Bob and Joy Schwabach
 

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April 2008, Week 4   

dogTHE EASY WAY


We finally broke down and bought the world's best-selling video camera: the Flip. It costs $150 for the regular version, but we went wild and sprang for an extra $30 to get the "ultra" version, which has higher resolution and more memory.

Either way, the cost is about a third of what other video cameras sell for. The mainFlip Video Camera reason seems to be that it doesn't have all those attachments and obscure, hard-to-use features that the higher-priced cameras have. That means you can't charge as much. High-tech is a strange business.

The Flip has 13 percent of the world market for video cameras and is far and away the No. 1-selling camcorder at giant online retailer Amazon.com. Why? Because it is the video equivalent of point-and-shoot.

The "flip" that gives the camera its name is a finger that flips out of the side of the camera. You plug the finger into a USB socket on your computer. Right away, a menu comes up with some easy choices: save to computer, e-mail the video, upload to sites such as YouTube, Amazon  and MySpaceTV.com.

No more cable to carry around, no more rewinding a tape or "finalizing a disk." You do need an extra cable if you want to watch your Flip videos on a TV, but it comes in the box. If you want your video burned to DVD, you can take it to a retail store that will do it for you (see theflip.com/dvd ) or use the software that came on your computer.

A button on the side turns it on. Push the big red button on the back to start recording video and sound. A screen above the button shows you what you're recording. To play back what you recorded, hit the play button that's next to the red button. That's it.

Flip is the same size as a cell phone, only thicker and fits in a shirt pocket. It runs on two AA batteries.  

There are limitations, which wouldn’t bother most users but would make it unacceptable for others. The main one is a recording limit of one hour. That seemed like plenty to us, but if you’re a video fanatic, you want more. You can’t stretch the one-hour limit because the memory is built into the camera and you can’t simply add a larger compact flash card. When your hour is full, or anytime before that, you can unload the memory contents to a computer and start over with another hour. The Flip is also not so good for zooming. You can zoom in 2X (two times closer) but the result is a little blurry.  

The Flip works with Windows or Mac and you can see lots of reviews and comments on use with a simple web search on “Flip.” Joy said it's the first time she's had a video camera she actually wanted to use. 

Quick to Disk 

We looked at Samsung’s new “TruDirect” external hard drive, a natural for people who like to quickly burn videos and movies to DVD.  

One hour of video stored on the computer can be burned to a DVD in just a half TruDirecthour using this drive. If the source is streaming video – which means it is coming in live – the burn takes only five minutes longer than the actual time of the stream. If you were taking video at a party, for example, and had a computer and the drive nearby, you could pass out finished DVDs to the guests just five minutes after you finished shooting.  

Other  methods of burning video to DVD often takes three times as long as doing it with the TruDirect drive. The key to this drive’s speed is that it skips using the computer’s hard drive and takes the digital feed directly to DVD. There is no pre-mastering, multiplexing or hard disk buffering being done by the computer; that’s all handled by the drive. 

To set up the device, you plug the drive into a PC and install the software. It will recognize any camcorder, digital camera or webcam that is plugged into the computer. The DVD it creates will work with all players. 

We found the TruDrive for $124 at a-power.com  

 TV or not TV, That is the Question 

Adobe has just introduced a free player for watching TV shows available on the web. Go to Adobe.com/go/mp  to download the software. 

Once you have it and start up, you will see a home page with thumbnail images of featured shows and a text list of popular categories off to one side. The shows include the popular “CSI” series, Jericho, Survivor and other current shows, as well as golden oldies like The Twilight Zone, Hawaii Five-O and Melrose Place. You can look for shows by name or click on the network buttons (CBS, PBS, etc.)  for lists of what they have  available. You can download the shows for later viewing or click to see them right away.  

If you go to the text list of subjects, you get a choice of science and technology, comedy, news, hobbies, education and many other subjects. Click on comedy and you get some real TV shows, plus shorts and commentary created just for the web. Go to science and technology and you can click on “Food Science,” for example, which gives you lots of information and pictures on subjects like fermentation, freezing and microwaving.  

 


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