Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cam-Do Hard-wiring Project for GoPro Hero 3

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The upgrades to the Skeeter continue! Read my other upgrade stories such as my installation of the Recessed Foot Pedal and the Humminbird 798 Install.

Learning to use the GoPro, as I do in a fishing environment, has been lesson after hard learned lesson. It has become an accomplishment to be able to catch fish in real time. What do I mean by that? Well, many of the fishing videos that you will watch on the internet feature fish that were already hooked or sometimes caught.

There are many roadblocks to getting the live action just right, whether it be camera angle, fisherman position, frequent data drops, or in my case, usually battery life. I have to admit that the GoPro was not necessarily designed to be used as I use it on a weekly basis. Ideally the GoPro is for many different short shots. Not 9 continuous hours. The battery of the GoPro isn't really designed to operate for hours on end. At most you may get 3 consecutive hours of run time. And, even for that, you have to sacrifice image quality by dropping down the resolution. Sometimes the unit will malfunction, as it has done on many occasions with me. When that happens, it will happen when you least need it do.....landing that trophy fish.

After I bought my GoPro, I had to learn daily lessons on how anything and everything can happen, leading to the loss of potential YouTube gold. Over time I have managed to solve these issues one by one, but battery life has been an issue that won't go away. You can solve it several ways, for example, buying multiple batteries. But, a battery is $35 and it's easy to loose. For a good day of fishing, you would need 4 batteries. That's a lot of money. You can also keep the camera hooked up to the charger by using a skeleton case. While this is a quick and easy solution, it may not be the best one. I had done this on a few occasions, but had noticed increased heating of the unit,  degradation of the images and occasionally complete corruption of the memory card requiring reformatting and losing all the data.

My friend, Taco...from SHOT by Taco recommended that I check out Cam-Do. They specialize in custom made products for, among other things, GoPros. Specifically, they have a battery eliminator. Directly from their site:
GoPro Battery Eliminator

If you are using the GoPro camera for extended periods, it is better to power the camera with a battery eliminator instead of connecting it to a charger. Cam-Do battery eliminators are available to power the camera from AC mains power or DC battery power over a wide range of input voltages.

The battery eliminator snaps into the battery slot of all GoProHero 3 and 3+ models and latches like the GoPro lid for a secure fit. Using a battery eliminator eliminates two sources of heat. The charging circuit in the camera and the battery itself, which gets warm while charging.
Less heat makes the camera more reliable. Overheating can cause unexpected shut-down of the camera.  A battery eliminator also bypasses the problems that some users have had with the GoPro charging logic causing the camera to freeze and require a reset.

This was exactly what I was looking for, so I ordered one at $59.95

What was included was the charge pack and some wire and a AC plug. I opted out of having them make me a custom and complete harness as it would tack on $20 to something I could do in a few minutes of my time.

So, I received it and I immediately set out to O'reilly's to see my best friend, Kevin, who manages the Wal-Trianaand  HW72 store. They did not have a direct plug in. So, I went home and looked around. In my rat's nest of spare electrical connectors, I found a fused cigarette plug. while I had several old chargers, I wanted this one because of the internal fuse. If something DID short, I didn't want a $300 camera and a $60 cable to strand me in the middle of a lake.

 Here are the materials I needed:

  •  cigarette lighter plug
  •  wire, adapter plugs
  •  soldering iron and solder
  •  wire strippers
  •  dikes
  •  silicone caulk. 

I cut the wire just below the plug and stripped it.Then I ran it through the grommet

One wire is solid black (+) and the other stripped (-). I slid the positive wire into the positive terminal of the supplied adapter plug and applied solder.




Obviously the next step was to thread the negative wire in to the slot on the grounding strap of the plug. Then, I soldered.
I took a pair of dikes and snipped the excess wire and solder, then filed it flat.

The next step was to fill the gap between the positive electrode and the ground strap with a silicone caulk to prevent the two from touching as well as waterproofing. I then slipped the grommet back on top of the plug.
I will be using this in a skeleton case, which has an open back. This isn't necessarily water proof (at all), so you must make a decision. You need to modify a sealed case (a case will cost you another $30), or deal with the possibility that water could ruin the camera. Now, there is an upside to the skeleton case: You will be able to capture sound. I want to be able to record sound and the the possibility of this case getting wet is low (compared to anywhere else on a boat) since it will be stationed on the console of the boat. The downside is that I won't be able to use it in a rainstorm without having another modified case, but that is a project for another day.

So, again, the upside is this: battery life is now a non-issue and for much cheaper than buying multiple batteries. Additionally, there will be no overheating concerns.

 Getting any fish on video in real time. I take great pride in being able to show you the cast, technique, hookset, and landing the fish.....as opposed to cheating the system. Doing it right cost a lot of time, luck, work and even money. So, hopefully the number of fish that I have missed (either on camera or otherwise) will now be caught on video.