It is possible to use a GoPro HERO8 Black as a webcam or for real-time capture to a computer. But it's not quite as simple…
It is possible to use a GoPro HERO8 Black as a webcam or for real-time capture to a computer. But it’s not quite as simple as just plugging your camera in via USB. And you’ll need some accessories to make it work.
There are different methods for doing it, each with pros and cons, depending on what it is you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re looking for a mobile version for on-the-go live streaming or vlogging, the built-in live streaming option will be a better fit (but is not well-suited to streaming from your office or, obviously, recording classes or tutorials).
The brand new HERO9 Black is now available. It has a bigger battery, shoots up to 5K30 video, has a color front preview screen, built-in horizon leveling, upgraded HyperSmooth 3.0 and TimeWarp 3.0 video stabilization, and new HindSight, Scheduled Capture, and Duration Capture modes.
The subscription to GoPro gives you unlimited cloud storage, discounted no-questions-asked camera replacement, and up to 50% off GoPro accessories.
To be clear: what I’m focusing on here is connecting your GoPro HERO8 Black to a computer to use as a webcam or recorder. You might be wanting to use your GoPro as a traditional webcam for videoconferencing Zoom meetings or classes. Or have a virtual visit with your doctor or family member. Or maybe you’re a teacher looking to record classes or tutorials, or a vlogger trying to build a following. Basically, there are a bunch of different reasons you might be wanting to do this. But the good news is: it’s very doable with a HERO8 Black. (It’s also possible with other GoPros. The process is very similar but nevertheless has some key differences. I have a guide to using a HERO7 Black as a webcam separately.)
But there’s some extra hardware that you’ll need to make it work with the HERO8 Black. Here’s the list:
And here’s a rundown of why you need each piece and what it does.
You can use several other models of GoPro cameras as webcams or capture their video directly to a computer, and with those, you won’t need the Media Mod.1 That’s because they have the HDMI-out port built into the camera. But the HERO8 Black doesn’t have an HDMI-out port built in–it was one of the key differences going from the HERO7 Black to the HERO8 Black. And an HDMI-out port is crucial for this, because that’s what carries the video signal out of the camera.
That’s where the Media Mod comes in. It’s one of the new dedicated HERO8 Black accessories that GoPro released specifically for this camera. It does a few things, including adding a better microphone and adds an input for an external microphone, but the most relevant thing here is that it adds an HDMI-port to the HERO8 Black.
Getting the video signal out of the camera is half the battle, but the other half is taking that video signal and converting it to something your computer can work with. That’s where an HDMI-to-USB video converter comes in. These are small devices that sit between your camera and the computer. It takes the HDMI signal from the GoPro (or another camera that has HDMI-out) and converts it to a USB signal.
Some laptops and notebooks come with an HDMI port that you can use to connect your laptop to a TV or projector. That comes in very handy for showing Powerpoint presentations on big screens or screening a movie on a big-screen TV. But those HDMI ports typically work only for output (i.e., from the computer to a display), not an input (i.e., from a camera to the computer). You’ll have to check with your computer’s manual or the manufacturer specs to find out firstly if it can be used as an HDMI input, and if it can, how to switch it. But, in general, it’s a reasonably safe assumption that the desktop’s or laptop’s HDMI port is only an output port.
The HDMI-to-USB works much like adding an HDMI input to your computer without having to open the computer up.
There are a few different HDMI-to-USB converters on the market. Some that I’ve found to work well with the HERO8 are:
I’ve used all of these with GoPro cameras and found all to work well. My top pick, for a combination of performance, features, and price, is the Elgato Cam Link 4K. It looks like a slightly oversized USB thumb drive. It plugs directly into your computer. You then use an HDMI cable to connect the camera to the Cam Link. They’ve been in high demand lately, but good places to look are and Amazon and B&H Photo.
The other HDMI-to-USB video converters work fundamentally the same way.
The Magewell USB Capture HDMI Gen 2 converter is one I’ve covered before (and one I’ve used extensively for some time now in capturing menu screenshots for the how-to guides on this site). It’s very similar feature-wise, but instead of plugging directly into the camera itself, you use a USB cable to go from the device to your computer. It’s probably the highest quality of these and also the most expensive. Again, they’re in high demand, but good places to look are at Amazon and B&H Photo.
The MavisLink HDMI capture dongle is one I’m including as a budget option that’s readily available (and seems to turn up under different brandnames). It looks very similar to the Elgato and works basically the same way. I’ve found it to work well enough with the HERO8 Black, but it’s really a cheap knockoff that is not the same quality as the others I mention here. Most noticeably, the picture quality is much harsher and more contrasty. But it connects and works with the HERO8 Black and will get the job done at a much lower price. You can find them at Amazon.
The video capture devices don’t usually come with an HDMI cable, so you’ll probably need to pick one up separately. Just as with USB, there are a few different kinds of HDMI connectors. The one you need for the Media Mod is a micro-HDMI connector.
The end with the smaller connector (i.e., the micro-HDMI end) goes into the Media Mod. The end with the larger connector goes into the HDMI capture device. The capture device then plugs into the computer’s USB port.
Install the HERO8 into the Media Mod.
Doing so will automatically set the camera’s audio input to the Media Mod’s microphone. If you’re using an external microphone, you can choose that soon. But it’s worth noting that the audio input here is only referring to the audio input into the camera. You can specify a different audio input on your computer if you’re bringing in the audio from some other source (i.e., not the camera), such as soundboard or external mic connected directly to your computer.
With the camera off, plug the HDMI cable into both the camera and the capture device. Make sure the camera is powered off when you connect it. I’ve gotten inconsistent results if I connect after the camera is powered on; sometimes, the video stream doesn’t switch over properly. So I’ve found it best to power the camera on only after you’ve connected the cable and the capture device.
When you connect the HDMI cable to the Media Mod, it will automatically change the audio out to the HDMI port.
In whatever software you’re planning to use, change the video source and audio source to the capture device. Precisely how you do that varies by software or service. Here are some of the common ones:
Settings (the cog icon at top right) > Video > Camera. From the drop-down list, select the one matching your capture device (it won’t be named after the camera)
Settings > Audio + Video > Camera.
File > New Movie Recording.
File > Open Capture Device.
video icon > Video Connection > click on the drop-down menu.
That basic setup will get you going and give you good results. And for occasional use, you’re all set. But if you’re using it a lot or looking to improve the quality and professionalism, there are some other optional extras that can improve the quality.
External Power. The built-in battery in GoPros will keep you going long enough for a short meeting or session, but if you’re looking to do more than an hour at a time or reduce the risk of going dark mid-session, you’ll want to add external power. The simplest way to do that is to run your HERO8 with AC power. For that, you’ll need a USB-C power cable (the one that came with your camera will work just fine) and an AC adapter. You can switch out the AC adapter for another power source, such as a USB power brick or USB power hub2.
External Microphone. The Media Mod has a better microphone than the camera’s built-in mic, but the single best thing you can do to improve the sound quality of your video streams is to add an external microphone. A good external microphone will help reduce that echo-y room sound and limit the external noises that can be distracting.
The simplest option is to add one directly to the camera, and the Media Mod has a built-in microphone input that makes that possible for the HERO8 Black.
You can also have the microphone go directly into the computer. That setup can give even better results with more flexibility, but it adds the complications of managing the video and audio streams separately.
There are different types of microphones available, ranging from inexpensive up to very expensive. If you’re just using your voice, and lavalier mic (i.e., a clip-on mic) would be a traditional choice. If you want (or don’t mind) more atmospheric room noise, a shotgun mic is a next step. Steps up from that are some of the high-end mics that professional podcasters use. I have a separate roundup of some of the alternatives for external mics for GoPros here.
Lighting. Lighting can be tricky, especially with a wide-angle view. Your GoPro will adjust automatically for the available light, but a better-lit scene will still look more professional than when you’re talking from the shadows.
If the whole scene is too light or too dark, you can still use the HERO8’s Protune exposure compensation slider to brighten or darken the whole scene. Since you can’t access the camera’s settings menu while the capture device is connected, you’ll need to do that through the GoPro mobile app or set it before connecting to the capture device. This can be a very simple and effective way to improve the image, and you can see the results live.
That said, it’s usually better to start with decent lighting. You usually want the light source in front of you, not behind you.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and you can probably get good results from what you have before investing in more lighting gear. It might be natural window light (face the window or have it to a side from a front angle rather than have your back to it), a desk lamp (in front of you, slightly off to the side), or room lights (turn them on). In general, more light is better than less, and dispersed light or multiple light sources will help minimize harsh shadows.
If you do want to get a simple light that you can use for your other shooting as well, GoPro has the Light Mod that is specifically designed for the HERO8 Black and mounts on the Media Mod.
They also have the new Zeus Mini that allows the flexibility of using off-camera.
Mounting. While it’s convenient to just set the camera on top of the computer or on your desk, that limits the angle of view and tends to emphasize every little bump or keystroke. So, for better quality, you’ll probably want the camera standing separately or at least on some kind of absorbing layer. Aside from that, you can use any of the usual GoPro mounts or other photography tripods (with the correct adapter).
Menus & Settings? One of the inconveniences of using the HDMI-out signal from your GoPro is that it blacks out the camera’s back screen. That means you can’t access the menus. While you don’t need access to all the settings for a webcam, it’s handy to be able to change some of them, such as the FOV (or Lens, as it’s called on the HERO8 Black). So there are two workarounds. One is to set it before you connect the camera to the capture device. The other alternative, and the one I prefer, is to do it via the GoPro mobile app (you can still connect wirelessly to your GoPro with the HDMI capture device connected, although you won’t get the live view preview showing through the app. You can, however, still access the settings.)
Adjustments. By connecting through the GoPro mobile app (or setting these before connecting), you can still use some of the Protune settings to control the video output and improve the image quality. The most relevant for this are:
Other settings, like HyperSmooth, won’t work for this (not that you’re likely to need it for this kind of thing).
Cards? You’ll often see the HDMI capture devices marketed as video capture cards. The ones I’m focusing on here aren’t actually cards–they’re small external devices–but traditionally, this purpose has been accomplished with cards that slot inside desktop computers and add ports to the back of the computer. Those obviously don’t make much sense with laptops or even modern slimline desktops like iMacs. But the name has stuck. If you decide to buy one not mentioned on this page, just make sure you’re getting an external device that can be powered over USB rather than an internal card that draws power from a desktop’s motherboard.
1080p30. Some of the devices I’m focusing on here can capture 4K input, but their maximum output is 1080p (the Elgato Cam Link 4K is an exception; it can output up to 4K30). Technically, the GoPro HERO8 + Media Mod outputs its HDMI live stream at 4K30, but most of the standard web conferencing and live-streaming platforms max out at 1080p30. If you’re recording sessions to upload to platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, or education training services, you have more flexibility with higher resolutions (i.e., 4K).
FOV. The standard field of view (or lens) on the GoPro HERO8 is exceptionally wide. It distorts the view and might include parts of the room you don’t want to be included in the shot. You can switch the field of view to Linear or Narrow to rectify that. On the flip side, that super-wide room view might be exactly what you’re after if you’re using it as a secondary camera to capture, say, an art studio or music recording studio.
Power. The HDMI port does not provide power, so you’ll need to use the internal battery or add external power via the USB-C port.
Hot? I’ve found that the camera gets very hot when using it this way. The HERO8 Black has overheating protection built-in, so this isn’t much of a concern, but it’s something to be aware of. It certainly gets quite warm.
On-Screen Display. One minor annoyance when using the HERO8 Black as a webcam is that the battery status indicator and the SD card capacity indicators stay on screen in the top right and left corners of the screen. When you start or stop or tap the back screen, the mode indicators show up on the bottom briefly, but they automatically hide. But the ones at the top stay. I’ve not found a way to make them go away on the HERO8 Black. The HERO7 Black has a mode specifically for this, letting you switch between a Monitor and Live mode, where Monitor mode has the overlay but Live is a clean image. It’s not always going to be a big deal, but it’s an annoying quirk if you’re looking for a clean image (and presumably something that would be very simple for GoPro to fix in a firmware update).
Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2020-10-27 at 13:58. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
This post was last modified on August 3, 2020 11:49 am