Big blockbuster fight scenes, magnificent panning of snow-capped mountains, POV surfing on a clear day. What do all of these scenes have in common? They all look way better when they’re shown in slow motion. It’s a great filming technique that can reinforce your GoPro stories or highlight important actions and details in your film.
You can safely unfasten your seat belts in this tutorial – we’re slowing things down quite a bit by learning the techniques to giving your footage that cinematic slow-mo feel.
- What is slow motion?
- Why You Need Slow-Motion Videos
- Best GoPro Slow-Motion Settings
- Tips for Shooting in Slow-Motion
- Editing GoPro Slow-Motion Videos
- Faking Slow-Motion in Editing
Slow Motion is available on these GoPro models:
- GoPro Fusion
- HERO 3 Black Edition
- HERO 3 Silver Edition
- HERO 3+ Black Edition
- HERO 4
- HERO 4 Session
- HERO 5 Black
- HERO 5 Session
- HERO 6 Black (taken as a reference for this article)
- HERO 6 Session
- HERO 7 Black
What is Slow Motion?
Slow motion refers to an effect where the footage appears to be moving slower than normal.
In order to achieve a slow motion effect, a camera has to be capable of shooting frames at a faster rate than they will be played back at. In other words, the camera takes a lot of still frames (60, 120, 240) per second, which appear slow, smooth and more stable when played at a normal speed.
GoPro does a pretty good job with slow motion: Hero 5, Hero 6 and Hero 7 can shoot at super slow motion up to 240fps in full HD.
Let me give you an example to better understand the concept. Imagine we have two different GoPro Settings:
Setting 1 → Shooting at 60 Frame Per Second (FPS)
Setting 2 → Shooting at 30 Frame Per Second (FPS)
Since the human eye perceives a fluid motion at about 20fps, the film industry has adopted a playback standard of 24, 25, or 30 frames per second. Therefore, if you shoot at a higher frame rate, like 60fps (Setting 1), then you can slow down the footage by 2x because you only need 30fps in one second. By doing so, 60 frames will be spread out in 2 seconds instead of 1, making your video appear slower than usual.
Why You Need Slow-Motion Videos
Slow motion looks awesome, but what do we use slow motion for? Here are a few examples:
1. To Enhance Action Shots
The frame shown below was taken from the official GoPro Hero 6 video seen on YouTube. In this slow motion shot, we can observe the expressions on the surfer’s face along with a wall of water moving 8 times slower than normal. As a result, the viewer can process the action in a clear manner and understand exactly what’s happening on-screen.
For a very fast action like surfing, I suggest a frame rate of 120fps to 240fps.
2. To Highlight Details
We can use slow motion effects to bring more attention to a specific action or detail. In the example below, the jumping kangaroo was shot at a high frame rate and the video was played back in slow motion, showing a smooth jump. It helps the user see all the details and the jump appears sleek on-screen.
For a shot like a kangaroo jump, I suggest a frame rate of 60fps to 120fps.
3. To Get That Cinematic Feel
Slow motion effects are dramatic, hence they naturally give a cinematic feel due to the fluidity of the shot. By analyzing the video seen at the beginning of this article, you will realize that most of the clips are in slow motion and very stable. The part of the video where the girl can be seen running in the middle of the frame is a perfect example of a cinematic feel. A cinematic feel can be obtained with a GoPro if you stabilize the shot (with a gimbal, for example) and increase your frame rate.
For a fast action like running, I suggest a frame rate of 120fps.
4. To clearly show very fast action
GoPro Hero 5, Hero 6 and Hero 7 can shoot 240fps at 1080p. With such a high resolution and frame rate you can clearly show fast action and its details. In fact, this function is largely used for sports.
Best GoPro Slow-Motion Settings
What’s an ideal Frame Rate?
GoPro cameras offer various choices of slow motion frame rates, ranging from 60fps to 240fps. This gives us the freedom to make slow motion videos at different speeds.
You can use simple maths when attempting slow motion shots. If you decide that your final video will be rendered at 30fps and the original footage was filmed at 120 frames per second, then the resulting video will be 4 times slower than real time. 120 fps (filmed) / 30 fps (rendered) = 4 times slower.
After understanding these simple basics, I would simply evaluate the situation by asking these 5 questions:
- What kind of activity am I shooting?
- How fast are the objects moving in my shot?
- Is the scene bright or dark?
- What resolution do I need?
- What feelings do I want to express through my shot?
I’d look at everything and then answer:
- I am shooting myself surfing.
- Shots are very fast due to big waves and quick movements,
- It’s daylight.
- I am going to upload this on YouTube and I need a full HD 1080p resolution.
- I want to express happiness through the shot.
After this evaluation, I would choose 240fps for this occasion. Why 240fps?
- Surfing is a fast action – so better choose the highest frame rate choice available on your GoPro. In this case, 240fps.
- It’s daylight – so I won’t have any problem with potential noisy footage at 240fps. If you’re shooting at low light, then such a high frame rate is not advisable.
- I would like to have my video watched at full HD resolution. Not all frame rate options are available with every resolution, so be sure to check. 240fps is available at 1080p on GoPro Hero 6.
To change frame rates on your GoPro navigate to the Home Page screen and then select FPS.
Tips for Shooting in Slow-Motion
This is the part that I like most: shooting.
Ever since I adopted these simple rules, the quality of my slow motion videos has improved drastically.
Here there are a few tips for you guys:
1. Plan your shots in advance
When you have the time and ability, DO PLAN SHOTS. I like to imagine the scene in my head first. Then, depending on the complexity of the shot, I may write it all down on a piece of paper or create a storyboard.
By investing time on creating a scene, you will spend less time in shooting and editing.
This may apply on every occasion, not only with slow motion.
2. Stabilize your camera
In order to get those smooth slow-mo shots, the footage must look stable. So, activate the built-in digital GoPro stabilization when you can. At low light avoid digital stabilization and instead, use a gimbal or any camera stabilizing support (even a simple GoPro stick can do).
Another tip to make more stable footage is to simply make fluid body movements while shooting. Hold the camera with two hands and bend your knees.
3. Avoid Slow Motion in Low Light
Shooting slow motion videos in low light would most likely result in a noisy footage. This is due to the higher shutter speed set by your camera.
Remember, when you increase FPS, your shutter speed will become faster, making your image look darker. The GoPro would then try to balance the low light by increasing your ISO that will most likely result in video noise, as seen in the photo above.
Pro Tip: Remember that your shutter speed should be double of the frame rate. If you shoot at 240fps, then your shutter speed should be about 1/480 second. This will give you good, free-of-noise results given that the light conditions are also good.
How to Edit Slow-Motion Videos
In this article I talk about editing slow motion videos – though you can also check out GoPro Editing: Step by Step Beginner Guide + Best Free Editing Software
It’s quite easy to edit slow motion videos. This is an important stage because it’s editing where the slow-playback comes into the picture.
A high frame rate video will appear normal until you edit it. When you begin a new video editing project, you will have to select a timeline speed.
The timeline is basically your clip laid out at the bottom of your editing software. If you stretch the timeline, your video will become longer and therefore it will be played back at a slower rate, giving you a slow-motion effect.
Remember the simple calculation to understand how slow you can go based on your fps? If you don’t, spend a few minutes learning about it in the settings section above.
Most editing software will let you decide the project frame rate as you start a new editing project. This is the frame rate that your video will be exported at. It’s usually 24, 25 or 30 fps. If your clip is shot at 60fps, then it can be slowed down by 50%, becoming 30 frames per second, and still look fluid. So, depending on your editing software, you should be able to change the speed of your clip pretty easily.
Editing on Mobile (with Quik App)
If you are are in a hurry or too lazy to do a proper edit, then use the free Quik App by GoPro:
Follow these simple steps:
Step 1: Launch the quick app and create a new edit (or open an existing one).
Step 2: From the preview screen click on the “clips button” at the bottom of the screen.
Step 3: Now click clip that you would like to add the slow motion effect.
Step 4: A larger preview of the clip will appear. Now click on the scissor icon that is labeled trim (at bottom). Then continue to next step.
Step 5: On the next screen, set the toggle labeled “Slow Motion” to on. When done click to OK button. Now
Step 6: Now you should be able to preview the slow motion clip. Save, export and share!
Free Editing Software [Mac/Win]
Paid Editing Software [Mac/Win]
For Windows, I recommend Adobe Premiere Pro (professional).
Faking Slow-Motion in Editing
In this article, we learned that in an ideal scenario, all of your slow motion shots should be planned in advance and shot with a high frame rate setting.
But, what if you forgot to switch your FPS during the shoot or you just realized that your shot would look cooler in slow motion?
Too late? Not really.
There are various software out there that allow you to “fake” slow motion by adding missing frames between the original frames. This is called Time Remapping. The software would analyze every single frame and re-create “fake” frames to fill in the gaps. So, from a 30fps clip, you could get 60fps, 120fps, 240fps, etc.
The Xs represent the recreated frames. This footage was originally shot at 30fps and we wanted to slow it down by 50%. So we made it 60fps (half the speed) in post-production:
Of course, the result is not of the same quality as seen in a video recorded for the purpose of slow motion but it will still do a discrete job. The difference in quality is because the recreated frames are not real and therefore not always accurate. This really depends on the characteristics of the shot.
How You Can Achieve “fake” Slow Motion
In order to get good results out of this, you should follow these 3 tips:
- Your framed subject must be in good lighting conditions.
- The subject should not move too quickly.
- The shutter speed must be double your frame rate.
What software can be used for time remapping?
There are a few. If you want to go professional I would suggest you Twixtor. It’s a paid application. Otherwise, this can be done for free with most editing software (I assume you already have one) like Final Cut Pro X, DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Premiere, etc.
How? In Final Cut Pro X: just slow down the speed of your clip and apply “Optical Flow”.
In other editing software: this function could be called differently, like time-remapping, time-stretching, timewrap, etc. But it’s essentially the same thing.
Pro Tip: The more you stretch or slow down your clip, the more fake frames the software needs to create. So, do not go crazy if you want to get good results out of it.
- GoPro Settings Explained: Definitive Guide [ Expanded for 2019 + Cheat sheet ]
- GoPro Protune: Everything You Need to Know to Master Your Advanced Settings
- GoPro Time Lapse: Creating Stunning Time Lapse Shots
- GoPro Low Light Tips: Learn How to Improve Your Low Light Footage
- GoPro Editing: Step by Step Beginner Guide + Best Free Editing Software