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Flip Ultra Video

Wayne sent this in to share with you all. Thanks Wayne!!! As ever if you have anuthing that you want to share I will happily post it.

In this day and age, information is king, and “unless you have video, it never happened� – as the saying goes. The Flip Video and Flip Video Ultra is to the camcorder what the point-and-shoot camera is to the DLSR. I don’t think it is designed to replace your current digital camcorder, but at roughly 4 inches by 2 inches, it is a fantastic product to carry “just in case.�

The process for shooting video is as simple as taking it out of the box, installing two AA batteries, turning it on and hitting the big red button. The box design, by the way, could have been designed by Apple themselves and is very iPhone–esque. The package contains the camcorder, tv connector cable, wrist strap, a cloth carrying case, two AA batteries, and instruction booklet. The 1 GB model will record 30 minutes of MPEG4 AVI video and the 2 GB model records 60 minutes.

The installation to the computer requires a quick slide of a button on the side that pops out a built-in flip-out USB connector arm. Connecting that to your Mac will mount the camera just like an external disk drive. Included on the camera is the software that will allow you to edit and export your videos.

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The camcorder uses your computer as its power source while connected, instead of using the batteries in the camcorder, helping to conserve battery life. You must therefore connect your camcorder to a powered USB port in order to run the Flip Video Program.

The only problem I see with this is that often, especially with desktop computers, is the USB ports can be a pain to get to, or, as with any computer, just inaccessible to this type of connection due to other accessories being plugged into ports next to it. The simplest solution, of course, is to use a USB extension cable. This is not included, though being almost a necessity, should be!

The first time you use the camera software, and it will keep the editing software on the camera – there is no installation to your hard drive, it will ask you to install the included 3ivx video codec. I had previously installed Perian and DivX, I skipped the 3ivx codec, and the videos it produces still plays fine. However, in order to run the included editing application, no big loss there, it insists that you install the 3ivx codec whether the files will play or not.

If you choose, you can also play the movies on the camcorder directly to a TV using the included NTSC Composite cable.

The actual use of the Flip Ultra couldn’t be easier. Simply aim at subject and press big button on back of camcorder. The other controls on the back are play, delete, zoom and forward/back navigation buttons. It takes about 2 seconds from On to Record ready.

There is a 1 ½ inch TFT display screen on the back for recording and playback. The lens is fixed focus with a 2X digital zoom. It has a built in microphone and speaker and on the front of the camcorder next to the lens is a small area that glows red when in record mode. There is an mount on the bottom to place on an tripod, and an underwater case is out and good up to 30 feet, which should be really interesting. (Though without any sort of built in light, I’n not really sure how well this will work.)

The video itself is from a ¼ inch 4:3 640×480 CMOS sensor. All levels and exposures are automatically balanced. In my experience, it is every bit as good as a normal digital camcorder. It captures well in low-light situations, but does it’s best outdoors or in bright light, as any camera would. The 30 fps 480p picture is clear and sharp. The zoom works well, though it is digital and not expected to do as well as an optical would. The compression is decent, though some videos there is an apparent jump every once in awhile. It records with an average data rate of 1,500 kbps.

It does capture sound quite well at a rate of 44.1kHz mono , though again, not quite as good as a higher end model of camcorder that would allow you to record with your choice of bit rate, with a more directional mic.

The software that runs on the camera is a simple management and editing application, with a very simple interface that is not at all Mac like. It allows you to download your videos to the hard drive and organize them into albums. It will allow you to save, share, delete videos and make movies. Saving simply saves it to your hard drive. There are also options to Save for DVD at Retail and Save for Email. Saving for Retail lets you save videos back to your camcorder to take to an authorized Pure Digital retailer for burning onto DVD. Save for Email will save it into a MOV file to make them more compatible with others. By drilling down within the finder window into the directories, you can find and manually copy your movies from the finder.

Sharing a video

Private Email Sharing goes through AOL Video, and wants you to sign into AOL using either your screen name, AIM, or …… The video then gets converted and uploaded onto AOL. It will send an e-mail to whom you specify, where they can watch the video in their browser in Flash format. Share Greetings does the same thing, but with a colorful matt or card around the outside of the video. Public online sharing will give you choices to upload to AOL Video, Youtube, or another web site.

Make Movie allows the combination of movies into one and Delete Videos will take videos off of your camcorder. The only editing of the videos are in the form of dragging one start time slider and one end time slider, and then cropping the remaining.
You can’t see the camera from within iMovie, nor can you drag movies from the finder straight into iMovie. You must convert it, using the included camera software or another encoder for use with iMovie. Another caveat is though it is a USB camera, you cannot use it live while hooked up to the computer – even with software like iChatUSBCam from ecamm network.

This camera is perfect for carrying along with you when you just don’t want to be bothered by lugging a large case with a regular sized camcorder in it. For the YouTube or Google videos, you really can’t go wrong. There are some minuses. You won’t want to use the included software, except maybe to convert it into something you can edit with iMovie or the like. There is no image stabilization feature, and being so small with nothing to rest it against, it will constantly shake unless you use a tri–pod. No zoom except a 2x digital. But the plusses on this one really outweigh the minuses. So small you can stick it in a pocket, yet still have great looking video that lasts 30 minutes and 60 minutes, depending on the model.

If you travel a lot, stick it in your glove box, briefcase or purse. You never know if the video you capture will be on the news, the next big thing on YouTube, or even a favorite impromptu clip that will be enjoyed by your family for generations to come. The best video is never set up, it just happens that you are there at the right place and the right time to record it. The Flip is just the thing to make sure that you’ll be ready when it does.

7 Comments

  1. This does sound interesting. Prices are not too bad either. It would be nice to see a picture of it compared to something we know in size, like an ipod. Too bad that cell phone cameras are getting better and better, and a cell phone you carry with you all the time, and this is another device that you have to carry with you. I think if this was available 2 years ago, at those prices it would sell well.

  2. @Mac, your right, instead of just stating the dimensions I should have included a reference picture! It’s a bit smaller than the Touch, and about twice as thick. Otherwise, most, (OK, almost half,) of the camera size and space is taken up by the batteries! (2 AAs) Cell phone camera’s are getting better, however, they can’t compete with the hour long ability of this thing, with the frame rate and Mbps. I still think the good analogy would be the DSLR vs. Point and Shoot. If it only didn’t shake like the old video cameras! (The ones that were so big you actually used your shoulder and elbow to steady it. 🙂 )

  3. I’m wondering what the video quality is like. Is it better than that of a simple digital camera which also does video? What about the audio?

  4. The video quality surpasses that of a digital camera and is the same as a regular DV camera. (Of course, the last time I used a point and shoot with video it could only do 30 seconds at a time max, so maybe times have changed?) I guess it all depends on which camera you have, and how big of a memory card you have.

    The audio is in mono at 44.1, which isn’t bad. Not as good as using a shotgun mic of course, but still acceptable. Check it out at http://www.theflip.com if you’d like, the picture on this blog is of an older model. The new ones are way sexier.

  5. Nice detailed review, Wayne. The point of The Flip is how simple it is. Even the simplest digital camera cannot touch it for ease of use. You just throw it in your pocket or backpack and not worry too much about it. It just works. We used The Flip around the office and were surprised at the quality of it. I would post it on our blog without reservation.

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