Sunday, July 12, 2009

Meet Flip Video and Flip Share

If you're looking for sub-$200 camcorder for use in the classroom, one that you can take on field trips or hand off to one of your students and not worry about him or her breaking it, then you need an easy-to-use, solidly built camcorder. Enter the Flip Video Ultra and the Ultra HD camcorder.
I had the opportunity to review the Flip Ultra this week and I enjoyed the whole experience. In addition to its digital zoom, play and trash buttons, and a big red record button, there aren't any other buttons or menus to distract yourself with -- It's literally a point-and-shoot camcorder and it's refreshing not having to become immersed in a lengthy manual or having to learn a complicated (and often under-used, anyway) set of features. A student can borrow it, carry it in his or her backpack with their books, and you don't have to worry about it being destroyed.

Rugged Design and Innovative, Flip-Out USB Connector

Inside its durable body is a flash-based hard drive, which means there are no moving parts (so the chances of it surviving an accidental drop are very good). Sometimes I like to just flip the switch and watch the USB connector shoot out from its spring-loaded housing, just like a switch blade; however, I am a little concerned about the long-term durability of the USB connector. Since I tend to use the camcorder plugged into my laptop, the camera's weight adds a degree of stress to the interior hinge. I suppose one could always plug the Flip Video camera into an external USB hub to reduce the chances of it breaking off. Regardless, it's very convenient not having to search for a USB cord to plug the camera into the computer.

It's Quick and Easy to Share High Quality Videos

With the flip-out USB connector and simple uploading software, video clips can be easily uploaded to your blog, YouTube, or attached to an e-mail. I'm off-track at the moment, so I'll upload some more content from the classroom in the coming months. Until then, here is a video I shot at the Orange County Fair this Saturday. I have posted the YouTube link (Keep in mind, you can't get a feel for how well the video looks from YouTube due to how much they compress the movie files). Uploading to YouTube was as easy as typing my username and password. Whether you're a professional video editor or have never edited a day in your life, this software is fun and easy to use.

Convenient On-Board FlipShare Software

"On-board" means that as soon as you plug in the camcorder using that cool flip-out USB connector, the software prompts you to install it. This is nice, because there are no CDs or additional software to download. It's compatible with both Windows and Mac. Once installed, all your clips are displayed on the screen. I love how easy it was to edit the video. It was very intuitive, especially if you are familiar with Apple's older version of iMovie.

Each clip is editable: simply grab the handles at the beginning and/or ending of one (or all) of your clips to trim them as you see fit. You can upload one clip, or string them together in an easy-to-use movie editor. With click and drag ease, simply place the clips in the order you want them to appear in your movie. Type the text you want to appear for the title and closing slides and then choose your music. You can choose from among Flip Video's seven royalty free songs or select from your own collection of MP3s. I used the song "Bouncin' Round" from Flip's selection of loops, just to keep the project enclosed inside the Flip ecosystem. I opted to use the "music only," setting, even though I had the option to duck the sound (making it either softer or louder than the audio from my clips).

The Price Is Right

The Flip Ultra (2nd Generation) Details:

• Easy-to-use, handheld camcorder featuring one-touch recording and instant playback

• 4GB of built-in memory captures up to 120 minutes of video

• Dimensions: 4.25" x 2.19" x 1.17"

• Bright, larger 2" no-glare screen

• Includes two AA batteries

• Watch videos instantly on TV with included connector cable

• Available in four different colors: black, white, pink, and yellow

• Full VGA video at 30 frames per second progressive scan

• Records high-quality H.264 videos that work with most video applications, including Windows Media Player, QuickTime Player, and iTunes

• Pre-loaded FlipShare software works on any PC or Mac:

• Save, organize, and edit videos with ease

• Email videos and video greeting cards

• Upload videos directly to MySpace and YouTube

• Capture snapshots from your videos

• Order DVDs and have them shipped anywhere in the world

Where to Buy:

Available at, Best Buy,, K-Mart, Sam's Club, Sears, Staples, Target,,, Wal-Mart,, and other leading retailers.

Suggested Retail Pricing: $149.99

More Camcorder Reviews

If you're setting up a video production studio for your school, visit and read in-depth reviews about a wide range of camcorders. There are a myriad of features to consider: such as mic input vs. the on-camera mic; tape or hard drive; HD or Standard; the list goes on.

Check out this great post about how one teacher uses his Flip Video Ultra in his classroom.
Mr. Warner writes about using it to record performances, school trips, interviews, and impulse recordings. He also shares a couple tips that include how to make a makeshift tripod using nothing more than blu-tac. He also shares some fun recordings, including a pet rat and a finger puppet show, recorded by his first graders.

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