How to Change the Video Compression Codec on the GoPro HERO9 Black

The GoPro HERO9 Black has two video codecs available for recording video. Both of these produce files with an .mp4 extension. The difference is in how the video is compressed and encoded.

GoPro HERO9 Black Video Compression HEVC H.264
GoPro HERO9 Black Video Compression HEVC H.264
Last Updated:
Filed Under: Video

This post may include affiliate links. Read more.

The GoPro HERO9 Black has two video codecs available for recording video: HEVC (H.265) and AVC (H.264). Both of these produce files with a .mp4 extension, so you can’t tell them apart just by looking at the filenames. The difference is in how the video is compressed and encoded. One is newer, more efficient, potentially higher quality, and less compatible. The other is older, much more compatible, and less efficient.

Holiday Deal! GoPro HERO10 Bundle - $399

  • GoPro HERO10 Black
  • + Magnetic Swivel Clip
  • + Spare Standard Battery
  • + Shorty Grip
  • + 32GB SanDisk EXTREME SD Card
  • + 1-Year GoPro Subscription

All for $399.98 ($260 in value savings). You can find the deal at GoPro.com.

Here’s a quick rundown of how they’re used on the HERO9 Black and which to choose when.

H.264 is an older but extremely widely compatible compression algorithm. This is the codec used on older GoPros, and it has been extremely widely used online for several years, everywhere from YouTube to DailyMotion to Vimeo. It’s stable and reliable.

There’s also a newer codec that’s gaining in usage and popularity. It’s most commonly known as HEVC (for High-Efficiency Video Coding). Less commonly, it’s also known as H.265. It’s a newer, better codec, but it’s still not yet as widely compatible in the same way the older H.264 codec is. (If you’re having trouble with the HEVC files, first try the GoPro Player desktop app. I’ve posted another workaround here.)

On the HERO9 Black, you have some choices when it comes to using HEVC or H.264. You don’t get that choice with every combination of resolution and framerate—some, like 5K30, are only available with the newer, better HEVC codec. But with others, you can choose between using settings for HEVC or H.264 + HEVC.

You can find this setting under:

Preferences > General > Video Compression

The two options are:

  • HEVC
  • H.264 + HEVC

(Note that if you’re using the GoPro mobile app, these show up in the Video Compression option as “High Efficiency” and “Most Compatible”. The H.264 + HEVC is the same as the “Most Compatible” option.)

Things Worth Knowing

The main reason I’m posting this is not so much just to point out that the HERO9 Black has these options available but because the way this option works isn’t quite as intuitive as it could be.

The first option is obvious enough: it will use HEVC for all video recordings. Pretty straightforward.

The second option isn’t quite as obvious. On most cameras, if you choose an option like RAW + JPG, the camera will record both simultaneously. That is, it’ll save two versions of the image, one in each format.

But on the GoPro HERO9 Black, choosing H.264 + HEVC won’t record two versions. What it will do is use H.264 for most of the video options. But with some of the high-end video modes, you can still only record them with the HEVC codec. If you’re recording 5K30, for instance, it will only record using the HEVC codec regardless of whether you’ve chosen the H.264 + HEVC option. So “H.264 + HEVC” doesn’t mean “H.264 and HEVC”; it means H.264 when available and HEVC when it’s not.

Which to Use When

The simplest and most compatible choice is the H.264 + HEVC option.

For potentially higher quality, the HEVC option offers a number of advantages related to its much more efficient encoding. Bitrate for bitrate, if you encode a video in both HEVC and H.264 using the same bitrate, the HEVC should result in better quality video (I’m qualifying this with “should” because there are other factors and settings that impact video quality.)1 The catch is that you might need to check on your computer’s compatibility with working with HEVC files. The best place to start is to install the GoPro Player desktop app.

Which Video Modes Use H.264 on the HERO9 Black

To find out which video modes on the HERO9 Black supported H.264, I recorded some short clips and then checked the codec used for each.

Shooting Mode fps H.264 / HEVC
5K 30 HEVC Only
25 HEVC Only
24 HEVC Only
4K 60 HEVC Only
50 HEVC Only
30 H.264 + HEVC
25 H.264 + HEVC
24 HEVC Only
4K4:3 30 HEVC Only
25 HEVC Only
24 HEVC Only
2.7K 120 HEVC Only
60 H.264 + HEVC
50 H.264 + HEVC
2.7:4:3 60 HEVC Only
50 HEVC Only
1440p 120 HEVC Only
60 HEVC Only
50 HEVC Only
30 HEVC Only
25 HEVC Only
24 HEVC Only
1080p 240 HEVC Only
120 H.264 + HEVC
60 H.264 + HEVC
50 H.264 + HEVC
30 HEVC Only
25 HEVC Only
24 HEVC Only

Things Worth Knowing

With enabling the H.264 + HEVC option, in combination with some careful selection of resolution/framerate combinations, it’s possible to avoid HEVC on the HERO9 Black. But since the HERO6 Black, recent GoPro models have become increasingly reliant on HEVC.


  1. The maximum video bitrate used on the HERO9 Black is 100 Mbps. 
by David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. I've been shooting with GoPros for years, starting with the HD HERO, and have owned and used every model since. More »