22 Feb 2013

Do-It-Yourself GoPro FullDome Conversion

Filming, FullDome, Planetarium No Comments

In December of 2010, a board member of our local Science Center (Roper Mountain Science Center) asked us to find a way to produce affordable FullDome content. They had an awesome new Spitz SciDome HD projector, but could not afford much content. Since that meeting, finding ways to produce inexpensive FullDome content has been our goal.   We are focusing on camera captured live action footage to accomplish the goal.

GoPro Camera

We figured out how to convert inexpensive, but powerful, GoPro cameras to capture fish eye pictures, time lapse, and video. We have been testing GoPros since last year to produce custom FullDome Videos for Roper Mountain. We typically use them in tandem with a DSLR rig. To our surprise, the GoPro often outperforms the more complicated and costly DSLR rig!

Since receiving that request from the board member, the FullDome Videos team has been helped by many in the Planetarium industry. Here is an opportunity for us say “thank you” and give something back to the industry. We have noticed that the Planetarium industry more than its fair share of MacGyver types in it! Follow the instructions below and soon you too will have a FullDome camera rig that fits in your pocket.

What do you want to create for your dome?

  • Not feeling like MacGyver? No problem. FullDome Videos will build your camera for you. (GoPro2 $1,200 USD (While supplies last) / GoPro3 Black $1,400 USD). Email us at info@slicedtomato.net.
  • Key Specs of the GoPro3
    • Professional 4K Cinema 15 fps / 2.7K cinema 30 fps / 1440p 48 fps / 1080p 60 fps / 960p 100 fps /720p 120 fps and more video capture
    • 12MP photo capture with 30 fps burst
    • Wi-Fi Built-In
    • Wi-Fi Remote Compatible (included)
    • GoPro App Compatible (FREE)
    • 197’/ 60m Waterproof Housing*
    • Assorted mounts and hardware included for attaching to helmets, gear and more

    List of Full Specs

  • Features of the GoPro2
  • Camera Optics
    • f/2.8 Fixed Focus
    • 170º Wide FOV (Including 1080p)
    • 127º Medium FOV (In 1080p + 720p)
    • 90º Narrow FOV


      • 1080p: 1920×1080, 30FPS
      • 960p: 1280×960, 48FPS + 30FPS
      • 720p: 1280×720, 60FPS + 30FPS
    • High Performance,1 /2.3” CMOS Image Sensor
    • Video Format: H.264 codec, .mp4 File Format


    • RESOLUTIONS: 11MP, 8MP, 5 MP



Have you downloaded our free FullDome Space Shuttle Launch video? If not, get it here http://www.fulldomevideos.com/free-fulldome-video-download. Special thanks to George Fleenor for providing the Space Shuttle still pictures.   http://www.geographicsimaging.com/


Do-It-Yourself Steps

Tools used:
You will need a variety of tools. This kit has EVERYTHING you will ever need to do repairs on computers, cameras, and other small electronics. We definitely recommend this. There are others out there but this kit includes equipment to fix Apple products.1) Plastic spudger (never use metal a spudger on circuit boards. You will end up damaging more than you could imagine)
2) Heat gun (or hairdryer) – We recommend the Wagner heat gun — $25 at your local hardware store
3) Pliers with heat shrink or electrical tape. You can buy the heat shrink in the electrical section of your local hardware store.
4) A variety of screwdriver heads (very small Phillips-head)

Lens used:

GoPro2:   Rage Cams

GoPro3:  Rage Cams

Once you’ve got your tools set out, take your time and you’ll be shooting full dome in no time.



1) Remove the back plate and battery.
2) Remove the four screws that are beneath the battery (two different sizes).
3) Using your plastic spudger, remove the sticker.
4) Pull the back off of the camera.
5) Remove the four screws in the corners.
6) Gently pull circuit board out of the front plastic framing
7) On front plastic housing, remove black plastic lip by using heat gun to heat up adhesive and then press it out. When using heat gun, do not apply direct heat for an extended period of time. Gently move the air (on low) back and forth. The heat guns get up to 800+ degrees. The adhesive will melt quickly.
8) Now you will remove the lens from the circuit board.
9) You will heat up around the lens just as you did the front plastic lip. It will take a little more time to heat up the adhesive around here. Circuit boards are pretty resilient to heat. If you are moving the air back and forth, you’ll be fine. Get your pliers ready.
10) Once you have sufficiently heated up around the lens, take your pliers and gently tighten the lens until you feel it move slightly. Once it has tightened a bit, you can unscrew it from the camera body. Make sure you are not scraping any components while removing the lens.
11) At this point, go ahead and reassemble the circuit board back into its housing. You still have not put the new lens in. The new lens will be put on after everything is put back together.
12) After everything is lined up and put back together (minus battery), go ahead and screw in your new lens.
13) Focus and glue (see below).




Use the same tools as the GoPro2.

1) Remove battery.
2) Pry off the front faceplate. If you are having trouble pulling it off by hand, use your trusty black spudger. You’ll notice at this point that the lens on this one does not have much room to grab and twist off like the GoPro2. This is where it gets interesting.
3) Using your spudger (or if needed a flat head screwdriver), pry off the black plastic lip around the lens.
4) Remove the 4 torx screws from the top.
5) Using your spudger, gently pry the circuit board assembly out of the housing. Work your way from the sides. Go slowly here as you will be near some components.
6) If you are watching the video here, READ THIS FIRST!!! The ribbon cable goes into the connector but can be released by the pulling up the brown plastic piece on the left of the connector (once again… use your spudger).
7) Take out silver screw on top.
8) Peel back heat sink tape on side of camera.
9) Remove torx screws from back of camera assembly (4 screws).
10) Using your spudger, apply minor pressure between the two circuit boards to loosen the adhesive. The back circuit board will be released and moved down and away from the front.
11) Remove the Phillips-head screws to release the lens and lens housing.
12) Now you can head up the lens like in the GoPro2.
13) Once you’ve applied a little heat, over tighten the lens with your pliers then unscrew lens.
14) Reassemble camera completely. You will put the lens in after you have everything else put back together… even the front faceplate installed back on.
15) Install lens, focus and glue.



This may be the hardest part (or easiest) of the overall process. If you have your HDMI connector, plug it in and start turning. You should try to focus at an infinite width. A good point of reference is somewhere around 60-80 feet away. If you do not have the HDMI connector, it’s important to remember in this – quarter turns rather than whole turns.

We recommend you screw the lens down until you feel some resistance. From there, start screwing the lens back out. Two full turns is a good starting point.

From here, take a still shot – then do a quarter turn. Take a still shot – then turn the lens a quarter of a turn. Take a still shot – then turn the lens a quarter of a turn. Connect your camera to your laptop and compare the three photos. If it continues to get better, keep going. If it is getting worse, work backwards from there. It will take a while to get a good focus.

Once you have your lens focused and are happy, it is time to glue the lens down. This keeps the infinite focus of the lens. One simple bump of the camera and all of your video will be blurry (without glue). We use super glue to keep the lens stable. Make sure you get the gel type of super glue. It just works better. Put a bead around the lens where it meets the plastic housing around it. If you would like to mask the glue, you can use a liquid electrical tape to paint over that. It will give it a nice black finish.

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