WARNING: This was written before the latest GoPro update. Most of this sticky is still valid. There is still a lot of useful information in it. The biggest impact the new firmware has on this thread is in the use of ND filters. In the past, we used ND filters to "trick" the GoPro into using slower shutter speeds (not to be confused with frame rate). Now we can lock the shutter speed in GoPro settings. ND filters will still be an essential tool. Slow shutter speeds will lead to blown out footage in the whites. An appropriate ND filter will allow you to get a good exposure at the shutter speed of your choice.
Good Stuff !
Table of Contents:
- Suggested GoPro Settings for Solo
- Description of All Settings
- GoPro Filters
- Replacement Lenses
- Useful Links
- Color Correction Basics (coming soon)_____________________________________________
Suggested GoPro Settings for Solo
The Solo Gimbal is only compatible with the GoPro Hero 3+ and Hero 4 cameras. The settings in the table below are based on the current top-of-the-line Hero 4 Black. For other models, you may have to compromise on resolution or frame rate, but all other settings will be the same.
Use the Basic settings if you just want to fly, not figure out a GoPro. You’ll get high definition video, good color, reduced fisheye distortion, and you won’t need an (expensive) high speed SD card. Video file sizes will be smaller, so YouTube uploads will be easier. These settings are perfect if you plan to upload full length, unedited takeoff-to-landing videos.
Use these settings if you like the “GoPro look” but want better quality than Basic. Some color correction (particularly adjusting exposure on blacks and mid-tones) will help, but is not required. File sizes will be a lot bigger, so it’s probably a good idea to use some kind of video editor to trim things down.
Proper color correction is required or this footage will look flat and faded. While resolution is “only” 2.7K, the higher 60 fps has a number of benefits:
- Allows faster panning and tilting of camera without getting judder. (more info)
- Reduces jello and makes footage smoother over all.
- Allows for great slow motion effects.
These settings will achieve the highest possible image quality that “feels” the most cinematic. However, these settings alone aren't enough to maximize quality. You'll also need to do the following:
- Use a filter to slow down shutter speed. (See Filters section below).
- Fly smooth and slow. In particular, at 30 fps you'll need to pan slowly to avoid judder. (more info)
- Color correct properly in post using professional grade software (Final Cut, Premiere, DaVinci, etc).
- Editing 4K files requires a Powerful Mac/PC with a big fast hard drive (ideally a RAID 0 or 5 with at least 6 platters and a high speed connection to Mac/PC)NOTE: These are the requirements to achieve the BEST possible results. You can still get super great 4K video without all of that. For example, you could use the “Good” settings above, but use 4K, 30 fps, and a Wide field of view. The resulting footage will have the "GoPro look" in terms of color and saturation._____________________________________________
Keep GoPro WiFi OFF
GoPro's WiFi interferes with the Solo, potentially causing a crash.
This means you cannot use a GoPro smart remote or smartphone app.
Gimbal Required to Control GoPro in the Air
With a gimbal, you can start/stop recording from the ground. The next Solo software update (September 2015) is reported to add control over GoPro settings (resolution, fps, etc). Without a gimbal, you must push the record button on your GoPro before take off.
Live Feed = Crappy Video.
Even though you can record the live video feed from the Solo App directly to your tablet’s camera roll, it will be very low quality. You have to import your videos directly from the GoPro SD card to get high quality video.
Fast SD Required for Protune and 4K
A fast SD Card rated U3 is recommended to keep up with 4K capture and Protune's higher bit rate. (info)
Description of All Settings
Protune enables additional settings like ISO and White Balance, but most importantly, it allows your GoPro to write to its internal SD card at higher bit rates, packing more detail and nuanced color into every frame. Bringing Protune footage to life requires proper color correction.
This video shows two GoPros mounted side-by-side with Protune OFF and ON. At the 1:15 minute mark, note how much more detail can be achieved with the Protune footage.
(this footage was shot underwater, but its a good example of Protune for any kind of footage.)
For the most part, Protune is meant to be used with software like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro X. Having said that, it is possible to do limited color correction in consumer editors like GoPro Studio or iMovie. Furthermore, you can minimize the need for color correction if you use the “Good” settings from the table above. You’ll get the benefits of Protune's higher bit rate, with the standard GoPro look (colors, saturation).
PROTUNE RULE OF THUMB. For maximum quality when Protune is on, pick settings that require your GoPro to perform the least amount of adjustment to the raw pixel data captured by its CMOS sensor.
Since there’s been a lot of speculation on these forums, lets just get it out of the way: 4K does not show Solo’s landing gear IF you fly slow and make smooth soft yaw turns. The landing gear will show up in frame if you do hard maneuvers, especially side-to-side, or if the Solo is buffeted by strong gusts of wind.
With that out of the way, some general comments on resolution…
If you are new to GoPro, all you really need to know is that higher resolution equals better detail, but limits other settings (like Field of View and Frames per Second). There is no doubt that 4K on a Hero 4 Black results in the best detail, but it forces a Wide field of view (FOV) which has a strong fisheye distortion (more on FOV below).
Capture v.s. delivery.
Footage captured at 4K or 2.7K, then scaled down to 1080P is always better looking than footage captured at 1080P originally. You get more detail when you down scale to 1080P, and it naturally removes noise caused by the GoPro’s CMOS sensor. So even if you plan to deliver in 1080P (to Vimeo or YouTube for example), it is still worth it to capture in 4K or 2.7K.
As you can see from the table above, capturing at 4K or 2.7K leaves you a lot of room to crop while staying above a delivery resolution of 1080P. With 4K you can correct fisheye distortion, re-frame, and apply aggressive stabilization, all without dropping below 1080P.
Consider Delivery in 1080P
Even though web services like Youtube now support 4K video, the quality isn’t great and only users with very fast internet will even be able to watch in 4K. Most people will actually watch your video in 720P, or maybe even 480P, unless they deliberately click into the youtube settings to select a higher resolution. Also, keep in mind that 1080P is the current broadcast standard for High Definition TV.
All the superview resolutions capture with the full 4:3 sensor, but dynamically stretch the image to a 16:9 aspect ratio. This violates the “Protune Rule of Thumb” mentioned earlier, so if you want maximum quality, avoid these resolutions.
2.7K(4:3) and 1440
I haven't tested these on the Solo (yet), but they could be good options to get a little more resolution to play with for re-framing, etc.
1080P (and 720P)
Capturing at 1080P is actually a pretty viable choice for the Solo. It allows very high frame rates up to 120 fps on some GoPros. 1080P (at a high frame rate) could be the best capture resolution for close-in shots with a lot of action or foreground movement that you will slow down later. 720P allows even higher frame rates for super-duper-slow motion.
Frames per Second (fps)
NTSC vs PAL
Frame rates in the table at the top of this post have been updated to show NTSC/PAL. NTSC is the GoPro default and the standard format for televisions in North America. PAL is the standard pretty much everywhere else. So "60/50" in the table at the top means 60 if you live in North America, and 50 if you live anywhere else (and have switched your GoPro to PAL).
If you plan to upload your videos to the web, you do not need to switch your GoPro to PAL. The web doesn't care about TV standards. There are benefits to the PAL standard over NTSC related to color hue, but these do not translate to the web. You'll only need PAL if you plan to directly connect your GoPro via HDMI cable to a television outside of North America, or if you want to edit your footage into a project which will be delivered in PAL (on a DVD for example). For that reason (but mostly because I am lazy) I'm not going to update the rest of this post to include comparable PAL frame rates.
Quality vs. Smoothness
Frame rate should be thought of in terms of a trade-off between quality and smoothness. Lower frame rates generally provide higher image quality, but higher frame rates result in smoother video with reduced jello and less judder during fast pans.
Most of us will probably opt for 60 fps as a good balance. Some of us may even select a lower resolution just so we can use a higher frame rate. For example, on a Hero 3+ Black, some may prefer 1080P at 60 fps over 2.7K at 30 fps.
Maximum Frame Rate Available by Resolution
(see note on NTSC vs PAL above)
View attachment 1168Benefits of higher frame rates:
1. Smoother overall footage.
2. Reduces jello.
3. Removes skipping/judder common when panning (too quickly), for example, during a Cable Cam shot. (info)
4. Allows for smooth slow motion effects.
Caution: Be careful going above 60 fps. Image quality will degrade noticeably.
Frame rate and Image Quality
To achieve the highest possible image quality on a GoPro, lower frame rates (30 or 24 fps) are required. This is because lower frame rates allow the GoPro to use slower shutter speeds. However, to achieve the highest quality, you’ll need to fly slow and smooth and use a filter (more info in the Filters section below).
Shutter speed does not equal frame rate. When your GoPro captures a frame of video, its CMOS sensor may only record light for a brief instant during that frame. This is equivalent to the mechanical "shutter speed" on a traditional camera. In different lighting conditions, this "shutter speed" may increase or decrease, but it can never exceed the duration of 1 frame, thus a slower frame rate allows slower shutter speeds.
Benefits of slower shutter speeds:
1. More detail.
2. Better, more nuanced color
3. A slight motion blur, which eliminates jello and “feels” more cinematic.
“Encouraging” your GoPro to use a slower shutter speed.
Shutter speed is set automatically based on the amount of light entering the camera. However, we can “encourage” it to slow down by reducing our frame rate to 30 or 24 fps. If we really want to talk our GoPro into using a slower shutter speed, we can also set our ISO Limit to 400 and use an ND Filter. (ISO Limit and Filters are discussed below)
Field of view (FOV)
The Field of View on a GoPro is a bit of an illusion. Its not as if the lens magically changes when we switch FOV. The light hitting the sensor is the same. When we use a Wide FOV, the GoPro captures data from the entire sensor. When we move down to Medium FOV, the GoPro simply crops in on a smaller area in the middle of the sensor. For a Narrow FOV it crops in even further. Medium and Narrow appear to have less fisheye distortion only because there is always less distortion in the middle of the frame.
So we could shoot in Wide, and then crop our video on a Mac or PC to get the same effect. If you shoot in 4K Wide, you have a ton of room to play with to decide exactly how much you want to crop (see Comparison of Resolutions chart above).
With the Spot Meter OFF, exposure is adjusted based on the average brightness of all pixels in the frame. This is what you want.
With the Spot Meter ON, exposure is based on a single dot in the center of the frame. This is bad for drone video because that center dot can sweep across a dark background (ex. a forrest) to a light background (ex. a road or some rocks) and back again in a split second, resulting in a flashing effect as the GoPro rapidly shifts exposure. Don’t use the spot meter.
“Native" White Balance means the GoPro won’t spend any cycles processing the sensor data to set a white point (see Rule of Thumb under Protune above). We can set the white point easily and more accurately in Final Cut or Adobe.
If you don’t want to use “Native,” then you should probably use the “Auto” setting AND turn on "GoPro Color” (see Color below).
If you want to set the White Point yourself, you probably know what it means already and don’t need an explanation ;-). In short: 5500K for most drone flights during the day. 3000K will tint your footage blue, 6500K will make it warmer. For more on GoPro White Balance, look here: GoPro Official Website - Capture + share your world
“Flat” tells your GoPro not to adjust color information in the pixel data collected by the CMOS sensor (Rule of Thumb, again). It will look horrible at first, but once color corrected (in Final Cut or Adobe for example) it will give you the best possible image your GoPro can achieve. More nuanced colors improve detail and image quality; its especially noticeable in the darkest and lightest areas.
“GoPro Color” isn’t bad at all. A lot of people love the GoPro look. If you use it, make sure to set White Balance to “Auto” (or whatever temperature you want).
Lock this in at 400. It will result in the least amount of noise from the CMOS sensor. The only exception to this rule is if you are flying in very low light, which you probably shouldn't be doing anyway ;-).
Set this to Low. The less your GoPro processes the CMOS pixel data, the better (Rule of Thumb yet again). You can do the sharpening in an editor (Final Cut for example). Aside from that, the amount of sharpening is a matter of taste.
Its tempting to think of Exposure Value Compensation as an electronic ND filter. For example, an EV Comp of -2 is the equivalent of 2 stops darker, and is therefore about the same as an ND4 filter. But if you test it out, there are lots of instances where that doesn’t hold up. This is mainly because EV Comp only works within your ISO limit, after the camera has already calculated what it thinks a correct exposure should be. In reality, EV Comp is more of a “suggestion” we are giving to the GoPro auto exposure code, letting it know how we think a scene should look.
In practical terms on a GoPro, if its a normal sunny day, and you aren’t using an ND filter, an EV Comp of -0.5 or -1 seems to be a good default to knock down some of the glaring whites. If it is very bright out, or there are lots of reflections, don’t be afraid to crank your EV Comp all the way down to -2.
For the "Best" settings listed at the top, I suggested an EV Comp of 0 because I assume you'll be using the proper filter for the lighting conditions during a shoot.
When/if a Solo update is released that allows us to adjust EV Comp from the ground, I think a lot of us will make extensive use of it - whether we use filters or not.
Filters are a topic for another thread, but they improve aerial GoPro footage so much that its worth covering the basics.
Using a quality glass filter improves color and detail by reducing bright areas, whether its a blown out mid day sky, or reflections and glare off water, foliage, rocks, sand, grass, etc. Footage will look richer and more saturated (bluer skies, graduated clouds, greener trees). Details across the board will be sharper, especially when footage is properly color corrected.
By reducing the amount of light entering the lens, filters “encourage” the GoPro to use a slower shutter speed per frame (see Frames per Second above). This means the CMOS sensor has more time to absorb that light information without getting blasted all at once. The result is better detail in both blacks and highlights (color correction to bring up exposure in blacks is usually required for best results). At the same time, a slower shutter speed creates a bit of motion blur, which may sound like it would reduce detail, but in practice only softens up motion where it needs it. Motion blur also “feels” more cinematic and reduces or eliminates jello.
Glass has better optics than plastic. Only use glass filters.
Neutral Density filters reduce the amount of light entering a camera on all visible wave lengths. They are “neutral” in that they don’t favor any single color (like a color tinted lens would). The number you see associated with an ND filter is how much less light gets into the camera. So an ND4 lets in 4 times less light. That equates to 2 stops down in camera guy terms.CP Filters
ND4 = 2 stops = 4 times less light
ND8 = 3 stops = 8 times less light
ND16 = 4 stops = 16 times less light
Circular Polarized filters reduce the amount of light entering a camera by only allowing light waves with a specific polarization to pass through. See this article for more info - All about Polarizers - Linear and Circular
It is necessary to rotate a CP filter to the right angle for it to work best. If you move your camera, you will likely have to rotate the CP again to maintain the same effect. This presents a problem for drone footage where the camera is always moving and subjects are always being shot from different angles. None-the-less, a CP filter can be worth it, especially if you take the time to plan your flight and rotate your filter accordingly. On a drone, it could let you do things like peer down beneath the surface of a lake.
What to buy
The weight of a filter can throw off the balance of a gimbal. Therefore you only want to buy the lightest weight filters. Here are some links to good quality filters that I know of. I’m sure you can find the same ones on other sites for less money.
BlurFix Air 3 Pack
BlurFix Air Professional 6-Pack
GoPro Frame2.0 Filter Professional Edition 6-Pack
GoPro Filters : Peau Productions - Store
Replacement GoPro Lenses
This is definitely a topic for another thread, but suffice it to say that there are companies out there who sell replacement lenses for the GoPro, many of which do not cause fisheye distortion. Peau Productions sells GoPros with the lens already replaced, or you can just buy the lens and do the replacement yourself. You can also send them your GoPro and they will replace the lens for you.
GoPro Support - GoPro Official Website - Capture + share your world - The GoPro support page is actually very good.
Abe Kislevitz Blog - Understanding Video in the HERO4 (Thanks to @Sampson for this link)
Cineclast - Best Settings for Perfect Drone Footage. Me Thinks.
MicBergsma - GoPro and other tips
Color Correction Basics
[more coming... eventually]
If you use the "Very Good" or "Best" settings suggested at the top, then you'll have to color correct your footage. Therefore I thought I should at least address the basics.
I'll add some more to this section later, but the cliff note version is that you should follow this work flow:
I like to color correct first to get a baseline across all clips, then color grade to get a certain look. If I don't like the grade, I can always turn it off and start over from a color correct image.
- Adjust Exposure first. Start with blacks, then highlights, then mid-tones. Use a waveform luma scope and don't crush your blacks or highlights.
- Adjust Global color tint to set white point. Use an RGB parade scope. I usually crop in on something that should be white or neutral and then adjust until the RGB parade is even. There are also plugins that will help you set a white point.
- Adjust saturation last. Don't be afraid to crank it up, but if it looks to you like it might possibly be over saturated but you aren't sure... then it's over saturated.