Pocket-sized video cameras like the lovable Flip---sadly no longer in production-- have become a popular source for personal video communication. These cameras are designed to be a simple means of capturing video and easily sharing it with others. Being so simple to operate has its tradeoffs. But with the right attitude and a little care, you can get very good results.
These cameras have minimal controls: on/off, record, zoom, and playback. They come installed with software for sharing and editing your video through a built-in USB connector. You can trim clips, assemble them into a sequence, create transitions, and add music. The software also allows you to export videos for email, the web, and to post them directly YouTube.
For other than simple editing, we recommend importing the clips into more powerful editing programs, such as Adobe Premiere, Windows Moviemaker, or iMovie.
Kodak offers an excellent alternative to the Flip with its Zi8 model. It includes an external microphone input--a critical feature to obtain the best quality interviews. By adding an inexpensive lavalier mic (available for around $30 at Radio Shack), you can pin the mic to your talent's lapel, and capture good audio.
If you are using the internal mic (the only option on the Flip) be sure to stay within 36"-48" of your subject, so their head and shoulders fill the frame. This will improve the audio quality of your interview.
These cameras holds up to one hour of video recording time (or more if they include a removable SD card.) They can provide surprisingly high-quality images (especially the HD models), but it is not intended to compete with the optics found on larger video camcorders. The key word here is ease of use, in a pocket-sized and inexpensive (~$175) solution.
What can it do for Extension?
Video offers a great do-it-yourself way to create or enhance online learning modules. And the Flip and other cameras like it put that capacity in your hands with minimal technical hassles, know-how, or button-anguish. Pull one of these cameras out of your pocket and conduct interviews, create simple how-tos, or capture club events, then quickly and easily post them to YouTube or your Web site.
How can I borrow a camera?
We offer Flip cameras and Kodak Zi8 cameras for check out for periods of two weeks. Call or email us to arrange for your camera.
Download an information sheet on the Flip Video camera (212kb PDF).
See an example of a short Extension video produced with the Flip camera.
Read an article from Journal of Extension "A Powerful Teaching Tool: Self-Produced Videos."