There are a number of mini digital camcorders currently available, some for under £100, that would be ideal for use in the classroom. These include the Flip Video range and the Creative Vado. They have primarily been designed for capturing videos to upload to YouTube and similar sites, but would be particularly suited to primary pupils.
The CLC has purchased a Flip Mino for £108 to trial, to see if we can recommend it to our partnership schools. It is 5cm wide, 10cm long and approximately 1½cm deep, so it looks more like an mp3 player or phone, and fits perfectly in a pocket. It has a small LCD screen for playback and as viewfinder, and a 2x digital zoom. It is incredibly easy to get started – you press the power button and then the big red button on the front to start recording. A second press stops recording. There is enough memory to store 60 minutes of recording, but no way of extending that. To download the video there is an inbuilt USB connector, which slots in very neatly to the top of the device, though due to it’s rigidity it can be awkward to use in tight spaces and I wonder how long it will last with constant use.
When you plug the device in, it opens the built-in video program, where you can trim clips, and add music and titles. The good thing about this is that it doesn’t require a firewire (or firewire port on your PC), or any complex video editing software to create simple clips. The only downside is that you can’t choose where to save the video, and it defaults to a Flip Video folder in My Documents on the specific machine. Most of the time this isn’t a problem, except when staff (and children) have no access to the hard drive, only to the network in a school. You can however get round this by using the video from the device directly – as if you were copying it from a USB device, and then editing it in Windows Movie Maker or another video editing piece of software.
In terms of the quality of the video, I was pleasantly surprised. It is far better than the Digital Blue output, and copes well with different lighting. It can’t compete with a standard digital video recorder, but for short clips in class or on field trips, it is perfectly adequate. Here is a short section of sample video to give you an idea of quality.
So all in all, I’m impressed with the Flip Mino, and although it won’t replace the normal DV cameras we use in the centre, we would recommend them to our partnership.