Like it's immediate predecessor, the new GoPro HERO6 Black has a video stabilization feature. It's a digital stabilization that's applied in the camera, so you don't need to mess with external stabilizer accessories or spend time and effort doing it in post-production. Even if it's not always as effective a when using a gyro or gimbal like GoPro's own Karma Grip, I've found the in-camera stabilization to work very well and significantly better than in the HERO5 (here are some side-by-side comparisons).
But there's a quirk that's worth knowing about: when you're shooting in the Wide field of view, you'll end up with a slightly cropped imaged and lose some of the image around the edges. With the HERO6 Black, it's about 5% of the image. With the HERO5 models, even more is cropped--about 10%. And because the Wide FOV is the default, it's something you might run into often.
Other software stabilization options, like those in Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro, do the same thing. That's because the way they work needs to cannibalize space from the edges of the frames in order to follow the rest of the frame smoothly.
Cropping vs Zoom
The cropping we're talking about here isn't technically the same thing as when we talk about cropping with still images in that it's not actually making the dimensions of the final product smaller.
As an example, without stabilization, the 4K footage comes out of a GoPro with dimensions of 3840x2160. It will come out with exactly the same dimensions when you turn on stabilization.
So what's actually happening is really a digital zoom, with the camera's processor interpolating to replace the missing information. In practice, the degradation of the image quality is more theoretical than visual--you really can't see the difference, although it's technically there.
Example of the Cropping Applied on the GoPro HERO6 Black
Here's a practical example of what I mean. These were shot from two GoPro HERO6 Black's mounted side by side in a dual frame mount. Both were set at 4K30, the highest mode in which stabilization is available. Both used the Wide FOV setting. One had stabilization turned on. The other had it turned off.
As you can see, it's not a huge difference, but it's definitely noticeable.
Previewing the Cropped Image
The good news, though, is that while you won't see the smoothing effects of the stabilization through the back screen or the preview in the mobile app--that's something that's applied by an algorithm as the footage is saved to the memory card--you will instantly see the cropping applied in the preview on the back screen and through the GoPro app. So you can frame the view without worrying about whether the finished product will crop parts of the edges.
So if you've been wondering why your footage is getting cropped when you turn on the stabilization, this is why. It's because you're using the Wide field of view.
If you want to prevent the cropping, you have two options: turn off the in-camera stabilization or choose a different field of view.
Common GoPro Questions
Here are some common questions I get from GoPro users.
How to Maximize a GoPro's battery life
There are several factors that influence how long the GoPro's battery life lasts. Among them include what mode you're recording in (4K uses more power than 1080p30, for instance), the health of the battery, and even the environmental temperature (lithium batteries don't perform well in very cold temperatures). But there are some things you can do to maximize battery life. Not every GoPro has all of these features, but start with these:
- Minimize use of the back screen
- Turn off wireless
- Turn off voice commands
- Turn off GPS
- Turn off Protune
- Use QuickCapture mode
Is it normal for GoPro cameras to get hot?
Yes. Depending on the model and the shooting mode you're using, it's normal for GoPros to get quite warm while shooting. They can get hot enough to be uncomfortable to touch. It's especially noticeable when shooting high-resolution and high-framerate video. Some newer models have an overheating protection mechanism that will shut the camera down if it gets too hot. I have more details on GoPros getting hot, here.
How can I control a GoPro remotely?
GoPro makes a range of wireless remote controls. They don't all work with all GoPros--for example, the HERO (2018) isn't compatible with this type of remote control. Many of the newer models also work with the GoPro mobile app. Not every model can be controlled remotely, but most of the newer models have wireless compatibility that can be used for at least some methods of remote control.
Can you take pictures with a GoPro?
If you've been using a GoPro for a while, this might seem pretty obvious, but if you've never used one, it's not quite so self-evident. GoPros are best known for dramatic action videos, but they can most certainly take still photos too. In fact, they can be a very interesting alternative to a traditional camera so long as you work within its limitations. I have more more details here.
Do GoPro wireless controls work underwater?
No. You can't use the mobile app or a wireless remote control if the camera is fully submerged in water. They will normally work just fine in rain and spray--just not submerged. I have a more detailed explanation here.
Do GoPro touchscreens work underwater?
No. If they're just wet above water, they can work to some extent, although often less reliably. But the touchscreens won't work underwater.