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
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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.

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 ModefpsH.264 / HEVC
5K30HEVC Only
 25HEVC Only
 24HEVC Only
4K60HEVC Only
 50HEVC Only
 30H.264 + HEVC
 25H.264 + HEVC
 24HEVC Only
4K4:330HEVC Only
 25HEVC Only
 24HEVC Only
2.7K120HEVC Only
 60H.264 + HEVC
 50H.264 + HEVC
2.7:4:360HEVC Only
 50HEVC Only
1440p120HEVC Only
 60HEVC Only
 50HEVC Only
 30HEVC Only
 25HEVC Only
 24HEVC Only
1080p240HEVC Only
 120H.264 + HEVC
 60H.264 + HEVC
 50H.264 + HEVC
 30HEVC Only
 25HEVC Only
 24HEVC 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.

Price & Availability of the GoPro HERO9 Black

Check the current price and availability at:

GoPro HERO9 Black 4K Action Camera
  • 5K Video - Shoot stunning video with up to 5K resolution, perfect for maintaining detail even when...
  • 20MP Photo with SuperPhoto - Capture crisp, pro-quality photos with 20MP clarity. And with SuperPhoto,...
  1. The maximum video bitrate used on the HERO9 Black is 100 Mbps.[]

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2022-10-05 at 23:08. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

David Coleman / Photographer
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 »

4 thoughts on “How to Change the Video Compression Codec on the GoPro HERO9 Black”

  1. Guys I need your help I have recently recorded a 44 min run video with my gopro black hero 9 and it was compressed to about 2 minutes video when I played the footage it is super fast . Why is this happening can I modify this video to normal speed? And why is doing this? Thank you for your help ?

    Reply
    • It sounds like you might have accidentally recorded it in TimeWarp mode rather than the regular video mode. TimeWarp is basically timelapse, which would explain the super fast motion. If that’s the case, there’s no way to expand it back out to the original length, unfortunately.

      If that’s not the case, the next likely thing that comes to mind is that whatever player you’re using for playback might be set to fast playback (i.e., fast-forward).

      If it’s neither of those things, I’m not sure off-hand, sorry.

      Reply
  2. I have a brand-new iPhone 12 pro and have a GoPro app on it when filming on my new go pro hero nine and I select videos to make a movie in the app it doesn’t want to select any more than one because because of the HEVC how do I get around this problem. Thanks

    Reply

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