presets to your footage.

Thanks to the Bourne series (and many other movies and franchises), shaky camera shots have become the subject of as many jokes and memes as J.J. Abrams and lens flares. As a result, some people have forgotten the story-driven results you can get from good, handheld, documentary-style camera work. The handheld look also has multiple benefits for VFX compositing as well — especially now that most of us are shooting 4K and delivering in 1080.

Any time we mention our free camera shake presets, there are a few people who wonder what they’re for. So, here are some cases when camera shake presets will come in handy.

Adding Organic Movement to Motion Graphics

The video above is actually the first video I ever made here, and it’s a technique that I’ve been using for as long as I’ve been making motion graphics. Camera shake presets aren’t only for making live-action footage look handheld. Motion graphics often need a little more excitement or movement to make them interesting. Sure, you can use a wiggle expression, but why not add actual — natural — camera movement to your motion graphics?

In the example from the video, I used the effect to make a photo more interesting — instead of your average Ken Burns-style zoom in. I’ve actually used this technique in some documentary film edits and slideshows on many occasions. It just adds that little extra bit of professionalism and intrigue to an otherwise unremarkable visual effect.

Quick and Effective VFX Compositing

In the video above, you’ll find a few examples of using camera shake presets to help sell a visual effect — particularly the breakdown of the explosion shot at the end of the film.

In this example, the shot was a locked off on a tripod. This way, there was no tracking necessary when adding the fire and explosion elements — you could just throw them into the scene and match the color correction. Then, if you want to add that handheld look (so that it matches the rest of the scene), or add the necessary amount of intensity to the shot, you can throw a camera shake preset on top of everything. This way, you have a comped VFX scene in a matter of clicks.

Sometimes, a realistic-looking explosion in your scene is not enough. Sometimes, you need to add a bit of shake to sell it well — especially at the moment of the detonation.

Controllable Intensity

When it comes to most aspects of filmmaking, I’m a purist. I want to capture everything in camera as close as possible to the final product that I envision.  However, sometimes, you may want to wait until post and see if any extra camera movement is necessary.

A car shot is a great example, in my opinion. If you’re getting a car shot, often, if you try to do it handheld while sitting in the passenger seat (or something like that), your shot will be so shaky that it’s nearly unusable. So, if you’re making a handheld scene and want to set it in a car, try setting up a tripod in the passenger seat and shoot the scene locked off. Then, in post, add in some camera shake.

This way, you can customize and get the exact amount of shake you want. Add a zoom, or make the shake slower — you can customize it however best serves the story.

Free Camera Shake Presets

For cases like those I mentioned above, PremiumBeat released some FREE camera shake presets. The crew captured these organically with a camera pointed at some tracking markers. The tracking markers where then tracked in After Effects and saved as motion presets. You can add these to any object in AE, but I’d suggest adding them to null objects for better organization.

If you’d like to give them a try, check them out here.

Looking for more post-production assets? Check these out.