Based on all of the rave reviews, I gave my mom a Flip Ultra video camera for her birthday last week. She’s generally been very happy with it, but as it turns out it wasn’t as one-click, no fuss easy as many of the reviews indicate.
Not quite so easy in this case…
Any time I give a technology gift to my mom, especially one that claims it’s so simple for the non-geek, I want to know it’ll work without making her do any additional research or setup. Recording was no problem for her, but she got hung up in transferring video to her Mac. Namely, she found that once the video showed up on her computer, the sound wasn’t working. A quick check of the camera showed that sound worked fine when it was played back on the camera, but it didn’t work at all on her Mac, or when she uploaded it to the Flip’s companion sharing service, AOL Uncut. She knew to check the volume controls and audio settings on her Mac, and all of those checked out normal. Her Mac OS and Quicktime software is up to date as well, as best I can tell. From a distance, it can be hard to diagnose these things.
I did a quick google search and found this helpful forum thread that explained that Mac users need to install some additional software(called Perian) because of the codec the Flip Ultra uses. I’m not sure if that’s the only way to fix it, or if there’s an additional codec she was supposed to install via the Flip. A quick search of Amazon’s forums shows others have had this problem as well, and turned to the Perian app for the solution. I’m not sure if mention of this or some other extra step is included somewhere in the packaging and built-in software or not, but clearly it wasn’t prominent enough because my mom didn’t do it. Flip ought to fix that. Here are a few additional tips to help anyone who might be thinking about buying a Flip as a gift, especially for a Mac, non-geeky user:
- There’s a Firmware Update as of December 2007. I’m not sure if my mom’s camera needed it or not, but it might be a good idea to make sure your giftee checks.
- Tell them to download Perian in order to make sure sound works with the Flip footage on their Mac. I’ll correct this later if it turns out there’s some other, Flip-based way to fix this.
- Explain that there are other options for sharing video online other than the easy-upload AOL Uncut and Youtube buttons. This might also warrant a how-to. My mom loves Flickr, and I’ve helped her figure out a longish way to share her videos via Flickr but since I don’t have a Flip I haven’t yet been able to explain a more streamlined way.
- From the ever-helpful Leah Jones: “Make sure you finish saving the video before you pull the camera out and start deleting all the clips.”
Any other tips that would be helpful for a non-geek Flip Ultra recipient to know?