Tutorial: How to convert GoPro HD footage for editing in FCP (Final Cut Pro)

GoPro Final Cut
Step-by-step tutorial to edit your GoPro files in Final Cut Pro
The GoPro HD is an affordable high performance wearable camera to record sporting and other activities.

The GoPro HD records in MPEG-4 and outputs its files as .MP4 files (the container). Files are compressed using the h.264 codec (as opposed to AAC or Xvid and DivX usually found in .AVI containers). So the files you are getting out of GoPro HD are suited to be delivered as is, which is usually not what you want. The GoPro HD being an “always-on” type of camera worn on your helmet, attached to your bike, surfboard or other, you usually end up with long sequences of footage you then need to edit down.

Since the MP4 codec is a final delivery codec it is not one you want to use for editing. Therefore you first need to convert it to a more editing-friendly format, such a Final Cut Pro’s ProRes.

First you need to download MPEG Streamclip, a powerful high-quality video converter, player and editor. If you are editing with Final Cut Pro (FCP), chances are you already installed this great free utility. If not, download it it from here.

So, what does the workflow look like?

1) Create a folder with the original GoPro .MP4 files on your hard drive.

2) Launch MPEG Streamclip

GoPro Final Cut - Part 1

3) Select LIST / BATCH LIST in the menu toolbar. This opens a BATCH LIST window. Select all your .MP4 files in your folder, drag drop them into this BATCH LIST window.

GoPro Final Cut - Part 2

GoPro Final Cut - Part 3

4) Another window automatically opens with a task to choose. Leave the default selection EXPORT TO QUICKTIME. Do not tick any of the other fields. Press OK.

GoPro Final Cut - Part 4

5) The SELECT THE DESTINATION FOLDER window opens. Create a folder for your converted files and SELECT it.

6) The MOVIE EXPORTER windows opens. Select the options as follows:

GoPro Final Cut - Part 5

  • COMPRESSION: APPLE PRORES 422 (LT). Please note that you will only see the Apple ProRes Codecs if you have Final Cut Pro installed as they are being shipped as part of this editing suite.
  • QUALITY: Increase to 100%
  • FRAME SIZE: This will depend on what settings you used to film your original footage so you need to select the one that says UNSCALED. In my case this is 1280×720 (UNSCALED).

Set the FRAME RATE options as follows:

  • FRAME BLENDING: OFF
  • BETTER DOWNSCALING: OFF
  • INTERLACED SCALING: ON
  • DEINTERLACE VIDEO: OFF
  • Finally, FIELD DOMINANCE is set to UPPER FIELD FIRST.

Leave the rest unchanged, then click TO BATCH. This will put all your files in the conversion queue.

Then click GO and your files will be converted into .MOV files ready to be imported into FCP.

You’re done!

If you haven’t done so yet, you should also check out this demo footage of the GoPro 3

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Comments

  1. Vanessa says

    Hi, I have been shooting using Gopro 3 black at 1080 S 48fps
    When I edit in Final Cut Pro 7 it all looks fine and – apart from the bright green render line that comes up initially.
    When I come to export the quick times are really pixelated. I have tried quite a few different senarios, but no luck.
    Is the ‘S’ a problem maybe?
    I follow all the MPEG instructions, so am a bit confused.
    Thanks
    Vanessa

    • says

      Hi Vanessa
      I don’t have a GoPro 3, so no 1080s files. Can you share a small raw file you are trying to convert (maybe over DropBox)? I won’t make any promisses but I can have a look.

  2. Lukas says

    I usually let FCPX create optimised files when importing, is there any difference in speed/quality when doing it with MPEG stream clip?

    • says

      Hi Lukas
      This tutorial was actually written for FCP (v6) not FCPX. FCP was less friendly when it came to importing GoPro footage. The main point is to get ProRes files if you plan on editing the footage. So if you import your movies into FCPX as ProRes then you can effectively skip this tutorial. :)
      Other than conversion speed differences (which I haven’t tested) there would be no other immediat benefit as far as I know.

  3. Molly Bellanco says

    Hello!
    I edit off of Premiere CS6 but work with larger files and wanting to transcode files so editing process can be more streamless. I have heard a lot about MPEG Streamclip and using the compression setting ProRes 422. Everyone says its great….HOWEVER I have downloaded the program from http://www.squared5.com/ (same one that many others have used).

    When I uploaded the files and go to the compression settings there is NO option to click ProRes 422. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated! Is there a plug in I should be getting or something?

    Is there a different program I should be using? IS there a reason why for me I am only gettting a short list of compression settings instead of the LONG list I have seen in so many online videos?

    PLEASE HELP! :)

    • says

      Hi Molly
      In order for the ProRes codecs to show up in MPEG Streamclip you need to have Final Cut Pro installed. FCP installs the codecs and makes them available to other apps. As far as I know you cannot download them separately. Hope that helps even if it’s not the answer you were hoping for…

  4. Katherine says

    MPEG Streamclip doesn’t want to open my .MP4 gopro file? Do you know why? Doing some research on the web and found nothing yet. MPEG msg error saying that he can’t open this kind of file, but it’s the original file and it’s in MP4…

    • says

      Does the file open in any player? Can you actually read the file? GoPros sometimes corrupt recorded files. I believe there is a utility out there that can fix this issue.

  5. Catharine says

    Great tutorial, thanks. One question though – if I shot my other footage at a frame rate of 23.98 and the go pro is 30, is there a way to convert the frame rate as well? Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Catharine
      Actually the GoPro is not necessarily 30 fps. Depending on the model you have, you can use different frame rates: 240, 120, 100, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24. It should make your life a lot simpler to decide on a frame rate before shooting and to use the same one on all your cameras. Conforming shots from different frame rates can be very tricky, especially if audio is involved.

  6. says

    What is the real benefit of doing this? I can add gopro files directly to the FCXP timeline and they will transcode/render? Is this just to render ahead of time for faster editing or is it a video quality difference?

    • says

      Yes you can add GoPro files directly to FCPX. But they will however be imported in an output format not in an ‘editing’ format. No big deal if you’re only dealing with a couple of small files. But if you intend to apply effects, an editing friendly codec will be much faster and convenient.
      Also note that this article was written before FCPX and the GoPro software tools came along. So it mostly applied to FCP 6.0. GoPro later released a free software suite that allows direct transcoding to an editing friendly format.

  7. Anonymous says

    I’ve got Final Cut Pro 5 so the ProRes 422 codec isn’t available and Im not upgrading just to get it either. I don’t do video work anymore so am wondering what other options exist out there that don’t involve the prores422 codec?

    • Anonymous says

      Just thought I would mention that I ended up using Premiere Pro CS 5.5 and you can dump raw 1080p HD GoPro footage in there without any pre-processing! So Premiere will be my platform of choice for GoPro video now. Sorry FCP :(

  8. says

    @Zach
    As far as I know, the Pro Res 422 codecs will only show up in MPEG Streamclip if you have FCP installed (since they come with FCP). The file size will be superior yes, even with the ProRes 422 LT. But that will be for the editing process only. Once you export the file in its delivery format your file size will decrease again.

  9. Zach grzelak says

    What if my mpeg stream clip doesn’t have apple pro res 422. I tried using apple intermediate codec but my
    One 3 minute clips was converted into 7 gigs. How come each clip was converted tO that large Of a file??? Please help

  10. says

    @Ron
    Assuming you converted your files properly you might be dealing with a timeline (sequence) setting issue.
    Since your Canon HD files and your GoPro files don’t use the same settings, one of them probably doesn’t match the settings of your sequence.
    Try to open your converted GoPro files in a new project and add them to the timeline. Say yes to the popup asking if you want to match your sequence to your footage and see if they are still red.
    That should tell us if you converted them properly and if the issue is sequence settings related.
    Let me know
    Cheers
    Jan

  11. says

    This is great info, but my FCP still requires me to render the GoPro files. I sent the file through MPEG Streamclip and changed it to apple 422.. and it didn’t work. What am I doing wrong?

  12. says

    MaxiMaxi you are right, that seemed strange to me too (I initially didn’t select it myself) but this is as per GoPro’s own website recommendation.

    • says

      I’m also wondering about why the ‘Interlaced scaling’ is set to on, because several other tutorials out there have specifically put it to OFF.

      • says

        I will need to double-check with GoPro on that. I would set it to OFF too (my initial setting) but the GoPro website actually says it should be on. Probably a typo on their site. I will see what I can find out.

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