Sunday, June 01, 2008

An Alternative to the Flip Video

Video is the bane of my existence. I inherited all sorts of baggage with it, from cameras that can't connect to our computers, to lack of software to work with the video on the cameras, to poorly written programs like Pinnacle. Few problems in our Windows XP environment have made me long for a Mac lab as much as this one has.

Most of the video my teachers take is informal. Most commonly they record student presentations such a book reports and social studies presentations. A few capture students at work. These video clips are just a few seconds in length, shot close to the subject in decent lighting. We should be able to just use our point and shoot cameras since they all have a movie mode. Digital camera video clips aren't stellar quality, but the convenience of being able to use the classroom camera outweighs the decline in video quality. And truth be told, most of the time YouTube quality is more than adequate for these uses.

However, we have found that anything over 3 minutes tends to corrupt. I first thought it was just the battery running out since shooting video really chews through the batteries. However, shorter clips on the same card shot after the corrupted long clips, are just fine. Interestingly enough, we were able to use the corrupted file on a Mac. The Windows machines couldn't even download it, but iPhoto sucked it right in and played it, so if you run into that problem try a Mac. Unfortunately, we don't have Macs in my division.

So, video from point and shoot cameras wasn't the answer, but it seemed like it should be. Enter the Flip Video camera produced by Pure Digital. I think they are brilliant. Even the most technophobic people I've handed it to have gone from, "Don't give me this... I don't know how to... Oh!" in a matter of seconds and then they are recording (and looking delighted.) I handed it to students and within seconds they were recording their podcasts. After I showed them once how to locate the camera on the computer when it was plugged in, they were able to do it on their own.

As with the digital cameras, the quality isn't stellar-- this is 640 x 480 video we are talking about, after all. The audio won't win any awards, but it was much clearer than I expected. The children were truly delighted. It had the most trouble with moving targets, such as a person walking across the room.

The only problem is the cost. In the US, they are around $140 from That's less than a point and shoot digital camera. Unfortunately, our local vendors are unable to get them and Amazon won't ship them here. Only was willing to do it at a much steeper price plus shipping.

Therefore, it is with MUCH excitement that I read about the new Creative Vado.

The Vado is similar in size, shape and quality to the Flip, but it has a 2 GB hard drive and a flexible, integrated USB connector as opposed to the Flip's rigid one. It has a lithium ion rechargeable battery instead of the convenient AA batteries, but the battery is removable so you could buy a second battery.

I searched at Causeway Point and down on Orchard Road but no one seems to have heard of them, much less have them in stock. Maybe by next school year they will be available. I'd love to hear from anyone who has used one. Are they rugged enough to be used with students? How good is the video and audio quality? Would you buy it for yourself?