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Cineform-Protune + GoPro Hero3 & Post

By Mike Seymour - Posted on
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This week the GoPro Hero3 was launched. This new camera is really amazing, for its price, its performance, its resolution and its incredible ability to allow camera to go literally anywhere.

But the mid-week launch did somewhat overshadow the amazing advances from the week before that the CineForm division of GoPro announced, namely log output, with 24P at much higher bit rates. (Not to mention remote control from your iPad!). And now with the Hero3 these specifications have jumped again. While much of the popular press may focus on the jump to 4K, we wanted to flag the incredible shift from being a ‘straight to YouTube’ camera to a camera that now also offers a very real alternative for those wanting to intercut GoPro footage – a pipeline that assumes there will be grading, that there will be post, and outputs from the camera in a format that lets you maximize both.

Protune GoPro3 clip in Studio Premium. Click to enlarge

Below is a summary of the key points – for more watch this week’s fxphd BKD class 02- which shows GoPro Hero3 clips and grading – thanks to our good friend Director, Stu Maschwitz, who filmed with the Hero3 the morning after the launch on San Francisco Bay. ( Stu will no doubt be separately discussing the grading of GoPro 3 footage at www.prolost.com). Thanks also to GoPro’s Senior Director of Software Engineering (p.k.a. CineForm CTO.) David Newman. David is an expert in video compression, image processing and a self professed  “3D/stereoscopic/multi-cam geek”.

Now we should start by saying that those who love shooting and immediately posting, this workflow is an alternative, nothing has been lost. But for those of you who have even had to match together a bunch of cameras from a bunch of different colorspaces and gammas – that included GoPro – the world just shifted in a very pleasant and unexpected way.

Here are the key highlights of the Protune format and CineForm in general:

  • The Protune is still H264, 8 bit but now allows 24P (23.98) recording
  • The Protune encodes around 35MBps on the Hero2 and a whopping 45+Mbps on the Hero3
  • The colorspace is NOT locked in – with CamRAW mode – in post the native colorspace starts with a wider gamut than either AdobeRGB or sRGB – why do I care? – better grading.
  • The Protune is a log file – with automatic lookup LUTs – why do I care? – better grading.
  • The file does not spend valuable bits trying to make the highlights roll off – as this can now be done in post as you grade and convert from Log. Why do I care? It ekes out the most detail in the highlights
  • The blacks are not crushed
  • There is significantly less sharpening applied
  • There is less noise reduction applied
  • It uses the full YUV 0-255 code range to push as much to post as it can
  • It has automatic and now manual white balance – so you can for the first time lock in a white point in camera, but then vary it in post
  • Due to the maximum encoding nature of Protune – the WiFi is turned to black during record time – since it can not make a Protune file AND a low res WiFi feed to your iPhone and iPad simultaneously
  • In Protune, you can record two hours on one 32GB SD card.

The Hero 3 camera itself:

  • It has a bigger sensor – so 2.7K can be your native format for 2K or HD – giving you room to blowup, adjust or rotate
  • it has a 4K and 2.7K CINE mode which is more like 17:9 than 16:9
  • the low light performance is better – since the sensor is better
  • the pipeline to the onboard memory card is better so less compression, more image
  • it can do 4K, 2.7K, 1920 and 720 – and at 720 up to 120 fps… with great low noise results
  • it is smaller, lighter and has built in WiFi

It is not perfect – but then it is just a few hundred dollars:

  • The camera still has auto iris, auto ISO and auto shutter (moving to a 360 degree shutter in low light automatically)

To access all this wonderful new power you need only to use the GoPro Software. We tested it with the GoPro Studio Premium and it works like a charm. The software works with a ‘sidecar’ style database based on a unique ID in every clip. This is familiar to anyone who has worked with .r3d files and then adjusted them in RedCineProX, as it is very similar. But CineForm is easier to use than Red files.

The cdb or color database allows you to immediately adjust a huge range of grading parameters in a processed CineForm codec clip and immediately, without further rendering or even linking, play the quicktime – in realtime – with the changes. This happens in the CineForm decoder in your laptop or desktop – so it is up stream of say FCPX.  A change to the look file or cdb will immediately take effect, but the file is NOT tagged as having been modified – so FCPX and other apps require no relinking. The system is fast, powerful and frankly damn impressive. The range of adjustments is vastly more than a CDL but the concept is similar.

GoPro bought CineForm and for a while this was only visible to users as a way to help GoPro solve stereo. While CineForm maintains a mandate to work with as many cameras as possible (most recently this meant offering workflows for the new Black Magic Camera), the GoPro Hero3 camera is the first time we have seen the CineForm group influence the actual GoPro camera internally. In other words, it has taken until now to see the influence of visionaries like David Newman and the team on the GoPro camera itself – after seeing the workflow of around the Hero2 and now Hero3 – we can only hope for more in the future.

Hear more on the GoPro3 on the next RC podcast with Jason Wingrove and Mike Seymour.


14 Responses to Cineform-Protune + GoPro Hero3 & Post

  1. I ordered a Hero 3 Black immediately after midnight on launch. If only Canon, Nikon, Pana or Son y went out on a limb and gave us comparable specs. GoPro as a company is way ahead of the curve and gets the market completely.

    Don’t forget 240p at slightly more than VGA. No protune on hat mode. Keep up the good work on the RC Podcast.

  2. For our overnext project, we will use the 2014 GO PRO HERO4 LENSE-changer-M
    and hope they have the eggs and build it. More bITRATE and some litte GEAR
    on it and we have it. ( viewfinder/ robocontroll/heliscreena/ etz)
    GO PRO you are so close to the fat rats.. do it.
    we will need about 12 for a vaste of actionscenes i our
    AUSTRIAN ALPS—- it will be brutal film makin

    mike

  3. I ordered one at midnight as well, now I’m trying to figure out what size memory card to buy. The article says 2 hours will fill a 32gb sd card, but at what resolution? Thanks for the help.

    • I bought a 64gb MICRO sd card, which has lasted me over 150 clips being around a minute each.,..give or take 30 seconds…

  4. Im either going to sound like an idiot or be asking a valid question that I don’t seem to hear being asked anywhere else – what is the real need for the fisheye lens?
    Why can’t they use a lens that doesn’t distort the image? How can you mix and match footage from the GoPro with say footage from a Panasonic HVX200 (something I recently owned) if the image is massively distorted?
    Am I missing something obvious?

    Stevo

    btw I currently own the first GoPro and still use it every year to record my snowboarding antics in the French alps, amazing footage even on the first gen GoPro

    • I agree… I have a GoPro but the fish eyed lense issue, then having to correct it etc has detracted from me wanting to use it regularly.

    • Because they are still intended to used just as you’re using your first gen GoPro. They are made to mount on or near the body of an athlete and need to capture a wide field of view. They things still don’t have viewfinders. Even with the wifi to iphone or ipad they’re set them up and leave them sort of cameras.

  5. So based on these:

    “The colorspace is NOT locked in – with CamRAW mode – in post the native colorspace starts with a wider gamut than either AdobeRGB or sRGB”

    “It uses the full YUV 0-255 code range to push as much to post as it can”

    Is this Hero3 shooting to a non absolute colorspace like JFIF? Same as say a Canon T2i? BT601 color matrix?

  6. I have 2 x GoPro Hero3 “Silver” cams. I’d like to use Cineform to edit the two video streams as Left and Right 3D. But there is no way to crop / sync the streams so they match AND have Cineform still recognise the video as GoPro video streams. Does anyone know how to prepare the Hero3 streams so Cineform will be able to sync them? It does “sync” the streams, but it assumes they are already frame-matched. If you’re one frame out, there’s no way to get rid of the extra frame.

    Suggestions?

  7. I’m wanting to work with 2.7k in FCPx to be able to stabilise and output as 1080p…
    But can’t really work out how.. without converting it to 1080p first, or letting fcpx change it to 2k. Stuck!

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