GoPro Protune Settings Explained

Here are straightforward explanations of what each setting does and when to use it, as well as showing what Protune settings are available on which GoPros.

Here are straightforward explanations of what each setting does and when to use it, as well as showing what Protune settings are available on which GoPros.

What Is GoPro Protune?

Protune is the name GoPro gives their advanced or expert options. There are generally two sets of Protune options, some for shooting video and some for shooting photos. They can be for things like controlling the shutter speed or setting a manual white balance. Not all GoPro cameras have the same Protune options, and some cameras don’t have any.

Protune Explained in Detail

Initially, Protune options were all related to shooting video, but some more recent GoPros also include Protune options for shooting video. By default, GoPros work in automatic exposure mode. That means that you can use them right out of the box and have confidence that you’ll get decent results. But if you want more control, such as being able to tweak the color grading in a video editor, specifying the white balance, or assigning a set shutter speed, you can turn Protune on to override some of the automatic settings. When recording video, it typically also enables a higher bitrate mode that can potentially lead to higher-quality footage.

Not every GoPro has Protune options. Some have Protune options for both video and photo shooting. Others have it only for video. It’s generally reserved for the higher-end models such as the flagship Black editions. You can see which Protune options are available on what GoPros in the tables below.

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It’s worth noting that turning Protune on is entirely optional. The advanced settings are disabled by default, and the camera is set up with defaults that will give good results right out of the box. But the extended Protune options are there if you want more control. You also don’t have to set all of them to make changes–it’s not the same as a full manual mode in that respect.

GoPro Protune for Video

One consideration that isn’t immediately apparent from the menu options is that enabling Protune for video usually switches to higher-bitrate recording. Basically, that means that the video has less compression applied, meaning that better image quality. It also means that more data has to be written quickly to the memory card, so if you’re using Protune, particularly at high resolutions or fast frame rates (or both), it’s especially important that you have a SD card that’s fast enough.

Color

The color setting lets you choose from two options: GoPro Color and Flat. GoPro refers to this as a color profile, but it’s not the same thing as the profile that you use with color spaces and

The default is GoPro Color, and that’s what you get if you have Protune turned off. It’s the punchy look you’re most likely used to when viewing GoPro videos, with relatively high contrast and quite saturated, bright colors. If you’re looking to share the footage without messing with post-processing, the GoPro Color setting will usually give you the best-looking results right out of the camera.

The Flat setting looks much less impressive right out of the camera. It’s quite desaturated and has low contrast. But it becomes useful if you’re planning to do color grading in video editing apps like GoPro’s own Quik desktop app or Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere. It gives you maximum control over the contrast and color saturation. And because of its reduced contrast, it also retains better details in highlights and shadows.

The Flat setting can also be very useful if you’re mixing GoPro footage with footage captured with other cameras and want to try to get them all to a relatively consistent look.

White Balance

The White Balance Setting is for working in different kinds of lighting conditions. It’s a kind of color correction that compensates for the different color temperatures of light. Bright sunlight, for example, has a different color temperature than shade

In most cases, the objective is to try to keep the overall color tone looking natural rather than tinted. In other words, white objects should look white and black objects should look black rather than blue or orange. Although that’s not always the case–sometimes color casts can be used to add a distinctive look or mood. The numbers in the Protune settings refer to Kelvin color temperatures, which is how color temperature is typically measured.

The default setting is Auto, and for everyday shooting that’s going to give you the best, most natural-looking results. But if you want to fine-tune it either because the Auto setting is having a hard time with some challenging lighting conditions, you want more creative control over the look and mood, or you’re trying to match some other footage, you can override it and set it to a specific temperature. If you’re shooting a cozy fireplace scene, for example, you might want to deliberately use something like 6500K to create a warm, inviting look to your footage where using 2300K on the same scene would likely look unnatural and uninviting. But using the same 6500K out on the snow might make everything unnaturally blue.

In general, the lower the number, the weaker (or warmer) the light source. So, for example, a candlelit room is going to be down at the bottom end around 2300K. Bright sunlight is going to be upwards of 5000K.

If you get it wrong, you’ll end up with footage that has a strong color cast. If you choose a number too high, the footage will come out with an orange tint. If you select a number too low, it will come out bluish. The preview on the back screen reflects the setting you’ve chosen, so you get a real-time preview.

The Native setting applies the minimum amount of color correction; in that way, it’s similar to the Flat color profile. It’s best if you’re planning to do color grading in video editing software.

Manual Exposure / Shutter

The name of this setting isn’t as clear as it could be. This isn’t manual exposure in quite the same way you might be used to it on other cameras. By itself, it’s not an M mode where you set the aperture and shutter speed. GoPros have a fixed aperture, so manual exposure here refers only to the shutter speed.

With the video Protune options, the specific options you see available vary by the framerate you’ve chosen. That’s because the available shutter speeds are multiples of the framerate.

As an example, if you set it to 1080p60, you won’t see the option for a manual shutter speed of 1/96 but you will see 1/120 and 1/240, because they’re multiple of 60. Likewise, if you choose 4K24 you’ll see options like 1/48 and 1/192.

This setting is useful to be used in conjunction with the ISO setting, which effectively gives you control over two of the three sides of the exposure triangle (you can’t change the aperture–it’s a fixed f/2.8).

ISO Min / ISO Max / ISO Limit

A camera’s ISO setting refers to the sensitivity of the sensor to light hitting it. In dark lighting you want a higher ISO to make the sensor react more quickly to the light hitting it (ie. more sensitive).

The catch is that the higher the ISO, the further away from optimum image quality you get. Very high ISO settings can result in grainy footage and washed out colors. In bright conditions, an ISO of 100 will usually give you much better image quality than an ISO of 3200.

GoPros adjust the ISO automatically. What these Protune settings allow you do is control the range of that auto ISO by setting upper and lower limits. The terminology varies a little between models. Older models let you set only a maximum ceiling that the camera wouldn’t go above. That setting was called ISO Limit. New models allow you to set both a minimum and a maximum ISO with settings now called ISO Min and ISO Max.

The ISO Limit / ISO Min / ISO Max settings can be useful in a few different ways. A common one is if you’re trying to avoid the downsides of high ISOs, so you might set the upper limit to something like ISO 800. If dark conditions hit that limit, it will then force the camera to slow the shutter speed instead.

Conversely, if you want to ensure a high shutter speed, you can increase the lower limit. That will then force the automatic exposure to favor faster shutter speeds.

And if you’re trying to match footage between different shoots, it can be useful to assign a specific ISO. So you can set the upper and lower limits to the same number.

You can see the effect of this setting in real time on the GoPro’s screen.

Sharpness

How crisp the footage is can be the result of several things: lens quality, air quality, lighting conditions, and the intersection of movement and shutter speed.

This sharpness setting is none of those. If you’re familiar with photo editing software, it’s the same thing that is sometimes called an unsharp filter. It’s a correction applied at the end of the chain, right before the video file is encoded. It applies software algorithms to find the edges of the image and then increases their local contrast. When done across the whole frame, it makes the footage look sharper and crisper.

On most GoPros that have the option, you have a choice of High, Medium, or Low (the HERO Session has On or Off instead). The default setting is High, and in many instances, that’s going to give the best-looking results right out of the camera.

If you’re aiming for a softer, dreamier look, you might want to dial that down to Medium or Low.

The Low setting is also useful if you’re planning to use post-processing software and want maximum control over the sharpness. It’s closest to the natural optical sharpness of the image. It’s not going to look as crisp out of the camera, but it does give you the flexibility for post-processing.

The preview on the back screen tries to mimic the effect of the sharpening setting to give you a real-time view of it. It’s not technically the same as the version on the finished product at full resolution, but it’s useful to see the effect.

Exposure Compensation

GoPros automatically adjust the exposure settings to try to give the best exposure. But what “best” is can be entirely subjective. Sometimes it can be a lowest denominator approach that doesn’t suit what you’re aiming for.

Exposure Compensation, which is sometimes known as EV Comp, can also be very useful in challenging, uneven lighting conditions. As an example, imagine you’re filming someone from a distance standing under a streetlight on a dark night. The camera will automatically try to create the “best” exposure and try to make the darkness brighter. But that might make the person under the streetlight far too bright and wash out any details. So you could dial down the exposure compensation to properly expose for the person under the streetlight. (On newer models, using exposure compensation isn’t the only way to tackle this particular kind of issue–there’s also an Exposure Control feature that’s not technically part of the Protune settings).

Things can get a little tricky when you throw in the ISO issue. EV Comp works within a specified ISO range, and it’s not going to have any effect if the exposure has already hit the floor or ceiling.

There’s a sliding scale from -2 to +2. The default is 0. It moves in 0.5 increments.

You can preview the effect of this setting in real time on the camera’s back screen.

When shooting video, the Exposure Compensation setting is only available if the Manual Exposure shutter value is set to Auto.

Raw Audio Track

This is one of the new settings that was introduced with the HERO5 Black. It allows you to create a separate audio track at a higher quality than the one embedded into the mp4 video file. In other words, it’s a standalone detached audio file.

The default is Off. There’s no separate audio file created, so you use the one embedded in the mp4 video file.

Low creates a separate WAV file and applies minimal processing and will often sound the worst straight out of the camera. It’s the closes to a true raw audio feed, so it’s a good option if you’re planning to work on the audio track in audio software or video editing software.

The Medium creates a separate WAV file. This setting’s behavior varies based on whether you have the Manual Audio Control setting on or off. If you have it set to either wind or stereo, it will respect that. If you have Manual Audio Control switched off, the Medium setting here will switch automatically between wind and stereo depending on which it calculates to give better results.

The High setting creates a separate WAV file and applies the maximum amount of in-camera processing on the audio, including automatic gain and AAC encoding.

Microphone Setting

This setting was introduced with the HERO7 Black. The options are Auto (the default), Stereo, or Wind.

The Stereo setting forces the camera to record in stereo mode. That’s the best option for things like music of spoken word, but if you’re shooting in windy conditions, you’ll end up recording all of that wind noise too. Which is where the Wind setting comes in; it tries to filter out the wind noise.

Which Protune Options are Available on What Cameras When Shooting Video

Here’s a master list of the various video Protune options available on specific models.

Protune OptionHERO7 BlackHERO6 BlackHERO5 BlackHERO4 BlackHERO4 SilverHERO Session
ColorGoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
White BalanceAuto
2300K
2800K
3200K
4000K
4500K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
2300K
2800K
3200K
4000K
4500K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
3000K
4000K
4800K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
3000K
4000K
4800K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
3000K
4000K
4800K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
3000K
5500K
6500K
Native
Manual Exposure / ShutterAuto
1/24
1/25
1/30
1/48
1/50
1/60
1/96
1/100
1/120
1/192
1/200
1/240
1/384
1/400
1/480
1/960
1/1920
1/3840
Auto
1/24
1/25
1/30
1/48
1/50
1/60
1/96
1/100
1/120
1/192
1/200
1/240
1/400
1/480
1/960
1/1920
Auto
1/60
1/120
1/240
1/480
Auto
1/60
1/120
1/240
Auto
1/60
1/120
1/240
-
ISO Limit / ISO Max6400
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
6400
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
6400
3200
1600
1200
800
400
6400
3200
1600
1200
800
400
6400
3200
1600
1200
800
400
1600
400
SharpnessHigh
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
OFF
ON
Exposure Compensation-2 to +2-2 to +2-2 to +2-2 to +2-2 to +2-2 to +2
Raw Audio TrackOff
Low
Mid
High
Off
Low
Mid
High
Off
Low
Mid
High
---
Auto Audio Mode GroupAuto
Wind Only
Stereo Only
-----

GoPro Protune for Photo, Timelapse Photo, Nightlapse Photo, and Burst Shooting

Protune was first introduced as a set of extended options for shooting video. Later, a set of Protune options were added for shooting still photos. These photo Protune options in the various still photo mode are both similar and simpler than the ones in the video mode. Obviously, there’s no need for control over things like audio with photos, so that’s not one of the available options.

On newer models, all of the Protune options remain available through all the various photo modes, but not every setting is relevant for every mode. That’s mainly because there are differences in the ways that some of these settings are applied to JPG and RAW images (for those models that have support for the RAW image format).

Color

This is much like the Color option when shooting video. The choices are GoPro Color or Flat. The GoPro Color setting will give the punchier, contrasted, and more saturated image that looks better out of the camera. Flat will look less impressive straight out of the camera but gives you maximum flexibility for post-processing.

If you’re shooting JPG, the resulting image is directly affected by this setting. If you’re shooting int the RAW mode (.gpr), you’ll see the preview change on the camera’s screen, but it has no effect on the underlying RAW file.

I’ve put together some examples of effect of the Protune color setting here.

White Balance

The white balance options are the same as with the video mode (see above).

One difference in the behavior depends on whether you’re shooting JPG or RAW. When shooting JPG, the white balance setting are reflected in the resulting image.

But RAW files handle white balance a bit differently and make the in-camera white balance setting much less relevant. It allows you much more control over it in post-production. So if you’re editing them in something like Lightroom, you’ll see the value reflected in the preview thumbnail as a starting point (or in the JPG file that’s saved simultaneously), but you can set the white balance anywhere you like.

Shutter

The HERO7 Black and HERO6 Black include an option to manually set the shutter speed to one of the available values:

  • 1/125 sec
  • 1/250 sec
  • 1/500 sec
  • 1/1000 sec
  • 1/2000 sec

As with any standard stills camera, a higher shutter speed is better for freezing the action but requires either more light or bumping up the ISO.

ISO Limit / ISO Min / ISO Max

These work the same way as the ISO settings in the video Protune options. Earlier cameras used a single ISO Limit setting to set a maximum ceiling that the camera wouldn’t go above. Newer models added the option to assign a minimum floor, and ISO Limit was replaced with ISO Min and ISO Max.

If you want to lock in a specific ISO setting, set the minimum and maximum settings to the same value.

Sharpness

By default, GoPros apply pretty aggressive sharpening to help make the images crisp. The default is High. If you want to tone it down, you can choose Medium or Low. In general, a low setting gives you more flexibility if you’re planning on putting the image through post-processing.

But it really only matters if you’re shooting JPGs. That’s because if you’re shooting JPG, the sharpness settings are applied directly to the JPG image.

If you’re shooting RAW, the sharpness setting only affects the embedded JPG preview and not the underlying RAW file.

I’ve put together some examples of GoPro sharpening separately.

Exposure Compensation

As with the video mode, the Exposure Compensation setting overrides the automatic exposure calculation to either darken or brighten the image. There’s a slider down to -2 and up to +2 (default is 0) that moves in increments of 0.5.

Which Protune Options are Available on What Cameras When Shooting in Photo, Timelapse Photo, Nightlapse Photo, and Burst Shooting Modes

Here’s a master list of the various photo Protune options available on specific models.

Protune OptionHERO7 BlackHERO6 BlackHERO5 BlackHERO5 SessionHERO4 BlackHERO4 Silver
ColorGoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
White BalanceAuto
2300K
2800K
3200K
4000K
4500K
5000K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
2300K
2800K
3200K
4000K
4500K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
3000K
4000K
4800K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
3000K
5500K
6500K
Native
Auto
3000K
5500K
6500K
Native
Auto
3000K
5500K
6500K
Native
Shutter SpeedAuto
1/125
1/250
1/500
1/1000
1/2000
Auto
1/125
1/250
1/500
1/1000
1/2000
----
ISO Limit---800
400
200
100
800
400
200
100
800
400
200
100
ISO Min3200
1600
800
400
200
100
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
1600
800
400
200
100
---
ISO Max3200
1600
800
400
200
100
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
100
200
400
800
1600
---
SharpnessHigh
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
Exposure Compensation-2 to +2-2 to +2-2 to +2-2 to +2-2 to +2-2 to +2

How to Reset the Protune Options

If you’ve been messing around with the Protune settings and want to quickly restore the defaults, hit the Reset icon, the small circular arrow on the bottom left of the camera’s screen when you have the Protune options screen open.

If you’re using the GoPro mobile app, there’s also a Reset Protune option in the settings.

More GoPro Tips & Tricks:

This post was last modified on June 19, 2019 5:43 pm

View Comments

  • Hi, I have Hero 6 Black but cannot produce audio WAV files.
    No such option Raw Audio Track in Pro Tune (as you mentioned above) .
    Setting audio to Low or Off also does not generate WAV files, also not not somewhere on SD card in Windows Explorer.
    So, how to create audio WAV files.
    I googled for a long time to no avail.

    Thanks, Dries.

    • While in the Video mode, swipe from right to left on the screen and then turn the Protune settings on. Under Audio, any of the Low, Medium, or High settings will produce separate WAV files, each with varying degrees of processing. You should see a "Raw Audio Track" heading at left of screen with the menu options and a short explanation of each. The WAV files are stored alongside the MP4 files in the 100GORPO folder on the memory card. They have the same filename, just with a different extension (ie. .WAV rather than .MP4).

  • Must ProTune remain on or engaged in order for the adjustment to take effect, or can the settings be altered and then the ProTune can be turned off? In other words will preferences such as PHOTO sharpness be preserved between powering on/off, or will preferences have to be set each time the device is turned on again? Are settings "persistent"?

    • No, they're not persistent. If you turn Protune off it disables any Protune-only settings you've changed.

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