Review of the Flip Video

Since the introduction of the Flip Pocket Video Recorder a couple of years ago, several variations on the theme have been put on the market, both by rivals and Flip themselves. I thought it might be interesting to read what I said about it, and what it might be used for, back in June 2008.

Big ambitions?Here's a classic case of buying a solution in the hope of finding a problem for it! I have often toyed with the idea of purchasing a video camera and taking it with me on my travels, but the effort and cost have always seemed to me to exceed the likely benefits.

However, the Flip Video, which arrived on the shelves in Britain only very recently, changes all that. True, there have been other, similar, devices here for some time. But none of them, in my opinion, matches the sleek good looks of the Flip.

Elaine and I have been putting it through its paces, and would like to share the results, and our thoughts, with you.

The Flip has a number of advantages over a traditional video camera, or a still camera that can shoot video. It has clearly been designed with the YouTube generation in mind, because the process of shooting, editing, saving and uploading a video is just so easy.

Let's put it this way: I have a firm principle that if you can't get something usable out of a device or an application within 5 minutes then it's too complicated. The Flip comes with a quick start guide that is, in effect, a sheet of card with instructions and illustrations on each side. I gave it a quick glance just in case it warned me of dire consequences if I set it up in the wrong order (it didn't) and to find out where the batteries went (I was trying to open the compartment with the on-off switch). Other than that, everything was straightforward, and within a very short time I had shot and edited a couple of videos and uploaded them to TeacherTube and YouTube. Spielberg: move aside!

I think this ease of use is important because it changes the rules. I may be a creative person, but if I want to quickly record my actions or your thoughts, I don't want to have to do a course in video editing first and I certainly don't want to risk losing or damaging a camera costing hundreds of pounds.

The editing facilities are limited, but that is just how I like them. There is an option to mix your videos using a sort of template and add a musical soundtrack, which is fun but irrelevant for my needs at present. More useful is the ability to use sliders to mark the start and ends of a video clip and snip it to exclude the bits you don't want. If you save the original video in its entirety you could, I suppose, carry out this process several times in order to create several useful short clips. However, if you're going to do that you would be better off using a proper video editing application. The “snipping” feature is really meant to be used only to get rid of the start and end bits which will not form part of the final product.

In trying it out, I wanted to see what the quality of sound and video would be like outdoors, or in noisy environments. It strikes me that the whole point of a device like this is to be able to slip it in your pocket or bag and use it as and when you like. In a school context, you'd want the children and young people to be able to work outside, such as in the playground, the street, or a science field trip without having to mess about in Audacity to sort the sound out once back in school.

I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. For the most part, the sound in the clips here was fine – there was just a few minutes of an chat in a restaurant where the background clatter of crockery and cutlery made it difficult to hear Elaine. You have to get fairly close to the device, say about a foot, to ensure audibility.

Plus points

  • Easy to use: there is basically one big red button to press!
  • Very small and light
  • Comes with the software built in...
  • ... And installation is automatic
  • Sound and visual quality are very good, especially before saving for the web
  • Very easy to transfer videos from the device to a computer: use the pop-out arm to connect it via a USB port, and the software does the rest.
  • Basic editing is very easy...
  • ... As is uploading to YouTube or generating the code for embedding the video if it's uploaded to an unnamed web service such as TeacherTube.

Minus points

  • I find it hard to stop recording, for some reason. Elaine thinks it may be because my fingers are big. She has no such difficulty.
  • Storage capacity is 60 minutes. It would have been nice to have the option of reducing the quality or using an SD card to expand capacity.
  • Just slightly too expensive to make class sets of 10 or 15 a viable possibility.
  • Because everything is so automatic, it is not immediately obvious where the videos are being stored. It would be good to have a version which is geared for school network use.

Here are the results of our experimentation. Each of these lasts just a couple of minutes.

Return from a shopping trip

I wanted to see what the results would be like if I recorded in an urban environment. I sound puffed because I was lugging a huge amount of shopping with one arm.


Interview with me about articles and books

Interview with Elaine about uses for the Flip Video

Further uses for the Flip video

Here are some other possible educational uses we came up with:

  • Ask teachers, technicians and support staff to record brief commentaries explaining what their job entails. These could be stored as part of the school's Careers resources.
  • Ask pupils or staff to record a brief running commentary on a task they are carrying out.
  • Carry out quick interviews.
  • You could record interviews with people about an issue, and instruct different sets of pupils to use the “snipping” facility to edit them to reflect a particular point of view. This would be a good introduction to the concept of propaganda.
  • Record pupil presentations...
  • ... And use them for reflecting back to the pupil how they appear to an audience, for the purpose of improving their performance.
  • Ask pupils to create brief “bulletins” about the work they're doing, for parents to be able to view, and/or for their e-portfolio.
  • Ask pupils to record their thoughts on what is good about a piece of work they have done, and how it might be improved.
  • Pupils could use the snapshot facility for extracting a suitable still shot to illustrate an essay, blog post or e-portfolio entry.

You'll find some other interesting ideas here and here. And Mark Warner has written an interesting review here.

If you can think of any that haven't been mentioned (I'm sure there are lots), please leave a comment in order to expand our horizons in this area.

This is a slightly modified version of an article which was originally published on 27th June 2008.