Trying Periscope with a GoPro Was Frustrating and Fun
Your Periscope game is about to go pro — GoPro, that is. The live video-broadcast and streaming app has added the ability to stream from your GoPro action camera over Wi-Fi, so you're not stuck with just your phone's cameras. We tested it out here with a GoPro Hero 4 Silver, and while the initial experience is inconsistent and glitchy, it's still incredibly promising.
The new feature is only available for those Periscoping on iPhones 5s, 6 and 6s running iOS 8.2, pairing with GoPro Hero4 Black and Silver models. No word on whether the new feature will come to Android, although GoPro's statement notes "Broadcast functionality is currently only available on iOS, but users will be able to view GoPro broadcasts from any platform."
A Winning Formula
Yes, I look great through my iPhone 6s' cameras, but the GoPro on a selfie stick-esque GoPole makes me look so much better. Plus, the GoPro's wider field of view helped me easily capture much more of my surroundings, which would have come in handy when I Periscoped my daring trek through the treacherous streets of Manhattan in the middle of winter storm Jonas. Instead of seeing just my face or the five feet or so around me, my viewers could have been treated to the sight of New York covered in snow.
As a recently avid user of Periscope, I've also found it tiring and challenging to try to keep my phone up while showing off my latest escapades. I hate the shaky footage that results from me fumbling with the phone, even though some would say that feeling of reality is part of Periscope's appeal.
The GoPro offers smoother and higher-quality video, which makes for a more enjoyable viewing experience; the camera can be mounted on a helmet or strapped onto part of your clothes so you don't have to keep holding it up.
And while you can easily latch your phone onto a selfie stick to get a seemingly wider shot, you won't be able to read the comments or questions that are coming in from your viewers at a distance. With the GoPro in one hand and my phone in the other, interacting with my audience was as easy as glancing down to check my stream.
Setting up the external camera was easy, too. I just had to turn on the camera, install the GoPro app, find the camera's Wi-Fi signal on my phone and hop on it. Once I had my phone connected to the GoPro's Wi-Fi network, the Periscope app picked up the action camera's video feed automatically when I opened it. I wish there were a more obvious indicator to tell me I was using the GoPro, other than the small camera symbol that shows up at the end of the row of icons above the Start Broadcast button.
Switching between the GoPro for a wider scene and my iPhone for a more personal view was as easy as double-tapping the screen. That action normally toggles between my phone's front and rear camera (when Periscope isn't paired to a GoPro), but you can still switch between your phone's two cameras by tapping the button on the top right while filming.
I can see people Periscoping with their GoPros strapped to helmets on ski slopes, hidden in a treetop perch or strapped onto a drone, and the resulting footage could be so eye-opening and mind-blowing. However, a few issues need to be fixed first.
NoPro For Now
We struggled for a long time trying to figure out why our audio feed wasn't working. Disgruntled (though very helpful) Periscope viewers were telling us they couldn't hear us when the GoPro was the selected camera. When I turned it back to my iPhone camera, viewers could hear me.
This happened inconsistently, and we found that it might have to do with whether the GoPro itself was recording to its internal storage or SD card. When the camera itself was recording, the stream's audio worked. When it wasn't, our Periscope stream had no sound. We've reached out to GoPro and Periscope to see if this is by design or if it will be addressed in the future, and were directed to a tweet from Periscope Help confirming the issue is being fixed.
When I played back some of the videos that had audio, I also noticed that sound was muffled when the camera was in the standard GoPro case that comes with each device. People were saying they couldn't hear us when the camera was encased, but really, it was very muffled and hard to hear. We took it out of the case and our audio problems went away.
The Wi-Fi connection between iPhone and GoPro also dropped out without warning from time to time, and when that happens, Periscope will default to the last-used camera on your phone (front or rear). This caused me to end up shooting random, boring scenes or my phone's incredibly fascinating black cover.
Data hoarders like me also won't like that GoPro videos beyond a certain duration do not get saved to your phone's camera roll. It's possible that the higher resolution video makes it impossible to save all your streams to your phone, and of the videos I Periscoped, only the ones shorter than 10 minutes were saved.
If you already own a GoPro and want to broadcast your extreme sports prowess as it happens, you'll enjoy trying out the new feature. You'll likely not be narrating or interacting with your viewers while midway down the ski slope, so the audio problems may not be a big concern of yours. Anyone thinking of strapping their action cams to drones or sticking them in the middle of nowhere will also have fun trying the new feature out.
However, the Wi-Fi inconsistencies may mar your video and let you end up shooting an all too real clip of What's In My Bag? from wherever you stashed your phone when you assumed you would be recording from your GoPro.
Periscope fans who just want the ability to stream from a camera other than their phone's should refrain from running out to buy a GoPro just yet. Not only are the GoPros expensive investments (the Hero 4 Silver starts at $400, the Black at $500), but it's very likely that Periscope will partner with other third-party camera makers soon to give you an alternative. Until the Wi-Fi and audio issues are fixed, typical Periscope users would probably be better off using a simple tripod or selfie stick.