GoPro Studio

The screenshot above shows the edit module in GoPro Studio.

GoPro Studios is a free piece of editing software that is surprisingly feature-rich and easy to use. However the program can be buggy at times, and crashes more often than it should. Fortunately, an Autosave option allows projects to be saved in increments of time as often as every 30 seconds (or as infrequently as every hour). I highly recommend setting it to every 30 seconds. Note: by default, whenever you start a new project, Autosave is switched off. This is infuriating.

This was a common sight over the course of working on this review.

Importing clips

The import functionality can be a bit confusing, especially if you’ve never used any sort of video editing software before. For the sake of simplicity, I found it easier to copy all of my files off the card to a folder on my hard drive before then importing them into GoPro Studio. Importing files directly from the card can lead to unnecessary frustrations.

Once in the import window, GoPro Studio allows users to select entire clips, or portions of clips to be converted into the CineForm format. Converting may seem like an unnecessary and time consuming step, but it is actually quite important for maintaining the quality of your footage. Note: Upon import, video clips are automatically broken down into 20 minute chunks and time-lapses into chunks of 999 images. Users can then reassemble broken up clips once in the editing module.

Advanced settings tab

It’s easy to miss, but when selecting clips to convert, there is a tab at the bottom of the window, directly to the right of the 'Import New File' window called “Advanced Settings.” Tucked within that tab are all sorts of very useful options that can greatly impact the look and quality of your clips.

Most importantly, within the "Advanced Settings" tab is a slider which lets users toggle the quality of the footage they are converting. By default it is set to “Medium.” I definitely recommend sliding it to “High,” and then checking the “Remember settings for future clips” box. You can also speed up clips, prior to conversion, from within the same window, as well as remove the fisheye effect.

Fisheye removal tool

The fisheye removal tool can be pretty useful in some scenarios, and downright destructive in others, depending on the clip. For clips shot with any sort of important detail near the outer edge of the frame, your not going to want to remove the fisheye effect, or those details will be lost. This is especially true of shots taken at a close-range to a subject. However if the subject you are shooting is far way, then removing the fisheye should not cause any real problems.

This montage shows the effect of the fisheye removal tool in various situations.

Converting clips

Once you’ve picked the clips you want to convert, cut them to the appropriate length, adjusted the conversion parameters via the Advanced Settings tab and added them to the 'Conversion List,' you can go and hit the 'Convert' button. Note: you can convert multiple iterations of the same clip with different Advanced Settings parameters selected. So if you are unsure of say, whether or not you actually want to remove the fisheye effect from a clip, simply convert it twice, once with that option selected and once as is.

Converting on my Apple iMac, which has 8GB of RAM and uses an i5 processor, was reasonably fast. Of course, depending on the length of the clip, number of clips, and quality selected, the process can take a bit longer.

Edit module

Once converted, users move into the editing module. The first thing you'll see when you enter this module is the above window asking you to choose a template. Go ahead and select the blank template and ignore the other options, like 'Dubstep Baby.' The other templates are, frankly, pretty worthless and silly.

Selecting one will automatically load your timeline with a dummy project. For instance, if you do select 'Dubstep Baby, ' eleven clips appear at the bottom. The clips are all different lengths; some of the clips are short, while others last a couple of seconds. The general idea is that users cut their own video clips to similar lengths of time and then swap them in.

This feature is presumably meant to help first time editors understand the basics of editing a video together and the importance of varying the length of clips. And while it's a nice concept, it doesn't really work out all that well. And besides, if you've never edited video before, the process of trial and error is crucial to getting better and improving.

Adjusting the look of clips

The layout and functions of the editing window are very straightforward. On the left side of the window, users will see any video, audio, still or time-lapse clips they have converted or imported directly. The middle window has the editing timeline as well as the video viewing window, while the right side offers editing options.

The original, out-of-camera clip is on the left, the one edited in GoPro Studios is on the right.

Editing options range from being able to adjust the white balance, exposure and contrast, to applying filters, speeding up, slowing down footage and adding fades. One important note, if you change the speed of any clip, the audio will automatically drop out. You can restore the audio by returning the clip to its original speed.

I personally wish GoPro Studio offered more robust image correction options. While being able to tweak ones exposure, contrast, saturation and sharpness can be useful, offering sliders to also control highlights, shadows, blacks and whites would make the program far more robust. It would also be nice to have a tone curve to adjust as well.

There are quite a few filter "Presets" offered within GoPro Studio. Most of them are pretty gimmicky but they are fun to try out.

Building a timeline and exporting

Adding clips to the timeline is as simple as dragging and dropping. Users can trim the length of a clip either before adding it to the timeline or after. If you’re coming from other video editing programs, you may get thrown off by the fact that all clips appear the same size in the timeline, regardless of a clips’ length. It takes some getting use to, but ultimately, I think it keeps the timeline more manageable.

Once your happy with the clips you’ve put together, simply hit 'Step 3 Export' at the top of the screen and select the resolution you’d like to export at.