If you're getting an error message on your computer when you try to open a video shot on the GoPro HERO8, HERO7, or HERO6 Black, it might be because it isn't compatible with the HEVC (H.265) codec used in some of those cameras' video modes. Here are some workarounds.
Since the HERO7 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 HERO8, HERO7, or HERO6 Black, this might be why.
There are now more GoPros that use HEVC H.265 encoding. On the HERO6 Black, it’s only used for these video modes:
Use of HEVC has been expanded into more modes on the HERO8 Black and HERO7 Black.
All the previous and lower models use an older H.264 AVC codec that is much more widely compatible.
And they have a great deal with $150 off a bundle that includes the HERO8 Black, Shorty Grip, Head Strap, a spare battery, and a 32GB SD card, bringing it down to $349.99. That's also available at You can find the deal here.
It’s also worth noting that GoPro videos encoded with the HEVC codec still uses the MP4 video container, so you can’t tell them apart just by looking at the file extension.
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 Mac OS X High Sierra, 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 doesn’t support it yet. If you’re not able to open the HEVC files on your computer or device, you have a few options:
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.
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.
Source and Destination:
6. Workflow Tweaks. 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 top right.
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:
There are no doubt other apps that can do this (but developers, that’s not an invitation to spam the comments with them–thanks!).
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.
This post was last modified on February 25, 2020 10:30 am