Alright so in this post, we are talking about GoPro Protune.
What it is, what it does, who is it for and when should you use it.
Let me tell you right off the bat that if you don’t plan on spending some time in post-production on video editing or photo editing you are better off without using Protune.
So if that’s the case, I’ll save you the time and tell you to simply forget that it exists.
If you do want to tweak the knobs and push the buttons in post-production though, keep reading.
Oh, and did I tell you that we are editing videos for clients such as yourself?
What is Protune?
Protune is a feature offered by all of the above-mentioned GoPro models, which allows the user to set recording parameters such as the White Balance, ISO Limit, Color, Sharpness, and Exposure.
The Protune feature has evolved over the years and the newer GoPro cameras will allow more controls when compared to older models. That’s why the settings you can control on your GoPro might be different from the ones you will see outlined here.
Keeping your camera software updated helps.
The Protune feature is available on the following GoPro models:
- Hero 11 Black
- Hero 10 Black
- Hero 9 Black
- Hero 8 Black
- Hero 7 Black
- HERO6 Black
- HERO5 Black
- HERO5 Session
- HERO Session + HERO4 Session
- HERO3+ Black Edition
- HERO3 Black Edition
- HERO3 Silver Edition
So if you are GoPro owner chances are that you’ve come across the Protune feature before.
What does it do?
The first thing that most people notice when they turn on Protune is that the footage starts to look dull.
The colors are not there anymore and everything looks washy and grey.
And that’s true, I’ll give you that, but what Protune really does (and it may not look like it in the first place), is to up the quality of your videos.
It does that by increasing the bitrate, which will result in more crisp and clear footage, especially when you are shooting in high motion.
Which is perfect if you think about it. After all, GoPro is an action camera and most of the times you will be shooting fast moving scenes, right?
Your average 1080p 60 fps video will use a bit rate of 30 Mbps. When you turn on Protune, your GoPro will up that to 45 Mbps.
That is why Protune files take up roughly 50% more space on your SD card and they also drain the battery life faster.
GoPro Protune On or Off
If you just turn Protune on and don’t really change any of the settings you will probably not notice any difference.
So if you really want to make good use of Protune you will need to dive into all the different settings that it offers. And that’s exactly what we are going to do right now.
GoPro Protune settings
Alright, so like I was telling you above, once you turn on Protune, you will see a bunch of different image settings you can control.
The white balance will adjust the color temperature of your video. You can go from a work yellow to a cool and de-saturated blue image.
There’s also an Auto option which does a really good job, but you can experiment with different settings and see how they look.
For outdoor shots though, I think the Auto option will work best. Indoors, you can try different white balance settings depending on the type of light it’s being used there.
Within the settings of your camera, you will find one called Native or Camera Raw, depending on which GoPro model you are using. This setting doesn’t actually apply any corrections to the image. So it’s will give you the raw picture as it comes out of the GoPro. I mainly use this setting for outdoor shots.
Both GoPro Hero 11 and 10 come with an array of options apart from the Auto (default) and Native settings. Users can pick from the warmer 2300K to the much cooler 6500K tones.
You can easily make the image brighter or darker in the video editing process, using pretty much any GoPro video editing software.
Here’s a video comparison of how different White Balance settings will look like.
The next thing on the list is the ISO. I’ve already touched on the subject of ISO pretty extensively in the low light post, so you can check that out as well.
So the ISO setting will come into effect only in low light situations. Which could be indoors or at night. The numbers go from 400 up to 6400.
The ISO maximum changes based on your choice of content; whether you’re capturing an image or video.
For photos, the ISO can go as high as 3200, and the ISO maximum for videos is 1600. To set a specific value, tune both the minimum and maximum to the same number.
By setting a higher ISO your image will get brighter, but it will have more noise to it as well.
I don’t really think that the GoPro was made for shooting in low light situations. It is an action camera, and most of the action sports take place during the day, right?
I don’t think it handles higher ISO values too well and personally, I like to limit the ISO on my GoPro at 800 and simply avoid shooting in low light conditions with this camera.
The newer GoPro models – namely the Hero 11 and Hero 10 will let you control the shutter speed.
I don’t really like to mess around with this setting because I feel like the camera is doing a pretty good job when I leave it on Auto.
That said if you want to change the shutter speed in your GoPro Hero 11 or 10, here are the options.
The options you see while shooting videos will depend on the frame rate. Other than the default Auto setting, you can choose from 1/fps, 1/2xfps, 1/4xfps, and 1/8xfps.
In the case of images, you get to pick from the six settings: 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, 1/2000, and Auto.
Adjusting the shutter speed is a great way of adjusting the brightness of your shots though. The lower the value the brighter the image. And the higher the value the darker the image will become.
Most of the time, in filmmaking, in order to achieve that cinematic, motion blur look, videographers use a shutter speed that is twice the value of the frame rate. So for a 30 fps shot you should use a 1/60 shutter speed.
Here’s a really cool video that talks about the relationship between frame rate and shutter speed.
Your GoPro camera will use the High settings as default. So all the videos and photos will appear to be sharper than they really are in reality.
You have the option to use the Medium or Low settings which will give you softer, less sharp images.
To gain better control of how the content looks, I often choose the Low setting and then increase the sharpness at the post-production stage.
I feel that using the High setting makes the images look a little bit unnatural, so I often go with the Medium or Low settings.
Then, I review the footage that I have and if I feel that it is too blurry and it needs more sharpness I add that when I edit the video.
The reason I prefer to add more sharpness during the video editing process instead of using the High setting is that I can’t undo what the camera did and I have more control over the footage.
Under the Color profile menu, you will find a find just two different options.
However, in GoPro Hero 10, users have three color settings to choose from. The default setting called Vibrant produces color-saturated videos and images.
The second option – Natural – tries to imbue the natural color of the environment. This mode gives a real and natural look to the content. The third option is Flat; more on this shortly.
The default one is the GoPro Color which is a very saturated image style with lots of vibrant colors. Most of the time it looks good, but when I’m using Protune I want my footage to be in a flat image style.
Then I go through my normal color grading flow which you can read more about over here.
I found that using the Flat setting will let you capture more details in both the darker and brighter areas of your shot. So the final, color-graded video will look better anyway.
On top of that, color grading a GoPro video is not rocket science and it doesn’t really take that much time to do. So why not do it yourself?
The exposure compensation value can make your image brighter or darker.
If you feel like a scene is too dark increase the exposure. If it looks too bright, decrease it. It’s a quick fix that can drastically improve the quality of the image if you are not going more than 0.5 or 1.0 up or down.
The exposure goes from -2.0 up to +2.0 in 0.5 increments.
You only have to worry about Exposure Value Compensation (EV Comp) if the Shutter Speed is set to Auto. The default value of EV Comp is -0.5.
The Hero 11 and Hero 10 also come with an audio option. If you set it on low, medium, or high, the camera will record the audio as a separate file which you can play around in post-production.
It will try to reduce the wind effect as well as make the sound stereo and automatically adjust the gain/volume of the audio.
This is in addition to the standard audio track in .mp4 format. No separate file will be created if the audio setting is OFF (default).
Most of the time I don’t even use the audio that comes out of a GoPro so I don’t use this setting.
So those are all the settings you can play around with in Protune mode.
GoPro Hero 11 and Hero 10 come with three microphones. The wind noise settings will decide what these microphones pick up. Users have three settings to choose from – Auto, ON, and OFF.
Without even switching on this setting, the default Auto mode will filter excess water or wind noise.
The ON setting is ideal if you’re on the move. This setting will prevent the microphones from capturing excessive wind noise.
Opt for the OFF setting, if you plan to film indoors where the wind isn’t an issue.
Should you use GoPro Protune?
Since we’re nearing the end of the article, you have enough information to decide whether to use Protune or not.
At many places, we have already discussed that using GoPro Protune will add more work to your schedule.
That said the latest models – Hero 11 and Hero 10 – come with impressive auto settings.
Even so, we would suggest the use of GoPro Protune if you have patience and extra time for your GoPro camera.
For general use; on occasions where users just want to capture the moment as a photo or video and hold it for posterity, the use of Protune is optional.
The GoPro feature would be vital if you have some special requirements for the content.
When to use GoPro Protune?
The following are some situations where the use of GoPro Protune will be really helpful:
Low light conditions: GoPro isn’t designed for filming in low light conditions. But there aren’t completely useless either.
Thanks to the Protune settings you can produce impressive videos in a slightly dark environment.
Even with GoPro, you can expect impressive results in dark surroundings by tweaking the shutter speed and ISO values.
Color adjustment: Use Protune in situations where the default color corrections are doing more harm to the image than good.
Users can adjust the color settings to make the image look the way they want.
Situations where audio is vital: This Protune setting becomes crucial in situations where you can use an external mic yet you want the video to have decent audio.
With the help of Protune, you can choose between low, medium, and high-level audio compensation.
Planning to use of video editor later: We have discussed this earlier. It’s worth visiting again.
If you want the image or video to meet certain requirements, in terms of sharpness, brightness, etc., then the manual settings of Protune will help you make the necessary edits later in the post-production phase.
When not to use GoPro Protune?
Certainly, the GoPro Protune gives the users greater control over their content. That said the feature is not worth using in a handful of situations.
Some of them are mentioned here:
To prevent battery drain: GoPro is a battery-guzzling digital camera. Hence, turning the Protune ON can fast deplete the battery juice in no time.
Avoid using the feature if you’re short of extra batteries or a power bank.
No light issues: Most people prefer GoPro to other cameras because of convenience and ease of use.
GoPro cameras come with a simple mantra – Point and Shoot. Hence, if the light and other conditions are perfect you have no reason to use the Protune feature.
No specific requirements: Users can manage with the default setting most of the time.
If you’re not a professional with special requirements, then tweaking too many settings can ruin the outcome.
Plan to add audio at the post-production stage: Users to whom clear and crisp audio is important often use an external mic or audio source.
They can add the audio to the video at the post-production stage.
To wrap it up, here’s what you need to take away from this post.
If you don’t have the time or you don’t want to mess around with your videos in post-production don’t use Protune at all. Just go with the automatic settings and let the camera do the job for you. The videos will look pretty good.
If you do use Protune, don’t just simply turn it on and that’s it. Browse through all the settings and turn off as much stuff as you can. You want to get the naked, native video out of your GoPro so that you have complete freedom and control over it in the video editing stage.
Here’s the “best practice” when it comes to the GoPro Protune settings.
- White Balance: Native/Camera Raw
- ISO: 400
- Shutter speed: Auto
- Sharpness: Low/Medium
- Color: Flat
- Exposure: +/-0.5
Thanks for reading and do send me links to your Protune edits.
Cristian Stanciu is a freelance video editor, owner, and post-production coordinator of Veedyou Media – a company offering video editing services to videographers, marketing agencies, video production studios, or brands all over the globe.