Why Do GoPros Split Videos into Segments?

If you're wondering why your GoPro is breaking your videos up into smaller segments, it's not an error and you're not doing anything wrong. It's normal--here's why.
Why Do GoPros Split Videos into Segments?
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If you’ve ever recorded longer sections of video on your GoPro camera, you will have found that video gets split up into smaller segments. Precisely how long the chunks are depends on the video mode you’re using and which camera model.

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The segments can be easily and seamlessly rejoined in editing software like GoPro Studio, Final Cut Pro, or Adobe Premiere. The camera is not actually stopping and starting recording, and there should be no lost frames that give away the break.

So Why do GoPros Cut the Video Files Up?

There are two overlapping parts to the answer. The first is that it’s a safety precaution. By splitting up the video it reduces the chance of you losing all your footage if the file gets corrupted somehow. It’s called chaptering, and the idea is that if one chapter gets corrupted the others should still be okay because they’re separate files. So you’ll lose one egg instead of the whole basket of them.

But there’s also a practical limitation. If GoPro’s didn’t break footage into chapters, you wouldn’t be able to shoot more than about 9 minutes of video at a time at the highest settings. That’s to maintain file system compatibility.

The newer models of GoPro use chapters of a maximum size of 4GB. Earlier models use smaller sizes. That 4GB limit isn’t some random number they dreamed up. So why use that number and not, say 25GB? Or, like some cameras, no limit?

The answer has to do with maximum compatibility and the limitations of the filesystem used on your memory card. By far the most widely compatible filesystem these days is known as FAT32 (for 32-bit File Allocation Table).

FAT32 is quite old–Microsoft first rolled it out with Windows 95–and it lacks some of the sophistication and features of newer file systems such as exFAT. Nevertheless, it has things going for it: it’s reliable, it offers solid performance, and, most importantly, it is very widely compatible. That last point is crucial, because it means that you can put your memory card in pretty much any computer and be able to read it without having to install extra software. Whether you’re using Windows, Mac, or Linux, a FAT32 external hard drive or thumb drive or memory card should work. So nearly all consumer devices aim to be compatible with FAT32.

But FAT32 has a limitation hardcoded into it: the maximum file size that it can handle is 4GB. Back in Windows 95 days, that seemed pretty huge. These days, not so much.

If you’re recording high definition video on a GoPro HERO9 Black, for instance, you’re going to fill up 4GB pretty quickly. In some video modes that shoot at up to 100 Mbps video bitrate, it’s as quick as seven or eight minutes. If you’re using smaller or lower quality settings, you’ll get more footage before you hit that 4GB threshold.

That’s why GoPro breaks its videos up. Once you get to 4GB, it’ll tie off that segment and start a new one. Once that new one gets to 4GB, it’ll start another. And so on, until you stop the recording, the card fills up, or your battery runs out.

A wrinkle is that GoPro’s don’t actually use FAT32 in every instance. And it’s quite technically possible for a camera to detect the filesystem and adjust its behavior. Some Fujifilm cameras, for instance, will save 4GB segments when a SDHC card is used (i.e., 32GB or smaller) but use a continuous stream when larger, SDXC cards, are used.

But GoPro has decided that for now, at least, their cameras will stick a lowest-common-denominator, one-size-fits-all approach. So all current and previous GoPros aim to be compatible with FAT32 at all times. For 32GB memory cards and smaller, GoPros will format the card as FAT32 (the 32s are just coincidence here–they’re referring to different things). But 64GB memory cards and larger use a revised, newer version of FAT known as exFAT. ExFAT actually allows for much larger files. But it’s not going to do much good having those much larger files if then try to copy them onto a computer hard drive or memory backup device that’s formatted for FAT32. So GoPros don’t take advantage of the fact that exFAT can accommodate much larger files.

Put more succinctly, if you format a 32GB microSD card in your GoPro, it will format as FAT32. If you format a 64GB memory card in the same camera, it will automatically format the card as exFAT. In both cases, the GoPro will still limit the maximum filesize to 4GB.

And if you’re tempted to try to format your card with a different filesystem that supports larger files–say, NTFS–don’t. Your GoPro won’t power on. You need to stick with either FAT32 or exFAT.

So if you’re finding that your long videos are ending up in shorter segments on your memory card, it’s not an error and you’re not doing anything wrong. It’s just the camera working around the limitations of the FAT32 filesystem. And it can also be a good thing. Splitting a long video into several smaller files reduces the risk of the all-your-eggs-in-one-basket problem of having one single large file becoming corrupted and losing everything.

How to Join GoPro Video Segments

There are a few different ways to put the segments back together. Putting them on the timeline of a video editor like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro will treat them as seamless clips.

If you’re working with H.264 files, you can join them using the free app MP4Joiner.

And there are paid apps that include merge functions that can work with both H.264 and H.265 HEVC files that are created on some of the newer GoPro models. I’ve put together a guide to using Wondershare UniConverter for joining GoPro video footage here.

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53 Responses

  1. So I put a segmented video of a DJ performance together using Nero Video, and it is a lie when they say the split is seamless. There is loss of milliseconds between the two split videos, but the loss is very noticeable when listening to the audio. It’s like the video jumps past the beginning of the next video. Very disappointing.

  2. I had a 16min. Video that cut into 2 segments but it didn’t download the whole thing. Is that common?

  3. What Sony action camera do you recommend? I’m
    Looking for a quality camera for on demand fitness classes but the GoPro chattering causes a lot of additional work. Any advice would be appreciated.

  4. Thanks, David. Is there a way of changing the chaptering settings so that the GoPro splits my videos into smaller chunks? I’ve noticed that Google Photos really struggles processing my GoPro videos when they are five minutes or longer, sometimes taking months to display thumbnails and play in full resolution, but has no trouble processing short videos, even when I upload tons of them at the same time.

    (Of course, I could just start and stop recording back and forth, but for some activities, I like to start recording and just forget about it until my batteries run out).

  5. the extra step is pretty obnoxious in an already labor intensive workflow. This is the main reason I no longer use go pros.

  6. You can use ffmpeg to recombine files without re-enconding them. It takes seconds instead of several minutes or more, and produces zero quality loss. With the right options you can even keep the gps data attached.

  7. All of Sony’s action cameras record one large file. No chaptering and out of hundreds of days worth of recordings over the past 3 years I have never had a single file corrupt.

  8. Hello, my 7 black gopro also does this. In the Camera the entire video appears and on the PC it appears only up to 8.53. Even in QUIK it also only appears 8.53. Is there any other solution to this if it is not editing the videos? She actually recorded another file with the rest of the videos.

  9. The filesize will be larger when you use the high resolution and framerate options (or, more technically, it’s the bitrate that determines the filesize). While there’s no one-click way to copy them to make them fit, it is certainly possible to convert them into another file that’s much smaller (or “transcode”, more specifically). There are a lot of different ways to do it, but with 71GB files, the free online versions aren’t very practical. A better option is an app that will do it on your computer. There’s an enormous number of them available that will work, but one I’d recommend is Handbrake, which is free and open source and comes with a bunch of different presets that will help you get a smaller file. Another option that still relies on a wireless connection which will take a while with a such a large file (and be sure to use wifi rather than your phone’ data plan) is to use the GoPro mobile app to share to something like Youtube. As part of the upload process, Youtube will transcode a much smaller version of the file.

    To save yourself this step next time, it’s worth reducing the video mode down to something like 1080p60 with Protune turned off. That’s still going to create a big file–about 27GB for 2 hours of recording–but that’s still a lot smaller than your 71GB file.

  10. I have the go pro 7 black. I captured 2hr softball games but the files equal 71 GB. Is there some way to reduce file size to be able to put on a thumb drive or share. I have 2hr movies that are barely 1.5 GB, I dont understand…..Help!!

  11. Massively regret buying my GoPro, what a waste of money, never connects to my laptop. Spoke to customer service and it took about the hours to get it sorted, they said it was my laptop. Next time I went to link it to my laptop again I had the same issues. I’ve now tried to link it with three different computers all the same problem and now I’ve recorded a long video with it had to be in one segment but it only loads up 9mins. What an absolute joke of a camera.

    1. As a work around take the sd card out of the camera and copy to your PC. THen open that with Fusion Studio

  12. What is the best quality setting do you recommend for day car driving from inside and outside the car ? (GoPro Hero Black 7)

    1. A high framerate (eg. 60fps) will help with fast-moving scenes. Unless you plan to apply stabilization in post, the HyperSmooth stabilization should help quite a lot.

  13. Very un happy Gopro user on account of the segmenting issue. For crossfit recording workouts they must be UNEDITED period. Clipping segments together is a violation and the video is rejected. If I could return the camera for a refund, I would. Had I known this issue existed I would have passed on the camera.

      1. CrossFit workout videos can be helpful later for when your doctor wants to see exactly what kind of nonsense caused the injuries they’re treating.

  14. Well done! And, fantastic explanation! It makes sense now, why my Hero 4 chunks my videos into 8:52 minute “chapters”.
    I really appreciate your solving the mystery.
    Good on ya!
    Cheers!
    ~Rick

  15. Thanks for the info, I just recently got a GoPro Hero 4 silver and a 64GB card, I’m having unrelated issues but this was very interesting.

  16. I have a goPro 3 and 3+ . I record in 1920×1080 30fps. Neither records up to 4gb. Every file is approximately 1.3GB and 12 mins. I place them behind each goal during hockey games. I have no problem recording a full entire hockey game on my iPad Pro which will record as long as I have power and space to one file if I don’t stop it. Why can iPad record an entire video as long as I want it at those same video settings but the goPro’s can’t?

    1. iPads have a closed filesystem, whereas GoPros using memory cards are trying to retain maximum compatibility to work with other types of computers, devices, and microSDHC cards (formatted in FAT).

  17. my gopro hero plus only records 12 minutes and then seems to stop, i lost tons of video, i filmed 2 45 minute bike rides and only have the 2 videos and just the first 12 minutes, My girl bought this so i can film going up mt washington if this is the case, it is completely useless for me, i cant keep hitting record every 12 minutes, HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. A few things to try… First, how are you downloading them to your computer, assuming that’s what you’re doing? Some apps might only ingest the first segment by default. Are the segments all on the card itself if you browse that with a file browser? If they’re not (ie. the recording is actually stopping after 12 mins as opposed to the segments not showing up), a common culprit is a memory card that’s too slow. Here are some recommendations.

    2. Also make sure you disable any voice command features such as the one on the go pro hero five black that I have. That can stop your video if you accidentally say something that sounds like stop recording.

  18. filming with Gopro hero 5 in 4K, driving on racetrack over 10min.

    all clips get to be 08:53min and no chaptering of the rest!

    what can I do to fix this?

    1. Having the exact same problem. Did you find a solution to this? I only have the first segments 8 min 53 seconds of each file and no chaptering of the rest. When the SD card is plugged into the GoPro I am able to see that my footage is over 20 minutes but when I take it out trying to import my footage it will only import 8 minutes 53 seconds and there is no chaptering of the rest :(

      1. Hi I had a similar problem with my Gopro Hero 6.
        All you need to do is remove the memory card out of the gopro and use it along with the SD card Adapter provided along with the card or simply use it with a normal memory card reader and you will be able to browse/download the entire files on to your PC.

  19. OMG! Thank you! I thought lost my video footage. If my once in a lifetime helicopter ride in Kauai video was gone I would have been really sad.

  20. I have a goPro Session 4 and it does not loop recording.

    I can start bluetooth, turn on loop condition, but it only stays in loop while still on. Once its turned off the camera goes back to recording without overwriting.

    I hope goPro bring out an update because I bought this camera for Motorcycle riding and I just want to recharge and use.

  21. Just had a weird thing happen…. My recording was about 15 minutes, and it go split at about 10 minutes. problem is that the second part of the split was inferior in quality, and did not work well with the green screen. On my gopro viewing area for importing, unlike all other videos I’ve shot, the second section appeared as an mp4 with a mp4 icon rather than the image frames of everything else I’ve ever recorded. Anyone have any clues (and my apologies for my poor terminology, this is all new to me)

  22. Can I reduce the size of each file? Is there a setting that will allow me to REDUCE the maximum size of each file? For example, if I want it to segment every 1GB?

    1. Sort of. You can use the GoPro mobile app to download and save the video to your device and then use a separate app for editing. Here are some ideas–although I haven’t tried them. They probably won’t give you the full functionality of a desktop/laptop app, and you’ll probably run into issues if you’re using the large files generated with long or high-resolution footage.

  23. Thank you for the great explanation! Now how can I quickly joins these split videos back together. Using GoPro studio is taking forever so I must be doing something wrong?

  24. Hello,

    I used a Hero 4 Black to record an hour long video utilizing a SanDisk Ultra 64 GB card at 1080 Superview/60 FPS. I see the first 17+ min file in the download section of GoPro Studio, but nothing after. I can watch the entire video on the actual GoPro. How do I get the rest of my files? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    1. I’m having exactly the same problem! did you find a solution?

      I would presume the go pro would save the remaining footage as a separate clip after the 17mins but if it has I can’t find it anywhere; apart from playing back in full on the camera.

      if you worked it out I’d really appreciate the tip!Thanks

      1. Did you guys ever get a response for this? I’m having the same issue and cant find the solution for this! :(

        1. What are you using to look for the file on the memory card? I haven’t seen this behavior, but I’m wondering if the camera is creating a hidden temporary file and getting interrupted before it finishes closing off the file and unhiding it. It’s worth looking at, anyway. Here are some instructions for Mac and for Windows. If you’re using Mac, FileLoupe is a good option for browsing the clips and it’s possible the missing clip might display there.

  25. I had the problem where I moved the first file in the sequence onto my desktop for testing and after reconnecting to move the remainder of the files, the subsequent files in the sequence were all deleted. Did anyone else experience this?

  26. My GoPro recorded 4GB but it did not create another file(s) so I’ve lost part my recording. I have noticed it after downloading files to my computer.

    1. That is sometimes a symptom of a memory card that isn’t fast enough. If you’re using one of the higher-end GoPro models, here are some suggestions. If you’re already using one of those fast cards, it’s worth testing with a different card if you have easy access to one.

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