The fine folks at GoPro have had a busy week. For existing owners of the Hero2, they released a new firmware set, which included a new set of shooting modes collectively grouped under the name ‘Protune’. Protune basically doubles the bitrate of the GoPro’s recorded files to 35 Mbps, and produces a more ‘flat’ file with no in-camera color corrections or sharpening. And, in bigger news, they rolled the GoPro Hero 3 last night, which adds built-in WiFi, 4K video recording (albeit at 15 FPS), all packaged in a smaller-profile body…
However, the Hero 3 just went on sale for pre-order, so I obviously don’t have one on hand yet. I was this “<>” close to buying a Hero 2, but fortunately I didn’t. I have the wedding of my great friends and neighbors Tal and Erick to shoot this weekend up in North Carolina, and I wanted to strap a GoPro next to the “altar” and record the vows portion from an alternate angle, so I was going to pull the trigger and buy a Hero 2. Fortunately, time kind of ran out on me, so I had to make do with borrowing Travis’ Hero 2. I told him I’d upgrade it to the Protune firmware while I was at it.
So, with that in mind, I figured I’d take Protune for a spin.
I strapped the Hero 2 to the front left bumper of the 210, and proceeded to record my drive down to Blue Martini in Brickell for my “Tuesday Tradition” shooting session over at Jive With The Band.
You can see the results above, and judge for yourself. I did some basic color correction and exposure adjustment in Final Cut Pro X, and exported this to Vimeo via Compressor 4 using the standard Vimeo preset.
The unaltered video out of the camera is very noisy. This was to be expected, since Protune deactivates all in-camera processing, including noise reduction. It’s about as close to RAW video as you are likely to get out of something in the class of the GoPro. Colors were very neutral and flat. The dynamic range was increased, due to the “flat” nature of the file. At first glance, it actually appeared to be worse than the previous firmware output.
However, this was the expected result. Ideally, if you can’t get true RAW output out of your camera, you want a file that is as untouched and as uncompressed as possible, to allow for these adjustments to be made with more precise tools present on your laptop. Which is exactly what Protune accommodates, as much as possible. Also, it does reveal the limitations of the tiny sensor in the camera. It’s a noisy mess, and GoPro is definitely to be commended for developing decent in-camera noise reduction and sharpening techniques for their standard firmware. FYI, you can turn Protune off and go back to the standard modes at any time.
That being said, for anyone remotely interested in video, I don’t recommend it. You can really make the output of the GoPro shine with Protune, using your choice of post-production software, whether it’s Final Cut Pro X, or GoPro’s own Cineform. Once you understand the purpose of Protune, it is definitely a winner. It gets the camera’s ideas about things out of the way of your workflow, and lets you make the decisions on color correction, sharpening, noise, and so on.
For a $300 unit, the GoPro Hero 2 with Protune is a winner in my book. I’ll be doing some daylight tests today and tomorrow, which I will post about soon thereafter.
As for the Hero 3? That will most likely make it into my bag in short order. GoPro, if you pick this up, I’m always game to beat around a demo unit.