360 video production combines such a weird combination of requirements that the camera that often best meets the demands is the standard consumer GoPro. Technically the cameras do the thing, but they are missing the whole category of features that make them suitable for real production.
A situation is created where you have a small pile of often unreliable action cameras and you have to be off hiding while rolling, so if a camera dies, overheats or freezes you wouldn't know until it is too late.
The goal of this project was to build a non-invasive tool to alleviate some of the pain points associated with doing professional production with GoPros. More specifically...
- Make individual video feeds accessible on a local network
- Generate and record LTC timecode on one audio channel of each camera
- External mic input (up to one channel per camera)
- Universal permanent and portable power options
There are two main subsystems:
- A cylindrical handle that mounts directly to the rig that plugs into each of the GoPro's usb ports for power, video out and audio in
- A custom pelican case that houses the power system, local monitor and networking gear.
The fun part of designing all aspects of something is that the PCB design and enclosure design can be done at the same time, and making changes doesn't create work for anyone else.
The enclosure had to be as low profile as possible so that it can hide in the seam between two cameras. One side has an interface that attaches to the camera, and the other end has a threaded insert that can be mounted to a tripod. The cables that run back to the pelican case are oriented downward from inside of a pocket so they also stay out of the camera's view.
On the side are four stereo 1/8" jacks for up to 8 channels of external audio input. The audio signal routing is set from a dip switch that's accessible behind a removable door. Through the bottom are two CAT5 cables carrying the video signals, an 1/8" audio jack for external timecode, and a locking power connector.
The enclosure is held together with captive nuts that are press fit into the 3d printed structure. Here's the story in picture form:
Receiving new PCBs is the greatest.
Those exposed wires were soldered to my GoPro USB breakouts to access all of the camera features.
Half of the pelican case holds laser cut foam designed to hold all of the accessible components, the other half houses an assembly of all the necessary circuit boards to do everything. There were quite a few pieces so I modeled them all, arranged them in layers and laser cut stackable mounting plates.
You can flip open the case and check out all the feeds on the internal monitor, or you can connect to the local network and view the feeds in-browser. For power there's an Anton Bauer battery mount on the back so it can be mobile. Alternatively there's an IEC plug for a standard AC power cable if it has to be plugged into the wall.
I should have a triumphant "Finished!" shot, but apparently I don't.