The Definitive Guide
Ladies and Gents, this is where the magic happens!
In this guide you’re going to learn how to edit your GoPro videos. You’ll learn the entire editing workflow: importing footage, cutting and joining clips, color grading, adding music, choosing transitions and exporting your final film.
Are you ready to impress your family and friends?
Awesome. Let’s do it!
- Workflow: Video Editing [Images Step-by-step]
- Top 6 GoPro Video Editing Desktop Apps (2018)
- Best Music Libraries for your videos
- Editing Photos: A 10-Step Workflow
- Top 3 Photo Editing Apps
- BONUS FREE DOWNLOAD
What is a Video Editing Workflow?
It’s amazing to see how some filmmakers transform their raw GoPro video footage into pieces of art by adding the right sound track to convey a mood or applying color filters to make those tones pop. And so much more.
You might assume these final films are produced overnight or within a few hours. For some, that might be the case. But for many others, it’s a longer, more methodical process. It’s almost like following a pastry recipe. In your case, that film production recipe is called a workflow.
While you can apply this workflow process to an entire filmmaking cycle, the following 13 steps begin only after you’ve completed shooting and are ready to begin post-production editing. These general steps will take you from many raw video clips to a single movie that you can proudly share with family and friends, or upload online for anyone to watch.
Here are the 13 editing workflow steps:
- Import raw clips from your GoPro or SD Card to a PC, Mac or mobile device
- Launch your preferred video editing app
- Create a new video editing project
- Import your GoPro raw clips into your library
- Create a sorted sequence on a timeline
- Add sound track(s)
- Cut clips to the sound track beats
- [Optional] Edit video speed for slow motion or time lapse
- Apply transitions
- Add titles (main, credit, subs, etc.)
- Color correct your clips or apply a LUT
- Review your rough cut edit/apply edit adjustments
- Export your final cut film and share
➡️ The Workflow: 13 Steps to Video Editing Greatness
This is where the fun really starts! We’re going to expand on the 13 steps above using Final Cut Pro X (for Mac only) as our app of reference. It’s been my preferred editing tool for many years; however, the editing process generally works the same way on most well-known apps.
Note: Windows users can check out our editing app recommendations below and some included links to tutorials. We recommend Filmora by Wondershare, an amazing video editor optimized for action cameras like GoPro. Its user interface is super intuitive and it includes most of the standard professional video editing features like stabilization, transitions, titles, effects, etc. AND…you can load the ProjectGoPro Color Grading Filter LUTs Pack in just two clicks.
1. Import your raw GoPro footage
It’s as easy as it sounds. Simply connect your GoPro camera to your Mac using its USB cable, or use the camera’s micro SD (with an SD adapter) to transfer the files.
2. Download and launch Final Cut Pro X
If you already have Final Cut Pro X you can skip this step. If you don’t have it, we recommend first downloading the free trial version before committing to the full app, which will cost you $299.99. A free or cheaper (depending on the paid plan you choose) alternative app is Filmora by Wondershare (see the suggested editing software list below).
3. Create a new video editing project
After Final Cut Pro X opens, create a new Library: Click on [File] → [New] → [Library…]
Next, create a new project: Click on [File] → [New] → [Project…]
4. Import your GoPro raw clips into your library
This is your new workspace. But you have to import your raw clips into your library before going on to the next step: Click on [File] → [Import] → [Media…]
With your GoPro clips in your media library, you can now drag and drop each one into your movie’s timeline below.
5. Create your video timeline sequence
You can sort your placed timeline clips simply by dragging and dropping them wherever you feel they work best in your film’s timeline. This is how a storyline is established. You can also zoom out on the timeline to view it in full. Now it’s time to get creative!
Protip: When telling a story through film, try structuring it with a basic “beginning – middle – end” sequence.
6. Add Sound Track(s)
Sound design in video – both music and sound effects – are extremely important because they make video way more enjoyable to watch. Try to imagine your favourite movie without its sound track. It just doesn’t sound right, does it? The same can be said about your movies.
We don’t expect your videos to have the same big budget, orchestral scores in your GoPro videos, but there are ways to do it within budget, and sometimes for free.
You can jump down to the section called Best Music Libraries for your Videos to find out where to find the perfect video soundtrack. Once you’ve found and downloaded your score to a soundtrack library (as in step 3 above), follow the same process in step 3 to add the music to your movie timeline.
Protip: In most video desktop apps (the ones that we’ve tested or used) your imported sound files are placed in their own audio timeline, either above or below your video timeline. See the demo in the following image.
7. Cut clips to the music’s beat
It’s good practice to use your soundtrack’s audio cues – percussion beats, tempo changes, expressive instrumental riffs, etc. — as reference for your video cuts. Scan your video timeline, cut out the superfluous junk and keep the most interesting parts. Arrange your clips to start and end on the significant parts of your chosen music. This is how you add even more character to your film.
The following animation demonstrates this process for all you visual learners:
8. [Optional] Edit speed of video clips for Slow-Motion or Time-Lapse
This step is applicable to you only if you shot something at a higher frame rate (e.g., 60, 120, 240fps) and want to incorporate slow motion OR if you shot a very long video and need to speed it up with time lapse.
9. Apply Transitions
By default, Final Cut Pro X includes various transitions to use between scenes. You can access them using the keyboard shortcut [shift+cmd+5]. You apply a transition on the scene cuts. You can adjust the length of a transition by dragging it with the mouse. Try not to use transitions on every cut – it looks overdone and will likely ruin the flow of your video. My favourite transitions are cross dissolve, blur, and fade to color (typically black or white).
10. Add Titles
Titles are not only used for introducing and closing a video, but also to support your footage in the body, and to reinforce the message. Final Cut Pro X, by default, has a variety of titles you can use for your video edits:
11. Color correct your clips or apply a LUT
Color correction will make your film stand out. By hitting “cmd+6” on your Mac’s keyboard, the color board will open up in the inspector. From here you can boost the contrast, adjust exposure and make those colors pop by increasing the saturation slightly.
You can also apply our amazing LUTs Color Grading Pack (2018), which is optimized for GoPro videos. Choose from 36 cinematic filters, one for any occasion or theme, to automatically color grade your videos giving it a beautiful look. Check out the before/after:
12. Review and polish your edit
Details matter. Before exporting your video as final, review your edit and take some time to refine the details. Double check if your cuts are synched to the music; make sure that your story includes an introduction, body and conclusion.
Did you over-use transitions? Not to worry, it’s common. Check audio levels and, if your footage looks shaky, apply digital stabilization (in the inspector).
Before your final export, take a break from your work for a day. When you come back to it again the next day, you’ll have a better perspective on what needs finishing. Then you can show it to a friend for some objective feedback.
If you’re happy with the results, move on to the last step in our workflow.
13. Export Your Film and Share It!
Congratulations! We made it to the end. This is truly the exciting part! This is how you export your edited video in Final Cut Pro X:
Choose Format: depending on where you mostly re-play the video, you have different format options:
- Video and Audio
- Apple devices
- Web hosting
Each one is a different compression level. By selecting these options one-by-one you can preview the output file size before exporting. I typically select “Video and Audio” because it tends to export the best video quality for YouTube and other online platforms.
Choose the H.264 video codec. For the size it offers you the best quality. And if it’s available, choose “H264 Better Quality” rather than “H264 Faster Encode”.
Choose a resolution that is most compatible to the device on which your video will be viewed most. For Youtube, Computer, TV and larger screens, try to export it in full HD 1080p or higher. For mobile devices you can go lower than full HD if disk space is in question.
Now you’re ready to share!
⚙️ BONUS: The GoPro Cheat Sheet
We don’t believe using a free quick reference download is considered cheating when it results in producing amazing videos. But “cheat sheet” has a much better ring to it, so we’re keeping it. Regardless, this is our free bonus gift of thanks from all of us at Project GoPro to you, our fantastic and eager GoPro stars.
You can print it and put copies in your kit bags or keep it accessible on your phone. However you decide to use it, do so often – make us proud!
It’s 100% FREE 👉 Download it from here 👈
Top 6 GoPro Video Editing Desktop Apps (2018)
Since GoPro replaced its former GoPro Studio editing app, and it’s replacement (Quik) considered by many (including me) to be far inferior, GoPro users have taken to 3rd party apps to edit their films. Based on popular opinion among the filmmaking masses, I’ve listed the top four professional video editors and the top two basic video editors. Both have free and premium versions.
Professional Video Editors (suggested)
1. Final Cut Pro X (Project GoPro’s preferred editor) – If you have a Mac, this is your go-to app. It’s simple and intuitive, perfect for GoPro and DSLR editing.
2. Adobe Premiere Pro – This is the granddaddy of video editing apps. For both Windows and Mac users, Premiere is like the Ferrari for cars. It’s complex, but a great performer if you can take the time to learn how to use it.
3. Filmora by Wondershare – A very current video editor, it has amazing pro features that are made simple for Windows and Mac users. One advantage over the others is its function to optimize the editor for action cameras, enabling common features like “lens distortion”, “stabilization”, etc. It has both free and paid (but affordable) plans and their free tutorials are really easy to follow.
4. DaVinci Resolve – For both Windows and Mac, it has the tools for editing, visual effects, motion graphics, color correction and audio post production in a single application. There’s a full-featured free version for individual users or pay a free for the addition of multiuser collaboration features.
👉Good news! The above apps are fully compatible with the ProjectGoPro Color Grading LUTs Pack (2018) – The only color filters optimized for GoPro & Drone content.
Basic Video Editors
1. iMovie – This is the default video editor that comes bundled with some versions of Mac OS. If you don’t have it installed yet, you’ll need to download it from the App Store. You can do cuts, add music and add built-in transitions and titles. If you’re looking for a basic editing app on Mac, this is for you. It’s also available in mobile iOS.
2. Windows Movie Maker 10 – I used to edit on this app when it was available for Windows XP. It’s been updated since to have a very mobile-looking user interface. It’s a very basic video editor.
Best Music Libraries for your Videos
Using copyright-protected music and sounds in your video is both risky and ill-advised. All it takes is one smart algorithm to recognize a track on your uploaded video. We don’t recommend the risk. That’s why I’m including the following widely-used audio libraries I’ve had the most success in finding good-quality tracks for my videos.
1. Epidemic Sound – The best on this list. They offer cheap plans for YouTubers, starting from as little as $15/month (billed monthly) for unlimited downloads of all sound tracks by really good musicians. What I find most useful is the ability to break down and listen to a track by its various instruments. And you can also download the full track or select specific instruments only.
2. Artlist – It’s almost as good as the first one on this list. Its only drawback is the minimum one-year subscription at $199. Otherwise, you can find high quality music and sounds for any type of film.
3. Youtube Library – This is the most affordable option of the group (free!). For the tightest of budgets it’s a decent option, though it’s true what they say about getting what you pay for. Of course, you may be able to find that “diamond in the rough” with a little effort. I’ve been fairly impressed with some of the selection here.
Editing Photos: A 10-Step Workflow
We can’t forget that GoPro cameras are also great for photography. So it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyways) that it’s just as important to understand the editing process for photos as well. Luckily, without sound design and timeline sequencing, it’s a bit simpler to do and quite a bit less time consuming.
I’ve listed the top photo editing apps below, but for now, they are: Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop and Gimp. When I only have my phone, I’ll use the Adobe mobile Suite.
Here’s the workflow using Adobe Lightroom:
1. Copy your best GoPro shots over your computer drive
2. Download and Open Adobe Lightroom
3. Create a new Catalog: click on [File] → [New Catalog…] → [Save your Catalog]
4. Click on the Library tab and import your photos from your computer to the library by dragging them over
5. Click on the Develop tab to start editing your photos
6. Select the photo you want to edit and adjust white balance, tone and presence
7. Or Add our customized Color Grading LUTs Pack (2018) (for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop)
8. If the photo is grainy or noisy, then go down to “Noise reduction” and increase Luminance.
9. If you shot in Superview and have lens distortion, you can reduce that by enabling “Lens Correction” and select GoPro Lens.
10. Export your amazing edit: click on [File] → [Export…] → [Select a folder and file settings (jpeg, png, etc) ] → [Export]
Top 3 Photo Editing Apps
The following photo editors are widely used and highly rated by thousands of creators. They all have Windows and Mac versions.
- Adobe Lightroom – Simple and fast. It’s a must-have app for both professional and amateur photographers. It’s more geared towards image adjustment and correction, unlike the following, which is also for graphic designers.
- Adobe Photoshop – More complex. It works with layers and can accomplish amazing editing if you know how. As mentioned, this is geared towards graphic designers and photographers.
- Gimp (free open source) – A good free alternative to the Adobe suite (I used it for years when my budget was much tighter)
- GoPro Settings Explained: Definitive Guide [ Expanded for 2019 + Cheat sheet ]
- GoPro Protune: Everything You Need to Know to Master Your Advanced Settings
- GoPro Slow Motion: Learning to Use Slow Motion
- GoPro Low Light Tips: Learn How to Improve Your Low Light Footage
- GoPro Time Lapse: Creating Stunning Time Lapse Shots
🎬 FREE DOWNLOAD ⬇️
The GoPro Settings Cheat Sheet + The GoPro Handbook (Sample)