There can be no doubt that the footage you can capture on the GoPro HD cameras is nothing short of amazing, but editing the footage is often a source of considerable frustration. If you have got the latest and greatest computer to work with (e.g. very powerful quad core PC), then you will probably be OK to edit the raw footage as long as your editor can work with the mp4 format, but more moderately powered machines often struggle with the processing power required.
You could spend £1000s on upgrading your computer, but there are ways to get around the issues and we wanted to share some advice about how to convert your raw footage into the finished article. When you use the GoPro HD, the video is recorded as mp4 using h.264 encoding. As there is a lot of data captured in HD footage, the file sizes are typically large. Formats and containers are very confusing but think of ‘mp4’ as an envelope/wrapper that contains data.
The h.264 video compression standard is highly compressed for efficient playback but is less than ideal for editing as it is a ‘lossy’ format and image data is lost during compression. One of the first things to try if your editing software refuses the raw footage is to use Quicktime Pro to save the file as a .mov. The data itself is still h.264 and you shouldn’t see any loss in quality. Just convert or transcode the footage into a format that will work.
Unfortunately, this will almost always have an impact on the quality but it doesn’t have to be too bad and you will lose far more detail/quality when uploading to the web (if you share a video that way). The best software available to do this is currently Cineform Neoscene. This will transcode the file into a less optimized format that will then be able to be edited in almost all editing software suites. The quality from Neoscene is excellent but be prepared for very large file sizes – the file size often increases by more than 5 times the original size.
If budgets don’t permit considering Neoscene, then we would recommend MPEG Streamclip which is an excellent free tool that works with an incredible range of file formats and will also allow you to edit 60FPS footage if you have been using the GoPro HD in that mode.
The editing options are more limited than a full editing suite because there are some restraints when it comes to options only. You can always use MPEG Streamclip if you need to trim out some particular parts from raw unfiltered footage that you do not need in the original clip. It is good also for the initial cutting and you can save a .mov file, just make sure that your editor supports that format. This way, you can work with smaller files and that can only make your performance better. MPEG Streamclip will allow your footage to get into editing software.