Flip Mino Reviewed

The Flip Mino has the potential to be useful in our school, especially for students creating work for immediate review or sharing. The Flip seems highly compatible with efforts to encourage student construction of knowledge, visual literacy, and multiple forms of representation. I can see teachers and students using these devices to practice foreign language recitation, interview subjects for a variety of purposes, and gather material for oral history projects. I can imagine huge impact during our international trips. With a portable digital video recorder, students could turn their view outward, collecting sounds, scenes, and interviewing people to include in a presentation or learning portfolio upon their return. Multimedia art students should have a blast with the devices.

The device is small enough to take along anywhere and starts up quickly. User controls are simple, especially the big red record button in the middle. The price ($145 at Amazon) is twice that of a small digital audio recorder, about right in my opinion to gain video in such a small device.

The Flip has the potential to remove barriers to using video in classes, as the Olympus WSM-300 did for us with audio this past year. The relatively low cost makes it possible to put devices in the hands of students more often.

Flip in hand

The small size makes it easy to carry a device off-site or package a class set. You can keep the camera on you more often, since it slips into a pocket.

Flip connected

One huge key is the USB mass storage feature. Like the Olympus audio recorders, USB connectivity is built into the device. This eliminates the most time-consuming step in conventional video capture — transferring footage from camera to computer. Now, one can transfer footage as a simple file copy or using The Flip’s proprietary software. Each Flip comes with its own software installer on the device. If you want more control and flexibility, open the INSTALL folder and run the 3ivx installer. You will gain the ability for QuickTime Player (Mac) to open these compressed AVI files. An open-source decoder also exists.

In my one-day test, 2GB storage was more than adequate. I shot here and there during a three hour visit to the amusement park — 25 short clips in total — and only used 500MB.

For some reason, converting the files from compressed AVI to MOV. I am not sure whether the problem lies in the AVI conversion, the special compressed format that the Flip uses, or my slow G4 Mac!

The Flip software offers buttons to quickly post video to YouTube and other video web sites. I haven’t yet tried them, but this could be a way to quickly get a movie into FLV format for the web.

For a $170 video recorder, the quality is excellent. A couple of weak points are the audio levels and zoom. In my single day of use, I found the audio pickup a tad weak, though it should be fine for interviews and other classroom applications. I also found the image too fuzzy at 4x zoom — it may be digitally enhanced.

I wish that the Flip had multiple folders for organizing stored clips, in the manner that the Olympus digital audio recorders do. Then, two students could share one device but keep their work separate.

Flip makes less expensive video recording devices, but only the Mino has a rechargeable battery. I would like to avoid the impact of disposable batteries, even though a dead rechargeable device will then be useless for the remainder of that period. Now I need to seek a device to charge a dozen USB devices at once.

How long before this level of video recording is a standard feature on cell phones, in the way that still cameras have recently become?

Here is a sample I shot today at full size and converted from 3IVX to QuickTime H.264 at 1000kb/s in order to retain as much as possible the quality of the original shot. Or, you can download the 3ivx version directly.

One comment

  1. Janice Stearns says:

    Thanks for sharing your insights about the use of the Flip video camera in the classroom. I think the ease and portability of the device will make using video in the classroom more doable by both students and teachers.