Testing the GoPro Video Camera Modes
The GoPro video camera has a lot of video modes and settings for shooting videos and time-lapse sequences, so how can anyone know which settings are correct? This was my dilemma, and it kept me from shooting anything because I didn’t know what settings to use. But, I said “screw this” and just went ahead and shot with whatever. By trial and error, I think I’ve figured out what works best. Here’s what I learned.
The GoPro Video Modes Explained and Assessed
Instead of explaining every one of the video modes and settings in a confusing table of stuff you have to look through, instead, I would like to categorize each with what I’ve used them for and what works. Here you go:
- Normal Video (normal speed, video documentary, day)
- 2.7k, 30fps, wide. Extremely sharp. Convert down to 1080p 30fps in post process. Fast panning will cause rolling shutter, so keep the action and movement to a slower pace.
- Action Video (normal speed, action or movement, RC helicopter/drone movies, car mounts, day)
- 1080p, 60fps, wide. Great for motion as it will not produce rolling shutter or Jello® type of problems. Can be reduced to 30fps in post process to get half-speed slow motion (or 24fps for slightly slower).
- 1080p, 60fps, medium or narrow. These will not look GoPro-like and could be good for some types of action videos. With a narrower field of view, the images will be shakier.
- 1440p, 48fps. Used by some professionals for their videos – can still cause rolling shutter or jello type of issues.
- Slow Motion (slow down the action, day)
- 720p, 120fps, narrow. Good clarity, but the high frame rate is what you need if you want to slow down the video to 30fps or 24fps in post processing.
- 1080p, 60fps, wide, medium, or narrow. Can be slowed to half speed in post.
My Favorite GoPro Video Modes (video)
GoPro Camera Mounted on My Windshield (photo)
Note: Protune can either be on or off. If it is on, your videos will require tuning of the color in post-processing. If it is off, the videos will have that “GoPro look” right out of the camera. The Protune setting allows videos to be manipulated better in post-process and is less compressed than non-Protune shot videos. However, they also have a flatter look in color coming right out of the camera. Additional note: 50 fps is used by European systems (PAL) and is thought to be somewhat comparable to 60 fps in North America (NTSC) as far as the rolling shutter (Jello®) issue, although I have not tested this out.
Time-lapse Using Video
- Timelapse of Moving Action (car mounted drive, street scene with camera stationery, day)
- 4k, 15fps, wide. Convert to 24 or 30 fps in post process to speed up the action. Use blur and frame speed-up options in GoPro Studio for even faster and smoother videos. See this example [click here]. Protune on. Set to a specific color temperature to avoid color shifts during filming.
- 4k Cin, 12fps, wide. Same as above, but with a slightly higher resolution due to the cinematic mode. With slightly slower recording, the post processed conversion will look even faster. Protune should be on same as above comments.
- Time-lapse at Night (stationary, star and sky, city lights, night)
- 4k, 15fps, wide. Same as for day time-lapses, but with Protune off. Protune will cause unwanted noise at night so keep it off.
- 4k, 12fps, wide. Also same as for day time-lapses. Protune off.
- Time-lapse at Dusk or Dawn (day and night transitions, sunrises, sunsets, dusk)
- 4k, 15fps, wide. Same as for day time-lapses. Protune on, but set to auto and not a specific color temperature.
- 4k, 12fps, wide. Same as for day. Protune on and auto.
TimeLapse Using Video
Time-lapse Using Stills (Camera Frames)
Use 7MP wide or med for a smaller file size and better processing speed. Alternately, use 12MP wide for more room to pan within the frames. I show 7MP in each below, but keep this in mind.
- Time-lapse during Day (city, traffic, events, day)
- 7MP, 2 sec. interval. Protune on. Set a color temperature if possible.
- 7MP, 1 sec. interval. Same as above but smoother and slower time-lapse with less time compression. Protune on. Set a color temperature if possible.
- Time-lapse at Night (stars, sky, night)
- 7MP, 5 sec. interval. Protune off.
- 7MP, 10 sec. interval. Same as above but for longer shooting times and faster time-lapse with more time compression. Protune off.
- Time-lapse at Dusk or Dawn (day and night transitions, sunrises, sunsets, dusk)
- 7MP, 2 sec. interval. Protune on. Auto white balance.
- 7MP, 5 sec. interval. Same as above but a faster time-lapse with more time compression. Protune on with auto white balance.
- Moving Daytime Time-lapse (action, car mounts, super smooth stationery, day)
- 7MP, 0.5 sec. interval. Protune on.
- 7MP, 1 sec. interval. Protune on.
TIMELAPSE USING Stills
Video Conversion Software
If you’re just starting out or for advanced users if you need its special features such as frame skipping and time-lapse creation, I recommend using GoPro Studio for converting the videos you create. It is designed for the GoPro camera and works well. Use this for normal videos and time-lapse videos that were captured using video (not stills). Convert to 23.97 fps for a cinematic, movie look. Convert to 29.97 fps for a television video look. I like cinematic myself, but do what looks best to you and what fits your needs. For high-speed time-lapse use the conversion method that speeds up normal video. You can see my example here [click here]. If you’re farther along in video editing, I still recommend you use GoPro Studio for some of your work but try using more advanced programs like Sony Creative Software’s Movie Studio or similar programs. What works best for me is to first import and process the video in GoPro Studio to remove the fisheye distortion. Then I import it into Sony Creative Software’s Movie Studio. There are three advantages:
- GoPro Studio removes the fisheye better than I can in any other program. Here are my settings in this picture below.
- Sony Movie Studio lets me add effects, titles, and output the video in a standardized frame rate for Vimeo or YouTube. I make all my videos 30fps and this allows me to get the source files from GoPro Studio in whatever native frame rate they came in (like 60 fps) then combine them with other videos at different frame rates, and output a combined video at a single frame rate that looks good.
- Sony Movie Studio produces a smaller file size than GoPro Studio. Here is a comparison of file sizes. Note that only using Movie Studio creates a slightly smaller file size, but I don’t get the advantage of the fisheye removal from GoPro if I only use Movie Studio.
One item that you can run into is the combining of different record speeds (frame rates) into a single video. For example, 30 fps footage combined with 60 fps footage. This can be done in a simple way by converting both to the same frame rate, but when this is done, one or the other will speed up or slow down (the frame rate either doubles or halves on one to match the other). Sony Creative Software’s Movie Studio can do this work for you. You can make slow motion videos by changing the frame rate in GoPro Studio at the time of import and convert, or you can do it afterward (recommended) in Movie Studio or a similar program. The size of the videos that you want to combine should be the same to work well. For example. a 720p video will not combine well with a 1080p video because they are different sizes on the screen. If not, there could be black bars added to the video to match size. Again Sony Creative Software’s Movie Studio will do this almost automatically for you.
For some slow motion effects that are super slow, try using Twixtor. I have only just started using it and it can slow down video that is shot at 30 fps or higher to as little as 1% of the original speed. It does this by creating the in between frames that are missing. Amazing slow motion effects can be obtained.
Time-lapse Stills (Camera Frame) Processing Software
There are a lot of good time lapse combining programs out there, but I have settled on LRTimelapse for mine. It does a great job on transitions and de-flickering. Plus it works with Lightroom where I work daily with my photography. I used Panolapse in the past, but their licensing system makes me pay again every time my hard drive has an issue and needs replacement. This happened twice, and I had to pay twice to use their software. Not cool. I also have successfully used GoPro Studio, but LRTimelapse works better for me. GoPro Studio is a good program available
GoPro Studio is a good program available free from GoPro, so I recommend using it whenever you can. However, LRTimlapse does a much better job and the output looks amazing so if you can afford it and you use Lightroom already, then get LRTimelapse. You will not regret it.
TIMELAPSE USING LRTIMELAPSE
Some Issues with the GoPro Camera
I have run into some issues during filming but they are not severe, and you should only be aware of the potential for these.
- The sudden shutdown of the GoPro camera sometimes occurs, and I believe this is due to overheating. Also, it happens when the battery is at a lower level.
- The WiFi link to my smartphone works well to control the camera, but the preview image is not available in Protune and some video modes. It is available in 1080p without Protune, and it is handy to be able to see what is being recorded.
- I turn off the WiFi when using my helicopter remote control because the two WiFi signals can interfere with each other. See this post for more [link].
It is nearly impossible to know what video modes and settings to use on the GoPro camera without some extensive and time-consuming experimentation. By summarizing what I have learned here, you can reduce your experimentation time and get some good videos.
I’ll have more on video and time-lapse in future posts. In the meantime, you can follow me and my videos on my Vimeo page at http://vimeo.com/larslentz.
Thank you for reading what I wrote — I hope you enjoyed it!
Glossary of Terms Used in this Post
- 4K Cin – A cinematic film format suitable for movie theaters. ‘Cin’ implies a 17:9 aspect ratio instead of the usual 16:9.
- Protune – A video enhancement algorithm made for the GoPro camera where the result is more vivid color and sharper, higher-contrast images.
- fps – Frames per second – a measure of the frame rate. This is the number of frames that are shown each second in a video. Anything less than 23.976 will look jerky when viewed.
- 1080p – The size of the video on a screen. 1080 is the vertical size. The aspect ratio of 16:9 results in a 1080p video being 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall.
- Aspect ratio – The ratio of a video’s viewed width to height. 16:9 is common for video. 4:3 is also, but not in 1080p. 17:9 is cinematic (movie theater screen).
- Vimeo – A video hosting site that is higher quality than YouTube. It is preferred by photographers for this reason (and others).
- Holy Grail (time-lapse) – A time-lapse sequence that spans a day to night or night to day transition, without flicker.
- flicker – A flickering of a time-lapse video that is visible because of differences in exposure between individual frames of a time-lapse sequence. Deflicker refers to a software method to remove flicker.