Saturday, November 12, 2011

Two years later review: my FLIP Mino HD camera

On the 21st of September 2009 I biked to Bella Center in Copenhagen, site of the COP15 climate change conference three months later, to participate in the kick-off event for the TH!NKABOUTIT #2 blogging project. For use in our blogging each participant was given a 4 GB FLIP Mino HD camera with the European Journalism Centre logo on the cover.

The FLIPs come in a little pouch and with custom designed covers.

I never considered myself a video guy. Let alone video-blogger, or "vlogger", of which I still haven't seen a reasonable example. Video tech was also uncharted territory to me and not one I figured worth the learning curve to enter. But the FLIP changed that mostly because it's so easy to use: power on, press the big red "Record" button to start and then stop recording, flip out the USB connector and transfer the MP4-files to any computer. Also, it delivers surprisingly high quality sound and pictures, and it's the size of a mobile phone (smaller than most smartphones).

The 4 GB version lists its recording time to one hour. It's closer to 55 minutes but that's because unnecessary files are taking up space on the new recorder's drive. Fortunately, it connects like any other USB stick so the handful of PDFs and an .exe file (who needs .exe files?) can be quickly moved to your computer for safekeeping or simply deleted. This will bring up recording time to almost an hour again - until next time you upgrade your FLIP software and the unnecessary files will reappear.

So, I began clipping segments of recordings using avidemux in Linux; first example a jumpy walk through a crowded outdoor photo exhibition (not impressive film art). Also in avidemux I started using the xvid codec and for example managed to fit this 51 minutes speech into a just 225 MB file suitable for my free Vimeo account (still not impressive and should have fixed the sound). And I strapped it to my bike to make a recording of my daily trip home from work. I snugged it out to get some rare footage from inside Cairo Airport during the revolution curfew. As a Macbook Pro entered the picture, I must admit ambitions sky rocketed. iMovie was to my editing ambitions what the FLIP was to my recording ambitions - userfriendliness inspiring a new hobby. The FLIP comes with idiot-proof software that will make you instant "MagicMovies" and handle your files easily. Even as I started using more and more advanced features of iMove, I still have thrown in segments of FLIP MagicMovies here and there (the trained eye will notice, for example from 17 seconds to 27 seconds into my first Urban Greening video).

In short, the FLIP cameras were bargains in 2009. Being very small, very easy to use and quite cheap at the same time I have to wonder why they weren't more popular. Now, of course, they face competition from smartphones and more expensive camcorders designed smaller and smaller too. But they are even cheaper now and come with 8 GB. Still something I'd consider buying. And I did consider buying a new FLIP recently - because during recording of my second Urban Greening video it fell from my pocket and unfortunately the display broke. So sad. And the bottom line is: FLIP and the TH!NKABOUTIT project has changed me into a person who wants to film. And even after two years of frequent use I was still very happy with the FLIP Mino HD.

The display is obviously out of order.

I can wholeheartedly recommend you buy a FLIP - if you don't already have a smartphone or DSLR with HD video capabilities, of course. Alternatively, a FLIP would serve great as a second camcorder if your other one is a bit too expensive to strap onto flying objects or operating during intoxication or other risky situations.

My choice for a new (budget) camcorder fell on a Canon Legria HF R16 found on sale. You can probably expect rants about its software and attitude towards Linux and Mac in the near future, a slightly more thought through review in two years. And perhaps more crazy videos made with my old FLIP now strapped onto more and more hazardously placed objects?