Control multiple GoPro HERO action cams with Camera Tools for GoPro HEROs

Imagine you need to start/stop two or more GoPro HERO action cams ranging from a HERO 7 to a HERO 9 Black from any device — Mac, PC, iOS, or Android and even Raspberry Pi 3. You could do it all manually, which is tedious and in some cases, impossible. Or you could operate all of them simultaneously from one control app. The Camera Tools for GoPro HEROs app lets you do just that.

Camera Tools for GoPro HEROs is a small app in every sense of the word. It’s a control panel with many buttons that doesn’t take up much space on your system outside the Applications folder. That doesn’t mean it’s not powerful and able.

When you start the app, you’ll be greeted by an empty window with buttons that let you add GoPro cameras (HERO5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 Black, HERO5 Session, GoPro Fusion and Max), connect to them, remove them, tag while shooting, record and stop recording, create time-lapse schedules, change capture settings, as well as power them off. Once you’ve added one or several cameras, you can pair them via Bluetooth — on the cam you need to enable connections to the GoPro app — and connect to Wi-Fi if you want to download footage, get a live preview and a live video feed. The app hasn’t many preferences to set. The only one I changed was the default download folder for media.

The latest version offers some advanced features, including a HTTP command server and a scripting tool to control the app and the cameras. Both are for people who want to do complex things such as capturing a series of pictures with different settings, a photo-booth, and time-lapses.

I tried the app for more simple things like start/stop the cameras simultaneously, get a live preview, and download footage directly via Wi-Fi. I tested both the macOS and iOS app. They both work more or less the same way, only the interface differs and the Wi-Fi connection capability works better on iOS than it does on macOS.

Time Lapse scheduling for three HEROs...
Time Lapse scheduling for three HEROs…

The first thing you’ll need to do to enjoy using Camera Tools for GoPro HEROs is make sure your cameras all have the latest firmware installed. I thought I updated my HERO7 with the latest version and became suspicious when I couldn’t connect it. Sure enough, there was a more recent update on the GoPro website. After downloading that one, it worked like a charm.

The cameras are all controlled via Bluetooth LE. You’ll need LMP version 0x6 or higher. My mid-2017 iMac has version 0x8, so I was good to go. When you add a camera, you need to set your HERO’s connection feature to ON, and go into the Connect to GoPro app menu. When you do that, the GoPro is ready to pair with the app. The connection process took less than two minutes on all three GoPro’s I have — a HERO 7, 8 and 9 Black.

It’s a boon to control multiple GoPro’s from one app; I could start, stop and tag recordings, set all cameras to the same capture preset and even power them off all together. In some cases, however, the HERO9 would be stuck on powering off. As the two others didn’t have this problem, I assume the HERO9 will need yet another firmware update to fix this — what appears to be a — bug.

Problems were all over the place, though, when I tried to connect to any of the cameras via Wi-Fi and get a live preview or download footage directly from each of the cameras. Offloading clips the usual way is fiddly: pry the SD-card out of every HERO’s port, insert it in a card reader or into the reader at the iMac’s rear end, use Hedge and then put it all together again. Admittedly, using Hedge and the fiddly method is a more surefire way to end up with footage that is actually bit-per-bit what got recorded on the card, but in this instance, I wasn’t worried about whether there would be any transmission errors — because to have transmission errors, you first need to have a transmission.

Media files can be downloaded via Wi-Fi
Media files can be downloaded via Wi-Fi

And there wasn’t any, so I emailed the developer. He got back to me instantly and for the rest of the afternoon we were in an exchange of messages trying to fix the Wi-Fi enigma. Finally, he sent me a non-Apple-Store version with associated serial and my Wi-Fi connection troubles were all over as by magic. A plus for support, a minus for Apple’s sandboxing policies.

By the way, I actually could connect to the camera via Wi-Fi, even with the Apple Store version; I just couldn’t do it from within Camera Tools for GoPro HEROs. For it to work on my system, I had to first connect using the System Preferences > Network interface and then switch back to the app. That, of course, is not very user-friendly, and it also means you need to manually switch between networks whereas, when I ultimately could do it in the app, the app would release the GoPro Wi-Fi network and System Preferences would automatically switch back to my Internet router’s Wi-Fi connection.

Camera Tools for GoPro HEROs works really well to control multiple supported GoPro cameras, which is great for anyone who wants or needs to control multiple GoPros — I’m thinking of nature documentary makes, for example, but also vloggers who want to shoot multiple angles.

The cameras almost synchronise when you start recording — there’s a lag of about a second for each to react — which makes audio sync afterwards much easier than when you have to manually activate them one by one. The price of the app should not be a stumbling block at €8.99.