Friday, April 10, 2009

The Best Camcorder

I'm a computer artist and animator and I haven't been happy with a lot of cameras. I was drawn to the Ultra Flip because of the lack of wires, I like the idea of the USB stick. They include a set of batteries with the package so you can start recording right away (as well as a little velvet drawstring bag). It was very easy to use, it's just as promised, click the red button to record (and to stop) then flip (ha-ha) the USB stick out and put it in your computer's USB slot.

I read a reviewer of another model of the Flip saying he needed an extra part to hook up his USB, I don't know what he was using but you don't need any middleman if you have a current USB port. Of course it might have been that he didn't feel comfortable with the camera sort of weighing itself down a bit when you have the USB attached to a tower. I'm using mine with a laptop which is on a table so the camera can rest comfortably on it. He might have gotten a USB extension so that he could set his down if he was using a desktop computer. I did try the flip out in my desktop and I did have to make sure that the dog didn't jump around it as it does feel sort of vulnerable, but I will mainly use it in my laptop.

After you have it in your USB port, you will then go to "my computer" and see a new blue icon (unless you're Mac, you'll see a folder for you instead), click it and it installs the program - which seems to run on the stick alone, not taking up any space on your system, although it does put a small encoder on your system.
(Side note: - I did try to click "explore" before I installed the program to see if I could just drag the videos directly to my desktop by passing the program, and while you can save them, you can't see the videos). You have to go through the program to save them to your computer and be viewed properly.

So after you have installed the program, click "flipvideo" from your "my computer", then click "Flip Video for PC.exe" to open the program. It's very simple, you will see your videos and on the left you'll see a "save video" tab, here you can select what video(s) you want to move to your hard drive and then click the save button - they call it saving to your library, they will ask you to name a library, which will end up being a folder that holds your videos, which you will find in your documents as "My Flip Video Library".

After you have done this, you can then open them normally (outside of the program using just a player). They will be saved as AVIs.

They also have a "share video" section where you can upload your movies straight to Youtube, AOL or any video sharing website. Sounds good, but I haven't tried it yet. Now you can make a "movie mix" which is basically adding an effect to your video (slowed down in black and white or cartoon fish floating about etc. - no editing). It's very (very) simple, but it's cute.

They include a little plug that connects your Flip straight to your TV. Use your remote to find your 'line', 'input' or 'source' button to find it, click a few times, you'll see the first still of your video when you've got it right. Then hit play, now it wasn't clear in the instructions, but you want to hit play on your Flip (not the TV), to watch your video on your television and it looks great!

They also have an option to 'save for email' - if you do this it will save the videos into a folder "Flip videos for emailing" on your desktop that you can then send as attachments. When I did this it sped up the sound (think Mickey and Minnie) while the footage remained at normal speed (now don't worry, this doesn't happen when you save the videos to your computer as discussed above). This is probably a compression problem, but we can't fix it in their program, so I won't be using that option again - I'll stick to the 'save to library' option. It also does this for the ecard videos. There is an option to send the video as an ecard with cute little borders around them, recipients are sent a link to see the card, but again when played the sound is sped up.

In spite of that (cuz it's worth it), I have found my video camera, it's so small and light, there are no plugs or cords, it takes great videos, no tracers, no little pixel smudges and the lighting is great. I took one outside at dusk and it looks nice. This thing records twice as long as my bulky handycam and I don't have to format any disks or plug in a bunch of stuff. The picture quality of the Ultra Flip videos is really amazing, my other cameras (handycam, Creative labs, the onboard Vaio and VIJE) do not hold a candle to the Flips quality. I'll be using it for video projects. I am very happy with the Ultra Flip and will be bringing it along with me for a family visit. I recommend it! Yes, I flipped for it!

NEW UPDATE ADDITION (11/15/07): Just an update for you here, after I wrote this review I did run the flip on some other systems and it did not have the problem. I only had the problem on my custom Hypersonic PC laptop which runs windows XP. The computers that had no problems were: A Boxx desktop running Windows XP pro, and a Sony Vaio laptop running Vista, and just today I tested the flip on a Dell desktop running XP home which also had no problems.
-And, a big AND here, after I ran the flip on the first two working machines (the Sony and the Boxx) a few times (using the export and email functions), suddenly it worked on the "bad" Hypersonic laptop. It seemed to have jolted it to work? I don't know why. Since that time I have had continued success on the Hypersonic.
-An engineer from Pure Digital (the makers of the Flip) emailed me after reading my review and we had an extensive exchange working on trying to figure out why this happened and he was very serious about resolving the issue. Another thing that flip does is create updates, so with these two things in mind I feel confident that they have or are taking care of any problems. But again, right now I do not have any problems.
-Also, someone asked if you can take stills. This camera is only a video camera, you can't snap pictures with it, however you can pull stills from your movies inside of their program.

Flip Video MinoHD Camcorder, 60 Minutes (Black)

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