03/05/2012 Ross Fairgrieve

Best GoPro HD Hero2 Settings

Some of the longer readers will remember the old “Photo School” section of first WhereNextPhotography.com and then RossFairgrieve.com. Sadly, that is no more but it will be back in action in a few weeks. You might also remember that I did a video tutorial on the best modes or settings to use on the GoPro HD Hero; a tiny little, almost bullet-proof camera that’s designed principally for fixing to yourself and then doing things that you mum would have told you not to. No, NOT those things (you filthy minded little bu…) I’m talking about jumping off of stuff and sliding down things. GoPro’s own promo video gives a pretty damn good indication of the sort of thing I’m talking about.

Anyway, that video looks great right? Getting your GoPro videos to look that good relies on two things:

  1. Being clinically insane enough to try any of that stuff.
  2. Picking the right setting for your particular use.

So, a while back, I made a little video tutorial about when to use the GoPro HD Hero’s different settings. For those that missed it, here’s that original video tutorial (my God this is going to look boring if you just watched the video above!!):

So, almost as soon as that tutorial had finished uploading tut t’interweb, GoPro released the HD Hero2. This is a quite a bit better for a lot of reasons and is about to become a LOT better still. GoPro are releasing a firmware update in the summer which, amongst other things, is going to triple the data rate (make the footage 3 times less compressed) which should do great things for image quality. What makes it even better is that the firmware upgrade is going to be free! Go GoPro!

As such, a lot of people have contacted me asking what the best settings for the GoPro HD Hero2 video camera are. I’ve been planning to make another video tutorial about this for ages and it will be coming very soon but, until then, I decided to share an email reply that I sent to somebody who posed just that question to give you a hint of what’s to come. So, without further ado:

Hi,
   I just watched your video on the settings for the gopro.  I just bought the hero2 and was hoping you had a video for it also.  Do you have one yet?  I am leaving for vacation next week to Africa and would like some suggestions as to settings.  I have never used the gopro and would like to get the best pictures and video I can for my trip.  Hoping to do some cage shark diving to try out the underwater features.  We plan on a Safari and some mountain biking also.  Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.
Thanks, XXXX

Hi XXXX,

Thanks for getting in touch. I haven’t yet done a video for the Hero2 but I have been meaning to for ages. Unfortunately my website got hacked and deleted recently so I’ve been frantically trying to sort that out!

Anyway, the settings aren’t actually hugely different in the Hero2, they’re just named a bit more sensibly. You basically have two decisions:

1) Do you need slow motion?
2) How wide do you want to go?

If the answer to question 1 is “yes” then your best bet is probably “720-60″ mode. This shoots at 1280×720 resolution at 60 frames per second. This can then be slowed down to 30 frames per second (or even a bit slower) on the computer to give nice smooth slow motion. There is also a “WVGA-120″ mode which shoots at an even higher frame rate of 120 frames per second so it can effectively be slowed down twice as much. If SUPER slow motion is a priority, this is an option but the image quality is a lot worse than the 720-60 setting so I’d probably stick with 720-60. If you DON’T need slow motion, the best setting for our quality is “1080-30″ by quite a long way. This shoots at a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Because the frame rate is lower, it can’t really be slowed down. Slowing down 30 frames per second footage by 50% for example will give playback at 15fps which will look pretty jerky. The quality, however, is really, really good- much better than the already pretty good 720-60.

So that’s question 1 answered: if you need slow-mo, go for 720-60, otherwise go for 1080-30. On to question 2: how wide to you want to go?

If you’ve gone for 1080-30, you have a choose between three “angles or view” – wide, medium and narrow. Unless you really don’t want the ultra-wide “fisheye” effect, I’d stick to the “wide” mode in almost all cases. The wider angle of view fits more in, reduces the effect of camera shake and is MUCH better in low light than the narrower angles of view. Do bear in mind though, that the wide setting is VERY wide. You have to get way closer to things than you expect. For this reason, I probably wouldn’t use the wide setting if you’re trying to film lions on your safari! The 720-60 mode only has the option of WIDE so your choice is pretty easy there!

I’m really jealous of your cage diving! Are you off to Gansbaai? I actually studied oceanography at university so that’s always been on my list of do-before-you-die trips! The WIDE setting is great for underwater filming as it exaggerates perspective making the visibility seem much better. If the shark is right up at the cage, you shouldn’t have a problem with it seeming too far away (!) but if it’s a little way off, you might find that they seem MILES away in the footage so switching to MEDIUM might help there.

There’s actually one more consideration given that you’re going to take your GoPro underwater. Unfortunately the standard GoPro housing makes a bit of a mess of underwater footage. I took mine out for a day’s skin-diving in Vietnam and the video that I got was pretty much unusable. The standard housing with the domed front is great for use in air but, for use underwater, you really need a flat port in front of the lens or everything will be out of focus.

There are a couple of companies that make these. I bought one of THESE from Eye of Mine but THIS, from BlurFix, is probably what I’d buy now as you can get colour-correction filters for it. Take a look at THIS VIDEO and you’ll see how much of a difference the flat lens makes (fiddle with the little icons in the bottom-right corner to get it to 720p and fullscreen to really see the difference). If you do decide to pick up a BlurFix, I’d go for the option that says “Add a Spare Case” as, unlike the Eye of Mine housing, the BlurFix is just a part that screws onto your existing GoPro housing, not a whole new housing. The flat lens is great for underwater but not so good for above water (rain drops stick to it and things like that) and you really don’t want to have to take the housing to bits every time you move from underwater to above water!

The good news is that, for mountain biking, you don’t need to worry about any of that stuff. Pop the GoPro in your normal housing (though the CHEST HARNESS is great for anything on a bike), slap it on 720-60 for slow-mo or 1080-30-WIDE for maximum quality at normal speed and you’re good to go!

I hope that helps and have a great trip!

Ross

I hope that lot gives you a good starting point until the video tutorial, which will give a FULL run-down of the settings, is ready. Let me know if you’re keen on learning more about getting the most out of your GoPro. If there’s enough interest, I’ll start a whole tutorial section on things like choosing the best mounting options, doing timelapses with a GoPro HD Hero and the best way to use and view your GoPro footage once it’s onto your computer.

Comments (68)

  1. just found your site dude, very helpful thanks. have just used my Gopro HD Hero 2 for the first time, mounted on the front of my surfboard, would definitely appreciate a video on best use of settings for this. such an amazing little camera.

  2. my gopro isn't that great at taking pictures… could it be a problem with the unit? is at 11 mpx and isn't that great.. to much of noise on the pictures.

  3. Zakary Smith

    just bought the HD Hero2. I use it when I'm racing my dirtbike. ive used it 4 or 5 times and only gotten 1 good, clean playing video. all of the others are super glitchy and like to skip real bad. is there a certain setting I need to be using for really high speed videos with alot of bumps and jumps? every GOOD video ive seen on youtube..really looks nothing like mine….I NEED HELP!

    • i use 720p at 60 fps for downhill, it gets better because the camera takes 2x more photograms. So the movie is smoother

    • Jennifer Smith

      would that make the video look smooth on the track look smooth though? what should i use to make a smooth video of me riding at the dunes? ( im just trying to get the best/smoothest quality, with the "realtime" speed of what im actually doing)..it seems like its recording at 70-80% speed.

    • Zakary, when you say that your videos are "glitchy and like to skip", do you mean from the camera bouncing around or more like the video is actually skipping frames when it's playing back? If it's the first option, make sure the camera is set to wide mode. If it's the second (which sounds more like what you're talking about), there's something that you can do on your computer to make the videos play back smoothly. How good is your computer and, so that I can help you out, are you using a Mac or a PC?

    • Zakary Smith

      im using a pc. and its like the videos are skipping frames. i red the above article and went out today to mess with it and it was still doing it.

    • Zakary Smith

      it definately doesnt look like the gopro advertisements picture quality nor the other gopro videos ive seen on youtube

    • I'm having the same issues with mine..It's a real bummer when you get a great shot and the glitchiness ruins it. You have any luck fixing this yet?

    • One thing to consider is your SD card. If it's not a fast card, you might not be capturing all the frames. The GoPro, for example, can take a class 10 card.

      If you want to eliminate your computer as the source, I'd go to an Apple store and take a look at your video. If you select the video and hit cmd-I, then it'll tell you what dimensions your video is. On a PC, right click on the file and select Properties.

    • I have a Mac. To ensure this doesn't happen to me (as I just got my GoPro HD 2 and haven't tried it out) how would I go about fixing it?

    • I have a Mac. To ensure this doesn't happen to me (as I just got my GoPro HD 2 and haven't tried it out) how would I go about fixing it?

    • Hi Guys. I do have a fix for this and will get a post up about it this afternoon. Unfortunately, it's only for Mac at this point but I'll figure out the PC way of doing it soon (it's only a very minor change to the Mac process that I have to figure out).

    • Stefanie Eggert

      Ross Fairgrieve.com i have the same problem than zakary.. everytime i shoot a video even by just staying in a room an turning around myself it jumps… i guess i have sth wrong in my settings.. can you help me please?

    • Hey Leonardo. 720-60 will get you "slower" slow-mo but 960-48 does have its bonuses. 960-48 shoots at 48 frames per second so, if you conform it (slow it down) to 24 fps, you get smooth, 50% playback speed. If you conform 720-60 down to 24 fps, you get smooth, 40% playback so the slow-mo effect is more dramatic. 960, being square-screen, rather than widescreen, is a bit odd but is great for re-composing your shot if your aim wasn't quite right with the GoPro. My little vid at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Wd_AjKIxMA shows what I mean.

    • Hi ross…
      How to do the setting, or what other part need to install on GoPro2 ,to making a good quality under water video..???
      Thank you for your attention.. wiss to heard from you soon..
      cheeeeers..

    • hi ross…
      Thanx for your replay.. i just out of the water try my new GoPro dive housing..
      it much better.
      cheeeeeers…

  4. Matt Nannis

    This is a real helpful website. We just purchased one of these lil guys for our sports camp to help create promotional videos and every bit of info available is most appreciated. Can't wait for the tutorial. Cheers.

  5. Hey Ross, great site and very informative. I'm looking to replace a Fiji underwater camera and housing that went pop last year and stumbled across a decent enough offer of the gopro2 to consider it… Give the fact that gopro now do their own flat lense housing, which one would yo go for? And how good are they when colours start disappearing? Thx!!!!

    • Vinzent Fliegner

      Hey mate. I am also wondering what uw camera and housing to switch to. I dont like the sealife 1400 too much. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Hi Paul. It really depends on what you're doing and how much you're willing to spend. The GoPro HD Hero2 (I'd stick with the 2…it's quite a lot better for underwater) is great for casual video shooting in fairly clear, shallow water (< about 10m) and can return some very impressive results. The ultra-wide fisheye lens, though it takes a bit of getting used to, is perfect for a lot of underwater shooting and really makes the most of the visibility.

      It's not so well suited to stills because, as far as I'm aware, you can't use it with a strobe. It's also not brilliant for deep water shooting as the tiny sensor means that it struggles in low light. Once you start dropping cash on expensive, underwater video lights etc, you might as well pick up something a bit more high-end than the GoPro!

    • Hi Vinzent Fliegner. It depends on a lot of factors really. Probably the biggest one: how much are you willing to spend! Do you shoot, stills, video or a bit of both? Where do you normally dive and what kind of diving and shooting do you like to do?

    • Hey Ross, sorry for the delay but I've only just noticed your reply. I went ahead and bought the GoPro Hero2 with the GoPro underwater housing… I also bought an Oculus red filter to fit onto the housing… Just got to wait until October to test it all out now!!! Many thanks for your time!

  6. Benj Sagarbarria

    Hi there Ross! I would like to ask a question. I know this may sound dumb, 'cause I just found out about this sports camera. So I'm planning to buy a gopro camera, and I am looking for a go pro camera that is very suitable for mountain biking, underwater, and for skiing. So what camera do you recommend for me?
    Thanks :D

    • Hi Benj. The GoPro HD Hero2 is a great little camera. There are a few new additions to the "actioncam" field with JVC and Sony both recently releasing new cameras. We'll see what those are like but they're really going to have to go some to beat the GoPro HD Hero2 and that's still what I'd go for. Hope that helps!

  7. Had to post just to say thankyou for that vid on the settings above. I mainly mountain bike with mine and plan to use r4 from now on as it will give me the extra 'height' I need in the vid, which basically means I'll have more of the trail ahead of me in the vid. I was using r5 up to now as I didn't know and just thought r5 was probably the best. 1 question I do have is – does any one setting use more battery over the other settings?

  8. Paul Golonski

    Ross, very informative. I take it you recommend 1080-30 at widest setting for SCUBA.which is my main interest. I bought the additional go pro scuba housing/lens to "fix" the underwater lens issue. Readers ought to know its an additional expense. (Paul G. california) PS so far I love the little thing..very cool technology in a matchbox.

  9. Zac South'

    how do I get my gopro to take a photo straight away instead of like a second then the photo is taken?

  10. Zac South'

    how do I get my gopro to take a photo straight away instead of like a second then the photo is taken?

  11. Johan Magnusson

    I'm insanely dissapointed at my GoPro HD Hero2.. The videos is noisy as fuck and when filming when its just a bit dark outside you can just see green and purple dots, noisy!

    Im filming with 720p 60fps (wide 11mpx).

    Someone knows what the problem is?

  12. Mauricio Busquets

    I'm going to be racing my superbike this weekend, what's the best setting you recommend.thanks'.

  13. Thanks for the HD2 settings advice.
    I'm off to the Bahamas in a week on a Cruise and will be stopping off on an island for a day,
    I will be snorkelling, mainly on the surface. I have the dive housing, floaty and grenade. I also have the Occulus red filter. Do I need to use the filter for snorkelling on the surface? (gopro will be under water, at about 1 to 2 metres depth).
    Also will 720 60fps wide be ok?
    Thanks

  14. Luke Stevens

    Hey Ross great site! very very helpful! one quick question, when taking still photos iv noticed that the camera beeps once, then on the second beep it takes the photo, I have had problems with this when taking photo's as movement occurs between the 2 beeps and can sometimes blur the image. I was just wondering if there was anyway to change it so that the camera will shoot quicker, on the initial press (first beep) of the shot.
    my email is lukestevens1993@hotmail.co.uk.
    i would love to here back on this, many thanks Luke Stevens.

  15. Jon Leason

    hey got the new gopro3 black and want to know the best setting for motocross riding.. tried bit higher setting and seemed really jerky in shots.. is a lower setting better.

  16. Hey Ross,
    Great tips, really helpful. I've just gotten the GoPro3 black edition and was trying to find a similar article to the 'best gopro hd 2 settings' for it. Are you thinking of doing one? Or would the advice from it be transferable to the hero 3?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Luke. I haven't actually got the Hero 3 yet but I have got a couple on the way. I'll post something up when I get them. Unless there are any funny surprises, the advice will probably be a little bit different but not far off. I'm expecting the 2.7k mode to be the best for normal speed and the 1080p-60fps or 720p-120fps to be the ones to go for for slow-mo, depending on what's more important out of quality and slow…ness (is that a word!?). I'll let you know when I get hold of them and test them out.

  17. Harrie Shortman

    Hi Ross, I'm looking for a good setting on the hero2 just for jumping into the sea and pools and also can you recommend a good attachment , I was thinking about the pole or chest mount ?

  18. What software is best for editing/rendering video from the GoPro2 i have sony vegas and the video looks like SD quality

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