UPDATE: Since I originally posted this, GoPro has come out with the GoPro Player desktop app for Mac and Windows. It includes the ability to work with and convert HEVC video files. The method outlined below will also still work well, but the GoPro Player app is a good option to try first. You can find it here.
- ➙ HERO11 Black: $399 @ GoPro.com
- ➙ HERO11 Black + Accessories Bundle: $449 @ GoPro.com
- ➙ HERO11 Black Creator Edition: $579 @ GoPro.com
Since the HERO6 Black, GoPro has used a new codec for compressing and encoding vides. It’s most commonly known as HEVC (for High Efficiency Video Coding) or H.265. It’s a newer, better codec, but it’s still not universally compatible in the same way the older H.264 codec is. If you’re having trouble opening videos shot on the HERO10, HERO9, HERO8, HERO7, or HERO6 Black, this might be why.
There are now more GoPros that use HEVC H.265 encoding. All the previous and lower models use an older H.264 AVC codec that is much more widely compatible.
It’s also worth noting that GoPro videos encoded with the HEVC codec still use the MP4 video container, so you can’t tell them apart just by looking at the file extension.
HEVC (H.265) Compatibility
The H.265 codec has been around for a few years now but has only gradually been making its way into wide use. Some of the early implementations included FaceTime since the iPhone 6 and Windows 10.
If you’re using Windows 10 or later or one of the newer versions of macOS, support for HEVC (H.265) is baked right into the operating system, making it available for video editing apps running on those platforms, such as Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro.
But there are still a lot of common devices and software that don’t support it yet. If you’re not able to open the HEVC files on your computer or device, you have a few options:
- upgrade your operating system (a potentially painful process that might have collateral consequences with other apps and hardware)
- open the files in an app that has its own built-in HEVC (H.265) support (limiting what you can do with it)
- convert the file to a different format that your computer and video editor can use.
I’m focusing here on the last one: converting HEVC files to another format. Or, in video jargon, transcoding.
There are a number of paid apps that can do the conversion. I’m focusing here on one that is free and cross-platform: the venerable Handbrake.
How to Convert HEVC (H.265) Video Files with HandBrake to H.264
The target formats available in Handbrake are quite limited. The most logical to choose from the available options is H.264 (x264). That’s not ideal, because it’s recompressing a compressed file (more on that below), but it will result in a file that is still very good quality and very widely compatible.
Download and install Handbrake
You can download it here. If you’re installing it on Mac OS X, you might get an error message because it’s not being installed from the Mac App Store.
To allow the installation, you can go to
System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General. If it’s just blocked you from installing it, you should have a convenient “Open Anyway” message specifically for Handbrake.
Click on the Open Source button.
Select the File or Files to Conver
After you’ve selected them, Handbrake will do a quick scan of them to gather the information about the encoded file and enter some of that information into the appropriate fields on the screen.
Choose the Encoding Settings
The defaults aren’t a bad place to start, but you’ll probably want to make some tweaks. You can use one of the built-in presets, if you like, but since not every preset is available in every version, here are some suggestions for getting good results quickly. They provide a good foundation for your own tweaking.
Source and Destination:
- Destination: Wherever you’d like to save the resulting file/s
- Format: MP4 File
- Video Encoder: H.264 (x264)
- Framerate: Same as source / constant frame rate
- Quality: Constant Quality.
- Quality Slider: (NB: lower numbers apply less compression and therefore produce higher quality results; these are starting point suggestions only)
- 1080p: 22 (or between 20 and 24)
- 2.7K or 4K: 25 (or between 22 and 28)
- Encoder Options: Fast is the default. If you have a newer, faster computer, try medium. If you have an older computer, choose fast or faster.
- Storage Size: Set to match the source size (unless you want to reduce the size)
- Cropping: Automatic
- Leave the other settings at defaults
This starts the encoding. You can see the progress in the bar at the bottom of the screen or by opening the queue panel but clicking on the queue button at the top right.
There are things you can do to tweak this workflow to your preferences.
If you want to batch convert several files at once, hit the Add to Queue button instead of the start button in step 5.
If you want to save the settings as a preset to reuse again and save time, open the preset panel if it isn’t already there. Then hit the + button at the bottom of that panel and proceed from there with naming and saving the preset.
If you want to resize the resulting video smaller, do that in the Picture > Storage Size field.
If you want to preview the video, hit the Preview button at the top right.
Converting HEVC to ProRes or Other High-Quality Codec
Handbrake has a lot going for it, but unfortunately, it’s quite limited in the formats you can convert to. The most logical one to use is H.264.
But converting HEVC (H.265) to H.264 isn’t ideal if you’re aiming for the highest quality, especially if you’re planning to edit the files in something like Final Cut Pro X or Premier Pro. It’s recompressing one compressed file into another compressed file, meaning the quality is going to take a further hit with that second-generation compression.
For the highest quality, you’ll be better off converting it to something like Apple’s ProRes 422 codec. ProRes and other high-quality video codecs like Avid’s DNxHD aren’t much good for sharing–the files are way too big for sharing on the web conveniently–but the compression is minimal so the quality remains very high. But they’re excellent choices if you’re going to edit the video and then export yet another version, which will be a third-generation compressed version.
The catch is that not all transcoders can encode to ProRes or the other “professional” codecs. And the choices are further narrowed down because you need a transcoder that is coming with its own codecs rather than just relying on those built into the operating system. I’ve yet to find a good free transcoder that meets those requirements, but there are some paid apps that can do it.
The world of paid video transcoding apps is quite a mess. Some are very good, but some are downright dodgy. I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole, but there are two that I use personally that I know work for this:
- Video Converter Ultimate by Wondershare. There are versions for Windows and Mac.
- Adobe Media Encoder. If you’re using Adobe Media Encoder on an operating system that has built-in HEVC support, you’ll have no problem–it works (and this whole page isn’t especially relevant to you in the first place…). But you can also use Adobe Media Encoder to transcode HEVC files even on an operating system that doesn’t have HEVC support. When you import an HEVC file into AME in that case, it will prompt you to install the HEVC codec. There’s no messing around–it’ll take care of it for you. And then it just works.
There are no doubt other apps that can do this (but developers, that’s not an invitation to spam the comments with them–thanks!).
Playing HEVC Files on Non-HEVC Compatible Computers
If you’re using an operating system that doesn’t yet have built-in support for the HEVC codec and just want to play the files, I recommend VLC as an excellent free, cross-platform app that can work with H.265 (HEVC) files. You can download VLC here.
The Latest Model: GoPro HERO11 Black
Released in the fall of 2022, the HERO11 is GoPro's current model. Well, actually two models.
First, there's the flagship Black that has all the bells and whistles and sets the standard for action cameras.
- Shoot 5.3K60 & 4K120 video at up to 120Mbps bitrate
- Take 27MP photos
- Waterproof to 33ft / 10m without a separate housing
- Built-in mount point
- HyperSmooth 5.0 In-camera Video Stabilization creates smooth video without a gimbal
- Shoot up to 8x slow motion
A couple of months later, they released Black Mini. It's smaller and shares many of the flagship models capabilities, but it's also stripped-down in important ways. For instance, it doesn't have a touchscreen, its battery isn't removable, and it shoots video only (so no photo mode).
- Shoot 5.3K60 & 4K120 video at up to 120Mbps bitrate
- Compact form factor
- Waterproof to 33ft / 10m without a separate housing
- 2x built-in mount point
- HyperSmooth 5.0 in-camera video stabilization
- Shoot up to 8x slow motion @ 2.7K
- Built-in battery
8 thoughts on “How to Convert HEVC Files from a GoPro”
For those having problems with VLC playback with hero 9 HEVC footage you’ll need to use Handbrake v1.4.2-x86_64-Win_GUI. In order to make Handbrake work you will also need to download .NET 5.0.0 X64 for windows desktop as NET 5.0.12 will not work.
Thanks–appreciate the tip.
Hi there i have a gopro7.. Is there a setting within the camera i can change so it always records in mp4? instead of having to convert every since video i take? (which is ALOT)
It depends on which video modes you’re using. In the settings, you can have it record HEVC for everything or what it calls H.264 + HEVC. What that means in this case is that it will record H.264 MP4s for all the modes it can, but there are still some modes that it will only record HEVC no matter what you do. I have more information under the “Filetypes and Codecs” section here. And lower down that page you can find a table that lays out which video settings are HEVC-only.
hello, I got Gopro 6 and i use macbook pro mid 2012, I have got hard time to edit video on FCPX
I record 1080p 120fps and 240fps
for 120fps i can preview vdo in finder smoothly but when i import to fcpx, it cannot playback, fcpx show it drops frame
for 240fpx, i also convert to h.264 as you mentions but it no vdo show, only sound in fcpx
What i can do, please advices
Hi. I have a hero6 black and I’m having hard time to join the videos that have been slipt into charpters. Do you have any tips on what program I can use to easily join those videos without losing the video quality?
Thank you in advance!
It depends which video mode you’re shooting with. If you’re shooting with one of the modes that uses the AVC codec, then here is a quick and simple option. But it doesn’t work with the H.265 videos directly–you’d have to convert them and swallow any potential loss of quality. I have a table on which video modes use which codec here.
GoPro hero6 black. Handbrake tried to convert 4k 60 to 264.
Could only get to convert to 1080 60.
Used your info and that what I get. Tried changing settings no luck.