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.