The GoPro HERO6 Black is now out. It includes higher video modes of 4K60 and 1080p240 as well as a number of other incremental improvements such as better in-camera video stabilization. It also includes some tweaked Protune options. Here's a rundown of the various Protune options that are available on the HERO6 Black and what each of them does.
What is Protune?
Protune is an expert or advanced mode that's available on some GoPro cameras when shooting video or taking photos. By default, GoPros work in automatic exposure mode. Turning on Protune enables a number of other shooting settings that lets you override some of the automatic settings as well as enabling higher-quality recording in some video modes.
Protune Options When Shooting Video with the HERO6 Black
Protune is disabled by default. If you enable it in the video mode, it not only makes more settings available--in some of the high-end video modes it also uses higher bitrate recording for better quality video encoding. So make sure you have an SD card that's fast enough.
Here's a quick view of the various Protune settings available on the GoPro HERO6 Black when shooting video.
|Protune Option||HERO6 Black|
|Manual Exposure / Shutter*||Auto|
|Exposure Compensation||-2 to +2|
|Raw Audio Track||Off|
The color setting let's you choose from two options: GoPro Color and Flat.
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.
The White Balance Setting is for working with different kinds of light. It's a kind of color correction that compensates for the different color temperatures of light with the objective of trying to keep neutral white looking neutral white rather than blue or orange. The settings refer to Kelvin color temperatures.
The default setting is Auto, and for everyday shooting that's going to give you the best results. But if you want to fine tune it either because the Auto setting is having a hard time with some difficult lighting conditions or you want more creative control over the look and mood, you can override it and set it to a specific temperature. If you're shooting a cosy 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 choose 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 and is 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.
You can't change the aperture on GoPros, so manual exposure here refers only to the shutter speed.
The specific options you see available will 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. 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 Limit 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 Limit
The ISO refers to the sensitivity of the sensor. 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.
GoPros adjust the ISO automatically. What these settings allow you do is control the range of that auto ISO by setting upper and lower limits.
This 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.
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.
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 essentially 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 increase their contrast. When done across the whole frame, it makes the footage look sharper.
You have a choice of High, Medium, or Low. 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.
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.
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 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 the HERO6 Black, that's not 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 and I'll cover it separately.
There's a sliding scale from -2 to +2. The default is 0.
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.
Protune Options on the HERO6 Black's Photo, Timelapse Photo, Nightlapse Photo, and Burst Modes
The HERO6 Black's 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.
All of the Protune options remain available through all the various photo modes, but not every setting really matters for every mode. That's because there are differences in the ways that some of these settings are applied to JPG and RAW images.
With that straight photo mode, you can choose to shoot either RAW or JPG. With the others, such as burst mode and the timelapse photo modes, only JPG is available.
Here's an overview of all the Protune options available on the HERO6 Black in the photo mode.
|Protune Option||HERO6 Black|
|Exposure Compensation||-2 to +2|
There are options for GoPro Color and Flat. The GoPro Color setting will give the punchier, contrasted, and more saturated image that looks better out of the camera.
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.
The white balance options are the same as with the video mode (see above).
Once 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 as a starting point, but you can set the white balance anywhere you like.
By default, the shutter speed is set to Auto. You can manually set the shutter to one of the available values:
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 Min / ISO Max
As with the video mode, you can assign upper and lower limits to the range that the camera uses for its automatic ISO.
One minor difference to the video mode is that the maximum ISO here is 3200 rather than 6400.
If you want to lock in a specific ISO setting, set the minimum and maximum settings to the same value.
By default, GoPros apply pretty aggressive sharpening to help make the images crisp. 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.
As with the 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.
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.
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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.