Weekly Report #10: Electronics

Remote Control of the GoPro Hero3+ Black Camera

goproIn this issue of the weekly report I will focus on our GoPro action camera. Some of the information might be useful for other GoPro Hackers as well.

We use this camera to record a nice video of our experiment during flight and maybe do some video-based analysis of the solar panel movement and vibration.

To be able to do this we need to control the GoPro with ERIS our Data Acquisition System, e.g. turn the GoPro on/off and start/stop video recording.

First I thought that this would be a very simple task, since the GoPro is widely used and has a dock connector which seemed to have all the necessary control lines.
But since the Hero3 White and Black Edition, GoPro seem to do all they can to make it hard to use their camera in a professional way. You cannot power the GoPro from the dock connector anymore and you can only turn it on. It is no longer possible to stop recording or turn the camera off with the bus connector.

Because of this I had to do some more research on the GoPro myself.

Surprisingly, the GoPro can be disassembled very easily. Just take off the front cover carefully, which is held by some additional weak glue.

disas.1Then you have to remove 4 screws. Now you can take the camera out of its housing.

disas.2Fortunately, both important buttons of the GoPro (record and power) are connected to the mainboard via fpc cables. So it is possible to simulate a button press without having to solder your on cables somewhere on the mainboard.

In the following picture I show you which signals are important. To simulate a button press you just have to short the signal of the corresponding button with the ground signal.

Power Button:

PWR BTN ConnectorRecord Button:

RCRD BTN cableWith this information, I built a small interface board, which powers the GoPro through its original battery connectors. The interface has a standard Sub-D connector with power and interface control lines.

board1board2In the following picture you can see a prototype of the interface board. The fpc connectors and cables I used can be bought on Farnell.com. To get the contact springs for the battery, I bought a cheap Chinese GoPro battery, disassembled it and unsoldered the connectors. You should not do this at home!

connected1connected2connected3Unfortunately I made a mistake in the PCB layout, so I cannot test the interface board this time. But I will post an update regarding this in my next weekly report.