Review: Flip Mino HD

I hope your Holiday’s were great. I know for most of you who work for a church it’s often a crazy time for balancing productions, family times and parties. It’s also a time for us “techies” to get a new toy/tool/gadget.

This year I got a Flip MinoHD. It’s a pocket HD video camera. It’s smaller and lighter than my iPhone. Shoots 60 minutes 720p at 30fps to internal flash memory. The internal storage is 4GB so that’s a very compressed image it’s recording. 720p 30fps HDV takes up about 8 GB/hr so the Flip is twice as compressed as HDV. The internal batteries hold a 3 hour charge. File transfer and battery recharge are over USB. And it costs around $200.

My oldest daughter is almost 4 years old and I think I have 10 minutes of video footage. Those are from the times I brought a nice camera home from work. But when you’ve got a preschooler and a toddler carrying around a porta-brace duffle bag to get good video can be a pain. But I can when they get old enough for school productions and such.

General Impressions:
+ Size. It’s so small and light it’s scary. I now have no reason not to have a video camera close by. With some creative mounts you can put this camera in places you couldn’t put an HVX200.
+ Ease of use. Navigation for playback is very similar to an iPod. Record is via the big red button on the back. No manuals needed to figure it out.
+ Image quality. For a $200 pocket cam I think the pictures are great. Low light introduces noise. But under the good lighting you can get some great looking shots. I’m not going to be making a movie with this, but I do want to grab some videos of my kids and easily upload them to Vimeo to share with my family.

– Size. Being so small it’s hard to cary and make smooth movements. It also looks goofy when you put it on a tripod.
– Digital zoom. Part of it being small and cheap means no optical zoom. The only zoom is digital. So if you want to get closer to your subject and keep the highest quality is to physically move.
– MPEG4 workflow is a pain. MPEG4 is a distribution format, not an editing format. It’s processor intensive when it comes to rendering.

Workflow
I have several editing options when it comes to the footage. On my computer I have Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro CS3 (not currently installed on my laptop) and iMovie 08 & HD . FCP is the editor I’m most familiar with. I can edit with FCP but being MPEG4 it produces some random problems. I can edit with FCP by converting to Apple Intermediate Codex or HDV but that takes conversion time and hard drive space.

I can edit with iMovie but iMovie has a long import time as it generates Thumbnail Previews. This takes up time and hard drive space.

The flip also comes with FlipShare. It’s a very basic file manager/ editor for the flip. You can trim clips (also doable with QuickTimePro) and piece them together. It’s very basic but doesn’t have the overhead of creating thumbnails that iMovie does.

Encoding and transcoding HD MPEG4 movies are processor intensive. That means time consuming if you’re not on a Quad or Octo MacPro.

So what’s my workflow of choice? Well it depends. Each has it’s pros and cons.
FCP: Quirky problems with native MP4 files but works fine if converted. If I had some serious editing to do this is where I’d take it.
iMovie: Slow in generating thumbnails and takes up extra space but simple to use. In other words if my wife wants to edit something I might send her to iMovie
FlipShare: If I’m wanting to just get something up quickly
QuicktimePro: I know it’s not thought of as an editor but you can trim and then copy and paste clips in a linear order. Probably the quickest for just making a quick trim to a clip and then uploading to Vimeo.

Bottom Line
The flip is designed to for ease of use. Both in shooting and getting your clips up to Vimeo or YouTube. It’s not designed to be the only camera you have access to or you’ll find it lacking. Under the right lighting and a steady hand you can get some great shots. For me I’m using this on a personal basis for capturing those moments with my family.

On a professional level you can use this camera to get b-roll shots. Shots you couldn’t get because of the size of your main cam or not wanting to put it in dangers way. Example securing the camera to the side of a car, the bumper of a car, mountain bike handle bars, etc…

What you want to see how to footage looks? (If you’re reading this via RSS you’ll have to visit my blog or Vimeo page.)

These were shot Christmas Eve and Morning at our house. It’s typical home movie stuff. The color cast is due to the high energy lights we have in the room.

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January 5, 2009. Tags: . Tech Stuff, Video.

One Comment

  1. H Cole replied:

    Thanks for taking the time to describe the camera. It really is a fine camera in terms of convenience.

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