Sunday, October 12, 2008

The "Flip Ultra" quick video Farm Report

Photo taken from Flip Video, via Muvee software

I got my Pink Flip Ultra camcorder this week, and have been trying it out. Is it any good? Ultimately, I'd say "yes". But it depends. Let me explain.

[WARNING, 11-29-30: before buying the Flip Ultra, you should know that I am returning mine. You can read my update review to see why.]

The footage it records is better than a cell phone video, but not quite as good as what you get with a real camcorder, such as my Canon ZR 800. Still, the Flip Ultra IS pretty good. BUT... when you go to upload it to the internet, the file it creates for uploading is not as good as the original it creates. But fear not, there are ways to get around that.

The camcorder comes with "Muvee" software in the camera, which it uses to save videos (in the AVI format), and to convert them into another file format (WMV) suitable for uploading to the internet. Here is a quick sample of a WMV file created by Muvee:

bit rate 550 kbps, 496 x 370, size: 5.89 MB

I find the sound quality and image in the above video clip kinda crappy, like you would expect from a video made by a cell phone. So I saved the original AVI video file made by the Flip camera to my hard drive, and then used my preferred video editing software, ArcSoft ShowBiz 2, to convert it for uploading. I saved it in a higher resolution WMV file, resulting in the following:

bit rate 2015 kbps, 640 x 480, size 21.2 MB

This, I think, is not bad. The sound and image are better. Blogger dictates the size of the video frame on this page, but I think when posting in other venues I would be able to post this in a larger size, and still have good quality.

In this clip, you may notice at one point, I do a short zoom-in with the camera's built in zoom feature. The focus goes ever so slightly soft when the zoom is used, and gets sharper again when zoomed back. I was a little disappointed by that, but it's not severe, and therefore not a deal-breaker, at least not for me.

The sound quality is excellent. When walking around with the camera, some of the movement can seem a little bit jerky, compared to a conventional camcorder.

The original file created by the Flip was in AVI format, with a bit rate of 177 kbps, 640 x 480, size: 50.1 MB. The still shot at the top of this post was taken from the original file with the Muvee software.

Ideally I should show you a sample with people and voices in it, but I got our burn permit this week and have been busy this weekend on the farm, burning piles of brush we collected over the summer. Oh all right, here is a brief sample, with Yours Truly waking through the house. I hold the camera up to a mirror so you can see it's size; it's no bigger than a cell phone, but the lens is bigger than the ones that cell phone camera's use, so the quality is better:

bit rate 2015 kbps, 640 x 480, size 12.5 MB

Note when I zoom in on the TV screen, the slight blurring that happens. But all things considered, I think this camera is great for what it is: an easy to use, simple and convenient device that can record up to an hour of video on it's built-in memory. Great for making quick videos for video blogging. However, if you are making family archives for posterity, like your son's birthday party or your sister's wedding, you might want to go with a more conventional camcorder.

As I put the Flip Ultra through it's paces, I'll be showing a lot more videos and will likely give a more comprehensive review at a later date.

Oh, and for the "Farm Report" part of this post:

The video is of our Mama Bantam hen, with her 9 chicks she secretly hatched out last month. In the video she's bringing them into the coop near sunset. She was waiting for me to come in and let them into their little nursery area, where they can eat and sleep without competition from the bigger birds.

She still sits on them in the nesting box, even though they are getting quite big. Watching her do that is like watching one of those little cars in a circus, that has a 100 clowns inside; you wonder, how does she fit them all under there? It's becoming increasingly difficult for her.

We've had some cold nights, with temperatures going down into the 30's, but the chicks seem just fine. They have their feathers grown in now, so as long as they eat and fatten up they should be fine.

Related Links:

Farm Report: two chicks in a screen test

Farm Report: Our Humming Bird Heaven


Anonymous said...

I love my flipper, dubbed the "Small Wonder" in the RCA brand. I carry it clandestinely inside an eyeglass case.

Using a free program, called Super Video Converter, I compress the avi files into .flv format before uploading. It makes a far better copy that way, as You Tube uses the .flv flash format and doesn't have to reconvert.

Converting directly to MPG2 and then burning via NERO to DVD format makes a very useable 740X480 format for TV viewing.

You can really get some Point of View angles with this little gem.

The only downside is battery consumption. REgular NIMH AA's don't run mine, so I have to use conventional alkaline batteries. My other still/video cams, a Canon and a Fuji use the AA rechargeables, and my large format SVHS cams use their own larger gelcells.

Neat vids there guy. Thanks for sharing.

Chas said...

An eyeglass case sounds perfect, I'm going to have to get one for mine, the carry pouch I got for it is flimsy and cheap.

I think we are going to see lots more devices like these, their time has come.

I'm using two alkaline AA batteries in the Flip, they are holding up fine so far. I was hoping to use NiMH rechargables eventually, but haven't tried them yet.

Thanks for the tip about the free conversion software, sounds great, I'm definitely going to check it out.

Ice Pony Girl said...

I LOVE my Flip, but...can not use Adobe Premeire Elements to edit the videos. Any way to get around this?
Kinda defeats the reason, I bought the Adobe. <:o[

Please help...anyone? THANKS!

Chas said...

I'm not familiar with Adobe Premeire Elements. I use a program called ShowBiz2. If your Adobe program can't edit .AVI files, you may have to find a conversion program to convert it to a format your preferred software can use.

You may be able to find a free conversion program via Google, that could do that for you.