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Jun 22, 2022
GoPro Labs has been home to some of the most exciting GoPro innovations-turned-camera features since the program launched in 2020. And it’s recently been enjoying its well-deserved place in the GoPro spotlight with new collaborations (one of which we’ll discuss below), as well as playing an integral role in helping control GoPro’s first-ever FPV camera, HERO10 Black Bones.
A mere two-plus years ago, GoPro Labs was internal-only and a way for employees to test out beta camera features born from GoPro Hackathon ideas. Today, it’s a public program where external GoPro owners can offer requests for features, like the option to record video for longer periods of time or motion detection enhancements. It’s GoPro Labs’ task to find ways to turn these requests into reality and get them in the hands of the Labs community via opt-in firmware that adds the experimental features to the user’s GoPro.
There are now more than 100 improvements ready for Labs users. And in recent months, as the pace of innovation at Labs has accelerated, it’s clear the program will continue to play a vital role in the broader experience of owning and using a GoPro camera.
“Labs is home to the bleeding edge user who wants really cool stuff you can’t find in the mainline version of GoPro firmware,” GoPro Technical Fellow and GoPro Labs chief David Newman says. “And it’s growing—really fast.”
The GoPro Labs community is global, its forums are alive with users requesting new features each week and David, who scours the forums to find cool features he can bake into the GoPro Labs software, is there to answer their calls.
“We get two or three new feature requests per month from users,” David says. “Whenever we can add the feature, we do it. Sometimes that takes as little as a few hours and sometimes a few weeks. And as these are often corner case features, there’s a really good chance the feature will only live on Labs and never go to the mainline firmware available to the general public.”
But that’s the beauty of Labs—it’s as an insider look at innovative features our top engineers are playing with.
GoPro’s first FPV drone camera, HERO10 Black Bones, launched in April and, in addition to being the lightest GoPro ever, it is the first camera to launch with GoPro Labs firmware already baked into the camera. This is because Labs firmware allows FPV users to control that parsed down camera—better known as a “naked GoPro”— via a QR code, which they can access and create online here.
“It’s a huge moment for Labs,” David explains. “Bones launching with Labs sends a message that we as a company are recognizing the bleeding edge GoPro user and want them to have a great product out of the box.”
While most of the innovations added through GoPro Labs come from GoPro engineers, not long ago, David was contacted by someone who had a request only GoPro Labs could fulfill.
That someone was JD Vandenberg, Director, Post Production with Walt Disney Animation Studios. David was immediately intrigued by the puzzling request—how is an animation studio using GoPro camera, and where is the Labs connection? He immediately followed up.
JD shared the following:
At Walt Disney Animation Studios, we use cameras primarily to record animation reference video—this could include voice recording sessions, dance and choreography, or specific actions such as playing a musical instrument—and it is not uncommon to use three or four cameras per shoot. For maximum benefit to our animators and artists, it is absolutely imperative for the camera to run at exactly 24 frames per second in order to properly sync with audio.
While all HERO cameras offer 24 frames per second (fps) modes, they comply with the more common broadcast standard of exactly 23.976 fps, not the higher-end film standard of 24.0 fps.
This turned out to be a perfect fit for Labs, and a few small camera performance tweaks easily solved the new customer need. About three weeks later JD and crew were testing Labs enabled 24.0 fps support on their HERO10 Black cameras. And, we couldn't be more excited that GoPro now offers true 24fps support.
It’s that ability to quickly take advantage of features the community asks for that makes GoPro Labs such a compelling program for so many. Options like additional time lapse features or the simple ability to add name and phone number data to video captures may be all people use GoPro Labs for. But sometimes, they may find a more tech-heavy favorite feature, like the ability to start recording when a GoPro strapped to a drone hears a threshold for sound (rotor start) or record on based movement detection. And Labs can easily churn these out because it’s that’s what it’s designed to do—test innovations.
Most recently GoPro Labs, in partnership with Tentacle Sync, allows users to timecode sync cameras via QR Code.
“We’re beta by nature,” David says. "Think of GoPro Labs as a way for you to get an insider look at innovative features our top engineers are playing with."
Visit GoPro.com/Labs to access Labs firmware, create QR codes and join the discussion forum.