Fingers crossed, I might have this figured out

I’ve ranted about all my problems with GoPro cameras here numerous times. I think I might have this finally figured out, just in time for the last points race of the season.

I bought these two GoPro Hero 7 Blacks over the winter. I had a GoPro Hero 5 Black and a GoPro Hero 5 Session, and they were both working great at 4K at 30 frames per second (fps), but I really liked how much smoother action was when shot at 60 fps, and so when the Hero 7 was announced supporting 4k/60, I jumped at the chance. I bought one and tried it out in some winter paddling, and was blown away with not just 4k/60, but also the amazing “Hypersmooth” image stabilization. So I bought another. Both times I was able to take advantage of deals where you sent in old cameras and got $100 off – I used that to get rid of some non-functional and/or horrible non-GoPro cameras.

GoPros, like most action cameras, have between an hour and 80 minutes of battery life. If you look at their promotional videos, you see a lot of people doing short intense action, like bombing down snow board runs or surfing or rock climbing. All things where you can record, then stop and change batteries. You can’t do that when you’re trying to record a 1.5-2.5 hour kayak race, so I’ve always searched out external battery solutions, preferably ones that are waterproof. (I wrecked more than one camera with a home-brew waterproofing solution.) Last year I had good luck with this “sidecar” battery from Orbmart:

Unfortunately I’ve had problems all season with the cameras just shutting down for no apparent reason. I tried a bunch of things, but eventually came to the realization that the problem is that they were overheating. I blamed the waterproof case that trapped the heat in. Then I got an external battery that didn’t require putting them in waterproof cases, but while I’d get 4+ hours with that in testing, out in the boat they’d usually work but sometimes they would flake out on me. Then a week ago it stopped working entirely. It wouldn’t charge, it wouldn’t discharge and the manufacturer has been very slow to respond.

But the heat problem wouldn’t go away. I reached out to GoPro, and they pointed me to a support page on their website that basically said “don’t try to use our high quality settings, unless you’re willing to take short shots and let it cool down between shots”. Once again I’m reminded that long duration stuff isn’t their target market. So I’ve given up on 4k/60fps. I did some testing, and I got reasonable results at 4k/30fps. And at 1080p/60fps. That’s the trade-offs I was making with my Hero 5s – last year I shot some races at 1080p/60 to get smoother action, but I shot Long Lake at 4k/30 because the scenery is so beautiful. I’m really not happy that I upgraded my cameras only to use the same resolutions I was using with with the old cameras.

But a few more experiments and I’m 99% sure I can get away with using the 2.7k/60 mode on the GoPros. I did a paddle last night and got nearly 3 hours with the sidecar battery.

It takes a few changes in work-flow to use 2.7k in Final Cut Pro – for instance, I usually take all the clips from one camera (because GoPros actually break your long video into chunks just over 8 minutes long for some reason) and make a compound clip from it and drag that into the timeline. But doing that with 2.7k clips make a compound clip at 1080p by default. Even when you do a “custom resolution”, you can give the proper 2.7k resolution, but it will make it 30 fps (actually 29.97) no matter what you do. But if you drag all the clips into the timeline and make it into a compound clip there, it picks up the correct resolution and frame rate. I haven’t yet figured out if Garmin VIRB Edit will do 2.7k, I’ll have to experiment with that tonight. If not, I guess I can do the data overlay in 4k and let Final Cut Pro resize it.

So I’m going to Long Lake this weekend with my cameras set to 2.7K/60fps. Keep your fingers crossed that everything works.

Yeah, I know you’re getting bored about my GoPro issues

So I found a new waterproof external battery pack for the GoPro. This one used a waterproof case and a gland nut on the GoPro, and a separate battery pack with another gland nut. I’ve been starting to come to the conclusion that the problem with the GoPros shutting down is one of heat. So I was hoping that keeping the battery outside the camera case would reduce the heat build up.

I charged the new battery and attached it to the GoPro with no internal battery in it. I tried setting the GoPro to 4K/60fps and took it out while walking Gizmo, and then just letting it run. It make a strange chime and then shut down after just over an hour. I let it cool down a bit and reset the camera back to 1080p/60fps and (without recharging the battery) got over 3 hours on it.

What I’d really like to do is try it at 1080p/60fps in a more realistic scenario, where things are moving and the image stabilization has to work like it does in a real scenario. Maybe I’ll put it on the oscillating fan and just let it rip.

More on the damn GoPro battery issue

Ok, so I kicked both cameras down to 1080p instead of 4K, figuring it would reduce the heat build-up. And I managed to get the expected 4+ hours out of camera #1. Great!

However, camera #2 is still having problems – it would shut down as soon as I hit record. I tried doing a factory reset, I tried swapping SD cards, but the problem appears to be that it just doesn’t like the sidecar battery. It doesn’t matter which sidecar battery I use – as soon as I turn it on, it turns off. Take off the sidecar battery, and it’s quite happy recording for 100 minutes.

I think for this weekend I’m going to try using the sidecar battery on camera #1, but just going bareback on #2. I’ll probably put #2 on the bow facing back, because that view is usually only important in the first part of the race. When I get home, I’ll see if GoPro will admit there is a problem with their camera, although since it only happens with a third party battery I don’t have high hopes.

GoPro battery problems (again)

I use a “sidecar” battery for my GoPros to get some extra battery life. And when I was using them with GoPro Hero 5s, I was frequently getting 3.5-4 hours of video recording. But at the Round The Mountain race, one of them shut down after less than an hour (I’d turned them both on really early hoping to capture some of the flavor of the start area, and it ended up shutting down when I was warming up). I took them out for another test and I got 99 minutes out of the first and 120 minutes out of the other. In both cases, the sidecar battery appears empty or nearly empty, but there’s plenty of life left in the “built-in” battery. I’m able to turn them on and record another 80-90 minutes after I finished.

I don’t know if it’s an overheating problem, or what. Unfortunately the sidecar requires both it and the camera to be in a clear plastic case, which can’t help with the heat problem. I wonder if I should cover the whole thing in tin foil except the lens area?