Introduction: Modify a Mini-B USB Cable to Power an Enclosed GoPro Hero3 (With Skeleton Back Door)

I got my GoPro Hero3 for Christmas, it is a fantastic camera.  However, the battery life leaves something to be desired.  Sure, you can buy a bunch of spare batteries and change them out periodically, but if you are taking a time lapse - you really do not want to move the camera.

Enter: The Frame

This is GoPro's answer to this problem.  Now you can shoot while being connected to an external power source.  But, wait, $40 for a piece of flimsy plastic (to be fair, TWO pieces of plastic!) with a few holes in the side?  No Thanks.

I really wanted this capability, but didn't want to spend a lot of money or sacrifice the poly case by drilling a hole in the side.

Enter: Modify a Mini-B USB Cable to Power an Enclosed GoPro Hero3 (With Skeleton Back Door) (This Instructable)

Disclaimer:  Perform this at your own risk, I take no responsibility for your actions and assume you have some competency. With that being said, this instructable is merely a cable modification, I do not modify the camera or case.



Step 1: Parts/Tools

You will need:

Parts-
-A Mini-B USB cable of your desired length.  I found an old 3-footer in my spare cables tub.  I might suggest not using the one included with your GoPro (just in case...).  Note: I have a Hero3 Black Edition which uses a Mini-B. I do not know what the Hero2 (or whatever) uses.  Also, of course, your cable design may be slightly different.
-Glue...?  I used some, it may not be needed though...

Tools-
-Wire Strippers/Cutters.  Not that you will be stripping wires explicitly - but you will need to cut off the black plastic molding around the connector and trim back the cable sheath.
-Long Nose Pliers.  For general dismantlement and metal bendage.
-Small Rotary Cutting Tool.  I use a really cheap one from Harbor Freight.  Yes, it is cheaply made and doesn't have a lot of power, but hey its like $10 on sale.

Step 2: Destruction.

-Cut off the plastic molding around the Mini-B end of your USB cable.  Take care not to cut through the wires within.  I just cut it and trimmed it away until it separated from the metal casing.  Depending on your cable design, you may have to cut off some plastic strain relief as well.

-Disassemble the metal casing.  For my cable, I bent away the strain relief tabs and then separated the main casing.  Sorry, I do not have a better photo of this step!

Step 3: Modification.

-Bend the pins into approximately a right angle as shown.  My plastic tab broke, this is where the glue comes in.

-Glue the plastic tab back onto the connector.  It doesn't have to be a super glue job, as long as it stays attached, it is not exactly a structural part of the connector. Note: try not to get glue on the power pins (outer, black & red).

-Use your rotary cutter to cut down the side walls of the main connector body as well as a horizontal cut on top of the connector. Bend it down into about the same angle as your pins to form the new body of the connector.  Also bend and flare the newly created tabs out (see photo).

Step 4: Test.

-Do a test fit.  Make sure your pins are flat against the inside of the connector and not lifted up some (this could be bad when you connect it!)

-Bend the newly created tabs against the connector and make sure they hold it down.

-Plug it into your GoPro Hero3 and make sure it powers it.  You may have to adjust the position of your pins slightly, or scrape off some glue from the top of them.

-Look for any adjustments you need to make.  The metal tail of my connector body was too long, it needed to be cut off.

Step 5: Adjustments.

-With your rotary cutting tool, trim off the metal tail so that it will fit within the GoPro Case

-Add some more glue to seal the deal.

-I also trimmed off more cable sheath, you may or may not need to.

Step 6: Record.

-Assemble your GoPro into the case with your new cable attached. Take care, there are a few tight clearance spots noted in the photos.  These are mostly where there are ribs/ridges in the case itself.  I believe these could easily be modified to allow a looser fit of the cable, however do this at your own risk, I did not feel the need to.

I have not done any long term testing with mine yet, but it is definitely nice to know that I have the option, if I need it!

Let me know if you have questions! Thanks!

Comments

author
lukeD made it!(author)2015-03-30

Hi there!
I can say this won't work with the hero 3+ silver (please say it in your ible for future makers). I made this modification and it does not fit in the casing of the hero 3+ silver.

author
SCHLEPIC made it!(author)2015-04-10

The Hero 3 and Hero 3+ utilize the same housing. Is the Hero 3+ wider than the Hero 3?

author
lukeD made it!(author)2015-04-12

They certainly do not use the same housing! The camera itself is the same size, the housing is not. ( see the picture )

maxresdefault.jpg
author
SCHLEPIC made it!(author)2015-04-12

Ah ha. The Hero 3 and Hero 3+ are originally packaged with different housings, but the GoPro website only shows the Hero 3+ housing now (which is also compatible with the Hero 3). The Hero 3+ housing seems to be noticeably slimmer than the Hero 3. Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

author
crogshockey made it!(author)2015-03-26

Or just some shrink wrap.

author
yamil008 made it!(author)2013-04-23

Awesome! I think that you can use Sugru to cover the exposed wires and make it look nicer. Anyways, awesome instructable. I doing this one definitely

author
ptrobrn made it!(author)2014-06-25

Or just some shrink wrap.

author
zplus made it!(author)2013-04-25

Maybe so but it is definitely a tight fit without modding the case! In fact, I was not worried about strain relief because the case kind of crimps down on those wires.

author
Kennethhackneyr97 made it!(author)2014-06-12

Awesome! I think that you can use Sugru to cover the exposed wires and make it look nicer. Anyways, awesome instructable.

author
Invention1 made it!(author)2014-05-11

I made this mod in about ten minutes. The Skeleton case provides sufficient strain relief so that the USB cable doesn't need any more support. The only tools I needed were an xacto knife, a teeny flatblade screwdriver and a teeny pair of pliars. Instead of sawing off the excess metal case on the connector I just folded 1/16" of metal over with pliars until it would fit inside the case without modification. Kept the watertight case back in case I need pictures of fish - one other similar instructible contemplates drilling holes in your case which is definitely not necessary. I should be able to keep the Gopro inside its case permanently, pulling off pics by wifi and charging by this hacked cable.

author
gazumpglue made it!(author)2014-02-02

It looks like you've peeled back the sheathing as well. Normally that is connected to the metal enclosure around the pins and presumably grounded. What should I conclude from this? Should it matter for this project?

author
chimplost made it!(author)2014-01-21

Excellent picture of the finished assembly. This is helping me.

author
regaltaxlaw made it!(author)2013-12-18

Thats phenomenal

author
conniest made it!(author)2013-10-20

It looks like you've peeled back the sheathing as well. Normally that is connected to the metal enclosure around the pins and presumably grounded. What should I conclude from this? Should it matter for this project?

author
zplus made it!(author)2013-10-20

Most likely it will not matter at all, especially if you are purely using it for charging. Pulling the shield back could introduce some extra noise, yes, but I doubt anything noticeable. Just don't use the cable near any strong, high frequency magnetic fields or high voltages. :)

author
Vincent+VD made it!(author)2013-04-15

Great success! thnx for this tutorial! i'm still looking for a way to have both livestream to my computer and charging at the same time. using the 10.5.5.9:8080 way seems to be the only way...

IMG_5114.jpg
author
conniest made it!(author)2013-10-20

Excellent picture of the finished assembly. This is helping me.

author
zplus made it!(author)2013-04-25

Awesome!!!

author
clickworried made it!(author)2013-08-27

Awesome! I think that you can use Sugru to cover the exposed wires and make it look nicer. Anyways, awesome instructable.

author
roastedgang made it!(author)2013-08-13

Great success! thnx for this tutorial! i'm still looking for a way to have both livestream to my computer and charging at the same time.

author
mikeasaurus made it!(author)2013-01-22

Is the skeleton back door waterproof? My GoPro (Hero1) waterproof enclosure has no openings. As a fan of time lapse photography I think this is a great project, thanks for sharing.

author
Spydamonky made it!(author)2013-01-23

No... The Skeleton backdoor has two massive holes in it! The only way to achieve an extended battery life and maintain a water tight seal, with almost any version of the GoPro, is to buy the battery backpac and the waterproof door that it comes with.

author
Intersection made it!(author)2013-06-07

Or you can buy one of the timelapse controllers from Cam-Do (http://cam-do.com/). Since it just turns the camera on for a second to take a picture then powers it off they claim you can get up to months of use out of a single battery if you don't need high frequency timelapse. I've had mixed success but I'm blaming this more on the gopro's battery problems and I haven't tested it that much.

author
vkelman made it!(author)2013-04-10

What type of external power source do you use? How long it allows camera to operate? I'd like to use Hero3 in the mountains...

author
zplus made it!(author)2013-04-25

I have only used this with a wall outlet with USB adapter. But yes I have seen those battery packs and would like to pick one up for long bike rides. A go pro battery is like 1000 mAh. But I have seen some of the packs rated around 10,000 mAh. That means you could potentially get 10x the battery life.

author
alaskanbychoice made it!(author)2013-01-24

I applaud your function, but you can use a spare battery pack on the camera and use the USB port to charge and power the camera.

author
vkelman made it!(author)2013-04-10

Battery pack doubles the time camera can shoot, right? But it doesn't make any easier to attach USB to the camera to use external power source, correct?

author
zplus made it!(author)2013-01-24

Well, to be fair, this is the far cheaper (free vs. $50) option. :)

author
magno_23 made it!(author)2013-01-23

you could also go online and search for a 3d printed GoPro 3 Frame

author
zplus made it!(author)2013-01-23

Believe me, I thought of making my own frame! But, I decided that the cable mod would be easier and cheaper (free).

author
santibarraza made it!(author)2013-01-23

can this work on the GoPro HERO 2?

author
zplus made it!(author)2013-01-23

It looks like the Hero 2 uses Mini-B USB so, yes, in that respect. However, I cannot speak to the clearance/fit because the hero 2 is shaped differently from the hero 3.

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