Cineform-Protune + GoPro Hero3 & Post

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 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.