A weekend with a Flip

I bought a Flip camcorder on Thursday and have been test-driving it over the weekend. I’m overjoyed by the thing, although a number of people have told me they don’t quite get it – why, for example is it better than using a phone cam?

The Flip looks pretty popular from the reviews I’ve seen (apparently they have 13% of the video camera market, with over 1m units sold; even Lily Allen has one), which are all pretty much about the simplicity. However, most people I speak to have a response like “why wouldn’t I just use my phone cam?”

I can be specific about why the Flip works for me – getting video from a device onto the Internet is a huge ball-ache. To shrink a file from the multi-gig beast that comes off your camera into something mini-meg that is suitable for uploading is a maze of confusing options and seeming arbitrariness. It’s like having to become fluent with Photoshop just to resize an image (er, actually, let’s not go there). There’s always Qik.com, but I have failed several times to get the software to work on any of three handsets and the quality is kinda sucky.

For me, the Flip lets me do what I want to do – easily get video on the web – with the minimum of hassle. Here’s why:

  • Built-in USB connector – this is the “Flip” bit; it lets you plug the camera straight into a computer, no cables needed
  • Software is pre-loaded on the Flip – you can plug the camera into anybody’s computer and do what you need without having to worry about needing to install software from a CD
  • No options – the Flip uses a really good set of encoding choices to turn the recorded videos into files that upload quickly and look and sound good; in fact, you almost forget that you’re doing video editing
  • One piece of software – you can transfer videos, put clips together into films, add effects, save them to disk and upload to the web all from the same piece of software

Tip for Mac users

There is one downside if you’re a Mac user – the ‘Movie Mixer’ software that assembles clips with transitions, effects and music only works on Windows (fix this please Flip!). Fortunately, mac’s ship with iMovie and with a trick you can still benefit from Flip’s great compression settings when creating videos for upload. Here’s what to do (I use iMovie ’06, but I suspect iMovie ’08 will be similar):
  • Save the video files from your Flip to the computer – they’ll be saved as AVI’s
  • Create a new iMovie project, add your clips and make your movie
  • When it comes to exporting the finished video, export as a Quicktime File and choose the 3ivx codec (this is installed the first time you run “Flip Video for Mac”), 30 frames per second and 640×480 resolution – other settings seem fine on their defaults
  • After iMovie has finished exporting, plug in the Flip and look in its “DCIM” folder for the existing videos, which will be called something like “VID0000x.AVI”; rename your movie so it is the next in sequence and copy it across to the Flip
  • Now, when you open up “Flip Video for Mac”, your movie will be treated just like any other on the Flip


  1. Fred Sandsmark
    Posted September 26, 2008 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this review. I had a chance to play with one of these this week and got hooked. I was about to buy when I came across a very recent (9/24/08) Amazon review saying “The video will not import into iMovie for Macintosh.” I’m glad to know that this is incorrect. I like your blog, too.

  2. Posted September 30, 2008 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    @fred, glad I was of some help! I love my Flip and must approve of you getting on the bandwagon.

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