More GoPro hacking – wireless remote trigger

In September 2012 I went on a motorcycle trip around the South West and recorded most of the trip with 2 GoPro cameras. (as seen in the video I made located here: for the ride down to Jerome, AZ.  http://www.jk720.net/videos )  

I brought 2 cameras with this year, a GoPro Hero HD, and a GoPro Hero 2.  I hadn’t used the Hero 2 before the trip.

With one camera being mounted on the front of the bike and one in the cockpit on the bars facing me.    You cans see the front camera here:

Cockpit camera here:

In 2011 for the trip and video I made that year (also located on the videos page) I built a hard wired remote power and remote trigger for my Hero HD on the front of the bike. 

Because the camera is on the front of the bike running a power feed and also giving me the ability to start/stop recording from the cockpit was important to conserve the amount of storage space I used.    You can see in the above picture the power/trigger wire running to the camera.

 

GoPro Trigger (click the image for the link to the article). 

That remote trigger worked great for my Hero HD.   Because I was bringing 2 cameras with this year I wanted to bring a backup and a new bit of hardware to test out.   I ordered a wireless remote power/and trigger device for my Hero 2. (ordered from here: http://benlo.com/msp430/GoProRemote.html )

The wireless remote board:

image

I was planning to use it if I mounted the second camera out of arms reach.   I also wanted to use it to replace my existing hard wired trigger because this was a touch button remote trigger that would let me just tap a button to enable/disable recording instead of trying to time push button pushes like I had to with the more basic hardwired one.  

Because the original remote trigger I built was proven to be waterproof and worked well in the past, I wanted to keep using that on the front of the bike.  I also wanted to use the Hero2 up there as much as possible.

The hardwired trigger locks up the Hero 2:

I planned to use the Hero 2 for most of the video on the trip, but an issue developed on Day 1.   I found the hard wired trigger locks up the Hero 2.  It may have been a firmware issue, but I was unable to update the firmware on the trip.  So if I wanted to use the Hero 2 on the front of the bike I had to get the wireless trigger working and ready to go. 

It wasn’t setup before I left for hard wire power, and wasn’t in a waterproof case.  All I had was the extra Skeleton extended GoPro case with to use, so I had to somehow seal that, and get the remote trigger fit in. 

So after riding to Bryce Canyon on day 2, I pulled out all the tools, and gear I had with me and in my hotel room I went to work.

~Queue A-Team build up theme music~

My Workshop:

Being a former Boy Scout is pretty evident in this picture.   I had a propane soldering iron, RTV silicone sealant, pliers, scissors, wire, solder, extra iPhone cable I hacked up, a muti-meter, super glue, and quite a bit of other hardware not in the picture.

The most important tool was in the foam case… Home made French silk pie from a local pie shop in Bryce Canyon… Yummm.

The goals of this little project:

  • Hard wire a 5V line to the trigger so the camera can be powered from the bike
  • Enclose/buffer the trigger PCB so it doesn’t move and keeps the camera steady in the housing.
  • Using gorilla tape and RTV try to seal the GoPro Skeleton housing
  • Seal the remote for the trigger that will be on the handlebars. 

Step 1:

Wiring up the 5V was easy, there is a place for it on the PCB already. 

I used a USB power pack that I had with me to test the wiring.  Without this 5V run, the remote trigger will itself drain the camera battery when not in use.  It has a nice LED showing you when its doing something and working.   I had an extra iPhone cable with me, so I chopped the iPhone end off and had the wire I needed.

Step 2:

Since the PCB is not a nice square item like the hacked battery Pac I used for the original trigger is, I had to add some plastic in to keep the trigger and the camera from moving.   This also will help insure I don’t break the trigger by putting pressure directly on the connector/PCB.

I had a case of fuses I brought with me that turned out to be a perfect size for this.  I chopped the lid up for it and positioned them around the PCB to give a proper standoff from the camera and then space to the back of the case.

I had to move the wire to the bottom of the PCB to let it move more when I closed the case to the camera.

Picture of the completed unit is below.

Step ¾:

Since my hands were covered in black RTV most of the night I didn’t take many pictures once I started sealing the skeleton case.  (In the first picture you can sort of see the skeleton housing, it has 4 big openings on the corners to let sound into the case.  Since I was planning to ride in rain these needed to be sealed.)

I used gorilla tape to seal the outside and secure the wire.   Then I added in silicone RTV to let it cure overnight to fill in the holes in the case.   As you can see, it was messy as heck to do.  And the end result I wasn’t entirely confident was waterproof.

The remote trigger was sealed with superglue and extra silicone.  That did turn out to be quite waterproof as I left it on the handlebars the entire trip and never had an issue with it.

Results:

Well it worked and it didn’t.  There was some trial and error over the first day of use.

There was an issue where the trigger would stop responding to the remote.  I found this to be an issue with the size of the plastic I put between the camera and the trigger.  It wouldn’t let the connector seat enough to keep connected. When I got to Zion NP I had to spend 30 minutes in a parking lot trimming down the plastic I put on the camera side of the PCB to ensure it would sit better in the port.  I also added a strip of plastic to the back to increase the shells pressure on it and the camera.

I ran into issues for the next day or so with the transmitter not working consistently as hoped.  I believe at times there is either an issue with the trigger locking up, or the transmitter just being junk.  I am going to replace the transmitter with a new one before I use the trigger again.

But the wireless trigger did not have the locking issue with the Hero2 that I had with the original remote trigger I built, and this let me use the Hero2 much more later in the ride than I could initially.   But because I didn’t trust the case, all the rainy day footage was captures using the Hero HD I had, hence the video toward the end of the trip looks a bit less crisp than the Hero 2 would have captured.

Conclusion:

Worth it, once I get the bugs worked out.   The new Hero3, and the Wifi/Remote for the Hero/2 are great but none of them allow for hard wired power and still remain waterproof.  For recording all day on a bike and not being able to see the camera for most of the day – dealing with batteries is something I would rather not do.

Also a new firmware for the Hero2 that let it support the Wifi/Remote bacpacs may have also fixed the locking issue I had with my remote trigger.

In the end – this is the essence of motorcycling.  Facing a problem and overcoming with what you have on hand.  That was an interesting way to spend a night on the road 🙂

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