Last updated: April 2020
I don’t know about you but I love those juicy GoPro slow-motion scenes.
We get to do a lot of GoPro edits for the clients that are using our video editing services.
If the shot is right, the music is right and the slow-motion effect looks nice and smooth I always get the chills. I get goosebumps people!
That’s why I like to include at least a couple of slow-motion scenes in all my video edits. Regardless is it was shot with a GoPro, or with a different type of camera. I think it adds a nice cinematic look to the film, it makes it look professional and much more interesting to watch.
Unfortunately, I can’t always do it because the scenes were not filmed with that in mind. Not all videos can be slowed down in post-production while maintaining good video quality.
So if you are wondering how you can create buttery smooth GoPro slow-motion videos this post will come in handy.
We are going to look at the ins and outs of slow motioning with a GoPro.
How does it work? What settings should you use? How can you slow down your GoPro footage in post-production? And what are some video editing software that you can use?
So let’s slow this down.
And I’m going to start with the beginning.
What is slow motion?
Slow-motion comes from the relation between your filming frame rate and your playback frame rate.
For example, let’s say you are using a GoPro Black Hero 7 and you shoot for just 1 second at 120 frames per second (fps). You will end up with a 1-second video.
If you play back that video at 120 fps it will look normal, or real-time.
That’s because when your filming frame rate matches your playback you end up with a real-time, normal speed video.
To achieve a slow-motion effect, your playback frame rate needs to be lower than your filming frame rate.
So if you take your 1-second video shoot with your GoPro at 120 fps and play it back at 30 fps you will end up with a video that now lasts 4 seconds.
This means that it will take 4 seconds to playback just 1 second of real-time. Hence, the slow-motion effect.
How does slow-motion works?
Well, it is quite simple actually.
It is all about the frame rate. Your average camera will shoot with 30 still frames every second or 30 fps (frame per second). That’s the standard.
Think of it as a playbook. If you playback every page of that book it will look just like a movie.
If crack up the frame rate to 60 fps you are capturing twice as many frames in the same amount the time – in just 1 second. So you are shooting twice as fast.
This means that you can slow down your 60 fps video to 30 fps. The result will be a video that lasts twice as much and looks slowed down.
Some cameras can shoot at even higher frame rates such as 120 fps or even 240 fps. The higher the frame rate is the more dramatic the slow-motion effect you will be if you play the video at the normal speed of 30 fps.
When you are using super high frame rates you are actually catching still shots that human eye can’t even see because it is happening so fast. So that’s what makes slow-motion videos so fun and interesting to watch.
Taken to extreme, slow-motion videos can look pretty darn amazing. Just have a look at this video shot by The Slow Mo Guys.
Best GoPro Settings for shooting in slow motion
As you probably guessed by now, the frame rate is the main thing you want to look at. There are other things to consider as well, which I will cover in just a bit, but for now, let’s look at the frame rate.
Depending on which GoPro model you are using you will be able to choose between different resolution and frame rate combinations.
If you lower the resolution you will be able to use higher frame rates. If you increase the resolution you will need to decrease the frame rate. So you will need to make a compromise between the two.
Ideally, you want to film in at least 1080p, so try not to go lower than that, otherwise, the quality of the video will start to get pretty bad.
But you also want to use a high enough frame rate. Otherwise, when you slow down your video it will look choppy and blurry.
Here’s an example.
As you can see, the 30 fps video looks quite bad when it is slowed down, while the 60 fps on still looks nice and smooth.
GoPro video more/frame comparison chart
|Resolution (Wide FoV)||HERO7 Black||HERO8 Black|
|4K||60, 30, 24 fps||60, 30, 24 fps|
|2.7K||120, 60, 30, 24 fps||120, 60, 30, 24 fps|
|1440p||120, 60, 30, 24 fps||120, 60, 30, 24 fps|
|1080p||240, 120, 60, 30, 24 fps||240, 120, 60, 30, 24 fps|
Now, from personal experience, using 60 fps doesn’t really work that well for slow-mo because you will only be able to make your video twice as slow. So I actually rarely use 60 fps.
120 fps, on the other hand, will look so much more epic though. Not to mention 240 fps which looks absolutely phenomenal. And now, with the new GoPro Hero 8, you can shoot in 1080p at 240 fps which is crazy.
Definitely, use those settings if you have a GoPro Hero 8.
As you can see from the chart, both Hero 7 and 8 can do higher frame rates even at 2.7K and 4K, which makes it an awesome action camera for slow motion.
Here are some cool slow-motion clips shot with a GoPro, by Chris Rogers.
Be careful though, shooting at a higher frame rate will eat up storage space as well as battery life pretty quickly.
When you are using a higher frame rate, less light will hit the sensor because the shutter will be opened for a shorter period of time.
So if your lighting is not great you might end up with darker and grainy looking footage. So keep that in mind as well.
I have an entire post on what are the best settings you can use on your GoPro in low light, but I can tell you that slow-motion and poor lighting don’t go well together.
Video editing: How to slow down GoPro videos
Like I always say, it’s not that much about what GoPro video editing software you are using, but how you use it.
And you can use pretty much any video editing software to slow down your GoPro videos.
The only thing you want to keep your eye on is the playback frame rate. You want to use eight 30, 25 or 24 fps. If you go lower than 24 fps your video will start to look choppy and blurry.
Now, since most of you guys are using
GoPro Studio (retired and rebranded into GoPro Quick), Premiere Pro or Vegas Pro, I’m going to show you how you can slow down your clips in each of those video editing programs.
By the way, both Premiere Pro and Vegas Pro will work with footage from any GoPro alternative camera too.
GoPro Studio (rebranded into GoPro Quick)
Once you have the video loaded into the timeline of GoPro Studio, click on it and go to Video Controls.
Drag the slider to the left to slow down your video. If you drag it to the right the video will speed up.
Most of the times you will want to slow down a small part of a bigger video. To do that you will need to split your video, then select the one you want to slow down and change the speed just for that one.
That’s pretty much it.
Slowing down GoPro footage in Premiere Pro is just as simple.
All you need to do is right-click on your clip after you have loaded it on your timeline and select Speed/Duration…
From there on you simply enter a percentage which is less than 100%.
The cool think about Premiere Pro is that it can make the footage look buttery smooth even though when you slow down your video to the point where the playback frame rate is less than 24 fps.
So if you can film at 60 fps only, you can still achieve quite a dramatic slow-mo effect without making your video look choppy or blurry.
It does that by using the Time Interpolation feature. So go to Time Interpolation and select the Optical Flow setting.
This will let Premiere Pro generate or draw its own extra frames based on some predictions it makes based on the existing footage. So it will add more frames to the picture so that it will look smoother.
Lastly but not least we have Vegas Pro which is dead simple to use for slowing down GoPro footage.
Click on your clip and select Properties. And then under the Playback rate input a value which is less than 1.
You also want to select Disable Resample, as Vegas Pro likes to mess up with the frame rate on its own for some reason.
And now you are done. It is as simple as that.
So, to recap everything.
Make sure you know the video modes that your GoPro supports and pick the right one for slow motion.
As I said, you need to be filming in at least 1080p @ 60fps. If your camera can do better, that’s great.
Only use these settings for the shoots that you plan on slowing down, otherwise, you will run out of storage space quickly.
Make sure the lighting is good because high frame rates will let less light hit the sensor and you might end up with dark and noisy looking videos.
Lastly but not least, import your clip into any video editing software and slow it down to 24,25 or 30 fps.
Let me know if this helps.
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.