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Water Eyeball

Reusing an old camera to see underwater

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We had an old knockoff GoPro lying around which wasn’t being used, and we figured we could take advantage of its video streaming capabilities to create a live underwater video camera.

Container

At first, we considered creating a waterproof container from PVC. After experimenting with various pipe sizes and connector configurations, we concluded with a design based on a T joint with additional slip joint union pieces for the plastic lens and opening. Unfortunately, the camera view was constricted to a small circular window due to the shape of the tube, so we had to come up with a new option.

We switched to a waterproof dive container, which is significantly cheaper and readily available. There were two main requirements: the ability to withstand 20 fsw and have a transparent area in the plastic for the camera to view through. We found that the plano 3400 container on Amazon met these two requirements.

Camera interface

The micro HDMI port of the camera should connect to a tablet or some other mobile viewing device.

One option is to use a long micro HDMI to HDMI, which connects to a USB capture card allowing the live feed to be viewed on the tablet through an app.

Another potential option was to use a HDMI to USB C connector, bypassing the capture card completely, but this depends on whether the tablet has support for video over USB C, and the one we had had a micro USB port anyways, so this method wouldn’t work.

A rather complicated option was to have a long CAT5e/6 cable in lieu of the long micro HDMI to HDMI cable. This supports a very long distance (100 ft ethernet cables are common), but requires an external power source on at least one side for the extender to work.

Since we don’t need this much length (yet), we opted to go for the first option.

  • 1 × GoPro (or knockoff) Any will work as long as it has HDMI streaming capability
  • 1 × 25 ft micro HDMI to HDMI cable
  • 1 × Waterproof container Plano 3400
  • 1 × HDMI to USB capture card
  • 1 × USB OTG cable

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  • Part 2: Test

    Joseph Hwang07/21/2022 at 03:20 0 comments

    Part 2: Test

    We first tested just the cable and capture card, since those were the first things we had (we didn’t have an enclosure yet). To ensure the viewing functionality worked, we first tested the setup by just connecting the camera to the USB capture card and viewing it on a computer. Unfortunately, since our camera is a knockoff GoPro, the video is a direct copy of the display, which includes various text and info, but it is good enough for our purposes. Once we confirmed that it worked, we then tested the waterproofness of the cable by dipping it into a pool with the camera on, keeping both ends out of the water.

    After we decided on an enclosure design, we built it (see build instructions for details) and tested it in the pool, this time fully submerging the camera enclosure under water.

    Our first “real” test was submerging it into a creek, where there were plenty of fish to observe. We were able to get good footage, but it seems that recording through the setup results in low quality (720p at 10 fps). With a second run, we got an even better video of the fish, but we forgot to record it. Unfortunately, the zip ties to our weight broke, leaving the rock at the bottom of the stream and thus ending our test.

    Here is a trimmed version of the footage we got:

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/19S7vgxCq_MPKWCNLlTYXssoMbRuCpEVL/preview

    For the next test, we plan to try recording on the camera as well, so we potentially have better footage without the various UI symbols and at a higher resolution, and forgetting to record wouldn’t be an issue anymore. We also need to ensure our weight is secure, and find a better way to control the direction of the camera.

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