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Flip Mino cameras

These tiny cameras (no bigger than your average cell phone) are pretty darn good.  So much so, that I’ve recommended we get a bunch (10) for the school which are now available for booking from the library.

They record onto the camera’s solid state hard drive.  This means that there are no tapes, no DVDs, nothing.  Just the camera.  Solid state means there aren’t very many moving parts and the hardware is more durable.

The other good bit is that when you’re done filming, you just FLIP out the USB connector and load the footage onto your computer.  (Actually, you should load the editing software first, if you’re using your own/school laptop.)  You can also simply copy the files over to your own C drive.  It is best, as with all video files, to keep these files far, far away from the network drive (T drive).

I can see some really clear benefits from using the little cameras, mostly with recording assessments in English, Drama, and the like.  They are unobtrusive, have no electricity leads, get decent sound and can be put quite close to the action on little mini-tripods.  You simply push the red record button to record and then again to stop – that’s it!  Download the files to your computer and use software to edit them into your moderation submission.  Done.

They record about 60 minutes, charge from the USB and take about 20 minutes to transfer 60 minutes of footage.


October 7, 2010 Posted by | hardware | , , | Leave a comment

Hard drive video cameras

Sony DCR-SX40

This camera is a hybrid camera, which at this point means that it can record onto the hard drive or onto a memory card (Memory Stick Duo, since it’s a Sony product).  It can, with software downloaded onto your laptop, download the footage straight onto your computer.  It can also transfer the footage onto the Memory Stick Duo.

This is a link to a helpful user manual. 

You can look at another here.

The great thing about Hard Drive cameras is that you don’t have to worry about tapes or DVDs or whatever recording media you used to use.  However, right now, it’s still a little tricky to download the files.  Some cameras are better than others at doing this.  JVC, for example, saves the files in a special JVC format which you have to use JVC software to download and to edit.  What a pain!  Sony and Panasonic seem to be doing a little better, so far.

And the other thing about these cameras is the terminology.  HD means hard drive, but it can also mean High Definition, so you have to be very very careful about reading the specifications.  For now, if your camera is mega-expensive, that HD probably means High Definition.  These cameras, hybrid or hard drive only, are in the $2500 -3500 PLUS range.  In April 2010, apparently, new cameras will be coming out, so the price may drop a bit.  We’ll see if it’s a significant difference.

On the other hand, you can get a Mino Flip High Def for under $300 (or 1500 or so FlyBuys points!).  This tiny camera is probably smaller than many people’s mobiles.  It’s light, it’s got an included USB connector, and it comes with software on the camera to edit your footage which you can download onto your laptop very easily.  The sound quality is pretty good, even in fairly noisy places (I tested one at Bodega), and the picture quality on the HD version is very good, even at a distance.  The camera charges when plugged into the USB port, and you get about 60 minutes of recording with one battery charge.

Samsung and Creative have also come out with these tiny hard drive cameras in the reasonable price range.

In my opinion, these are THE way to go for recording assessments, especially as the software automatically makes the files into Windows Media files, the format preferred by NZQA.  Additionally, once converted to Windows Media files (automatically, remember), you can use MovieMaker to edit the files and choose only the work that you need to send off.  Not bad!

Necessary accessory for these tiny cameras – a mini-tripod, of course!  These are available at camping shops for about $35, less if there’s a sale on.  What this means is that ten cameras AND tripods could cost the same as ONE Hi Def, Hard Drive camera.

March 10, 2010 Posted by | hardware | , , | Leave a comment