17/08/2012 Ross Fairgrieve

Fixing Jerky GoPro Footage For Smooth Playback

A lot of people have contacted me recently, concerned that the video footage from their GoPro HD Hero or GoPro HD Hero2 camera is jerky or choppy. All of them have complained of the same problem; the video footage appears to jump from frame to frame rather than playing smoothly, as it should. If you’ve been experiencing this, there’s good news. Your camera isn’t broken and there is a way to fix it. In fact, there’s even better news as the method of solving your jerky playback GoPro playback woes uses great software that is completely free! [For clearest viewing, hit the cog in the bottom-right of the player and select “720p HD” and pop it in full-screen mode too]

The problem isn’t with your camera, it’s actually with your computer. If you’re working on a beast of a PC or Mac, you might have never run into these problems and your GoPro videos may appear as smooth as Miranda Kerr’s bottom (I can only assume). However, even fairly decent computers can struggle to play back the raw GoPro footage smoothly. The problem lies with the codec; the method of COmpressing and DECompressing the footage. The GoPro HD Hero and HD Hero2 cameras use some clever methods to compress the footage very heavily. This means that they take up less space on the card but, on the flip side, makes them very hard for your computer to play back.

Imagine that you’ve just got a new job as a quality controller for a sleeping bag company. Sleeping bags come to you on a conveyer belt and you have to take them out of their stuff-bags, check them over and then put them back in before the next one arrives. The GoPro’s native video footage is like a sleeping bag with a tiny stuff-bag. It’s great for taking up very little space in your rucksack but is a right pain to get in and out of it’s little sack. When you’re testing these, you have to quickly get them out of the tiny bag, do your checks and then wrestle them back into the bag before the next one comes along. As this isn’t easy to do, you start to run out of time and you’re not ready when the next bag comes. Maybe a REALLY good checker might be able to cope with this (just like a REALLY good computer can cope with heavily compressed GoPro footage) but you can’t, so it all goes a bit wrong. Going back to the GoPro, the video frames are a bit like these sleeping bags. Now, if the stuff-bags were bigger, you wouldn’t have to struggle as much to get the sleeping bags out and back into them. This would make your job a lot easier and would give you plenty of time to check each sleeping bag before the next one comes.

So, the way to make GoPro video footage a bit easier on your computer, and therefore play back much more smoothly, is by changing it to a less compressed, more easily worked format. The video at the top of this page shows you how to do this on a Mac using the brilliant (and brilliantly free!) MPEG Streamclip program.

But I Don’t Have Prores as an Option!

I made this video a while ago and I really should have explained what to do if you don’t have Prores in you list of codecs when using MPEG Streamclip. Sorry about that! Well, it’s still the same process, there’s just one extra step. Instead of using Prores, the codec to use instead is Avid DNxHD (this probably won’t be on your list either but bear with me!). Before you open MPEG Streamclip, head to Avid’s site, HERE, to download and install the DNxHD codec. Once you’ve done this, open up MPEG Streamclip as usual and, as if by magic, Avid DNxHD will be an option on your list.

And That’s It

I know that sounds kind of complicated but, once you’ve done it a couple of times, it’ll seem really simple. If this helps you out, let me know in the comments below and, if there’s anything else that you need a hand with or want me to post about, just give me a shout.

Ross Fairgrieve is a freelance video producer, videographer, cameraman, video editor, and photographer based in Reading, Berkshire. His clients range from start-up charities to large corporate businesses across Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, London and abroad. If you would like to enquire about his services, head over to the CONTACT page.

Comments (73)

  1. paul carpenter

    Hi Ross

    Great video very informative but the Apple ProRes 422 doesn’t show when I downloaded the MPEG Streamclip software which other apple compression do I use???????

    Thanks Paul

    • john hogan

      thanks for the explanation ross. I found vlc jerky but windows media player(!) smooth … go figure lol. cheers

  2. paul carpenter

    Hi Ross

    tried with the new codec DNxHD didn’t work any suggestions???

  3. John Roper

    DNxHD codec made it an audio only file for me? not sure what the problem is

    • greg

      Did you manage to figure out how to do it as i’m having the same problem and can’t work out the solution.

  4. Justin

    Thanks for that, just got a hero3 from a friend, thought it was broken as just tried to play a short test clip back from the memory card via preview, jumpy as hell! The above has made it perfect, thanks!

  5. Megan OBrien

    HELP! I cannot upload these videos in the GoPro Studio. They run very smooth but every time I try to open it on the Studio it quits. What can I do? My gopro is basically useless if my Macbook (’09) can’t play any of the footage.

  6. Davo

    mmm…great info, the only issue is that it does not solve my problem.
    I created a .mov file (took around 2 hours as the gopro file is 6gb before codec conversion). Maybe the issue is here as the instructions say that it will be really quick.
    When I play the .mov with VLC the video picture is static (unless I manually move the progress bar) but the sound plays fine. With Film & TV player I get sound but no picture.
    Previously before converting the .mp4 file – VLC was very choppy and distorted but sound was good. Film&TV was better and mostly / sort of worked OK after it had buffered the video

  7. Amber

    Hello! Apple pro res isn’t an option at all after I downloaded. Any suggestions what to use?

  8. Alvega

    Hello

    Thank you very much for your tips!

    Actually it was easy to execute.

    In my PC it is much better now but it still jerks a little bit.

    Is there anything I can do?

    Thanks

  9. Mohamed

    Great explanation.. however, besides having the choppy playbacks, some of them are plays fast.. any idea why is that?

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