The GoPro HERO9 Black has two different codecs available for recording video: HEVC and H.264.
The difference is in how the video is compressed and encoded. One is newer, more efficient, and potentially higher quality.
You can’t tell them apart by just looking at the filenames. Both types use an MP4 extension. And both will often show as “MPEG-4 movie” in the filetype column on your computer’s file manager.
It would make sense to use HEVC, right? After all, the image quality is potentially better, and the file sizes are smaller. And minute-for-minute, it uses less space on your SD card.
But there’s a big catch: HEVC isn’t as widely compatible as H.264. It works well on the newest generations of computers and mobile devices, but it doesn’t work well on ones that are a bit older.
And that’s the main reason for choosing H.264 on the HERO9 Black: it’s more widely compatible, and that can lead to a simpler workflow if you’re editing or sharing the video.
If your computer or device isn’t compatible with HEVC, there are still ways to convert HEVC files to H.264. But that’s a hassle.
So, what if you just want to avoid HEVC altogether? The good news is that it’s possible. The HERO9 Black still supports recording with the older (but more compatible) H.264 codec. The bad news is that there are relatively few options of resolution/framerate combinations.
That’s related to a quirk in the way that newer GoPro cameras handle the option of recording with HEVC or H.264. On the menu, you’ll see the options for choosing HEVC or H.264 + HEVC. The first is obvious enough: it’ll record everything in HEVC.
The second isn’t quite so obvious. Many cameras have a setting like RAW + JPEG. In those cases, it records a copy in RAW as well as a JPEG. But the H.264 + HEVC setting on a GoPro works differently. It means that it will record with H.264 when that option is available and record everything else with HEVC.
But it also doesn’t make clear when H.264 is available. 1 And that’s where this post comes in.
GoPro has been easing in more reliance on HEVC with the past few models (since the HERO6 Black), and there aren’t a lot of shooting modes on the HERO9 Black where you can avoid HEVC altogether. But it is possible if you choose one of the resolution/framerate options identified as “H.264 + HEVC” in the table below.
Which Video Modes Use H.264 on the HERO9 Black
Here’s a master list of which HERO9 Black video modes only use HEVC and which can also be saved as H.264. For this to work, you’ll have to choose the H.264 + HEVC video compression option on your camera (more on that below).
|Shooting Mode||fps||H.264 / HEVC|
|30||H.264 + HEVC|
|25||H.264 + HEVC|
|60||H.264 + HEVC|
|50||H.264 + HEVC|
|120||H.264 + HEVC|
|100||H.264 + HEVC|
|60||H.264 + HEVC|
|50||H.264 + HEVC|
How to Enable H.264 Recording on the GoPro HERO9 Black
The way to enable H.264 recording on the HERO9 Black isn’t as intuitive as it could be.
There are two options: HEVC or H.264 + HEVC. On the camera’s menu system, you find these under:
Preferences > General > Video Compression
You can also change this using the GoPro Quik app; it’s under:
Camera Preferences > Setup > Video Compression
Things Worth Knowing
It’s worth noting that this is the kind of setting that GoPro can easily change with a firmware update. At the time of testing these, I had firmware version v.01.60.00 on my HERO9 Black.
Getting your computer compatible with HEVC is a whole other topic. Recent Macs are compatible, as are some combinations of newer Windows machines (it depends on both the operating system and what processor chip it uses). If you’re using Windows 10, you can find the codec here.
In terms of compatibility, this is what GoPro says:
Playing Media on Unsupported Operating Systems. If your computer isn’t running Windows 10 / macOS High Sierra or newer, you will not be able to play HEVC files. Quik for desktop will still copy HEVC files to your computer, but they won’t appear in the Quik for desktop Media gallery. Also, third-party apps won’t be able to play HEVC files.
Playing Media on Supported Operating Systems, but Older Computers. While Windows 10 / macOS High Sierra supports HEVC, your computer must use a newer processor to play those files smoothly. Quik for desktop will still copy HEVC files to your computer, but those files may struggle to play back. In general, computers manufactured before 2016 may not handle HEVC files well. See the partial list of supported computers/processors above.
- GoPro does provide a list of which modes use HEVC on their website, but hopefully, this post explains things a bit more fully and clearly.