Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Update: Flip Camcorder vs Canon Powershot

Two months ago I gave my wife two cameras, at her request, for her pending adventures in Fiji. She wanted a regular still camera and a simple camcorder. I provided in the husbandly manner: a Canon PowerShot A460 ($100) and a Flip ($180). As is my role in such matters, I showed her how to use the basic features of the Canon and the Flip (the Canon was instantly clear, the Flip clear too, until it got to the included software for watching and saving video, which was obtuse and confusing, but eventually understood), and she was off on Aug 1.

This situation provided an unscientific Petri dish to explore how 40ish moms would take to these devices. This week I had a chance to see exactly how she had been using these and what she thought.

RESULTS: I noticed that Jennifer never used the Flip, and instead used her Canon for both stills and, frequently, videos. Why? I asked. Partly because of the “shoot” button on the Flip – it required a bit of “push” that was awkward, and it wasn’t always clear when it was shooting. That, combined with the totally closed system it required to download and watch the videos made the Flip almost useless. Its workflow was obstacle-ridden and complicated. For instance, you cannot watch the videos without connecting the Flip to the computer, launching the in-house software from the camcorder, then going through the various menus and pathways to grab and watch. The Canon, on the other hand, plugs in to the computer (she has a Mac) like any camera. It launches iPhoto automatically, and pulls in photos and videos together, seamlessly. Once the videos are in iPhoto they can be watched and enjoyed anytime. While Jen isn’t really one for editing, she shoots video with “sketches” in mind, and when I arrived, it was relatively easy for me to drag her clips to a folder and then into Final Cut Express. There, in just about 15 minutes, I put them together into a tiny sketch and posted them to Vimeo. (NB: It would probably be even easier in iMovie, but i wasn't using iMovie...)

BOTTOM LINE: as cool and hip-looking as the Flip is, it provides so much closed architecture and arcane useability that when it came down to it, one camera was better than two, and the videos from the still camera (and workflow) were far superior to the still photos from the Flip (and workflow). She has tucked the Flip away now and I doubt it will be used any more, except in the toybox of our 6 and 8 year old.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Vacation Video

There is no time i think about video more than when i'm on vacation. There is a constant battle between documenting every cool moment, and just putting the camcorder away and having a "pure experiece" without the need to shoot it all the time. When my kids took me on a zip line tour of the Fijian jungle yesterday, it was all i could do not to video the whole thing. I didn't, and was glad to be fully present for the thrills. Interestingly, a pair of honeymooning couples were also with us, and one of the men had a highdef camcorder with him, shooting constantly. He had it strapped to his wrist for lots of the swings through the canopy. I'm dying to see his footage, actually. Some will be great, i'm sure. Most will be completely impossible to watch. I feel he's going to have a lot of video from this vacation, and if he doesn't edit it -- which i'd bet he won't -- it's going to be rarely enjoyed.

Vacations are the perfect time to think about video sketches: instead of shooting lots of video, or bits of every moment, try just picking one or two events to shoot "properly" (with some coverage, an establishing shot, and some cut-aways...) and leave the rest to still photos or, just unshot. Make a sketch from the event you covered, and enjoy it often. You won't be sorry.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Once I had the book in my hands, I thought i'd take a look at the video examples and make sure everything was ready for going live. The YouTube videos looked pretty crappy. When I first did them, i was comfortable that they were good enough to make the points i'm making in the book - the fact is you don't really need to see my family videos for image quality; you'll get the idea. But a month or so ago I was introduced to Vimeo. They don't have the volume of content at YouTube, but in my side-by-side tests, their video quality blew away everything on YouTube. So i've spent the past day starting to find the original files (again) and upload them to Vimeo and then re-embed them in the blog. It's a slow process so forgive me if you notice some serious variation from video to video. I should have them all replaced in the next week.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pleasant Surprise

Came home today to find a small package waiting: the publisher sent me a copy of the book right off the press. Funny to see it like this - it's smaller than i had imagined it was going to be, but it all seems to be there. Anyway, it's only a matter of a few weeks before it reaches bookstores and Amazon. I hope you like it.