So I was sitting in the Bloghaus at South by Southwest (SXSW) one day and Ted Shelton from The Conversation Group comes up and says, “Here! Take this camera and go shoot the SXSW experience and bring it back to me. I’ll post your video on the web. Maybe you’ll even get a free camera.” I look at the unit, a FlipVideo Ultra not much bigger than a decent cell phone. It fits in your pocket and has about four buttons on it. I’m skeptical, but figure what the heck. But I never leave a chance to get a free gadget in limbo.

“I’ll make you a better deal,” I say. “Let me keep the camera over night and I’ll film stuff at tonight’s parties to give you a view of the night life at SXSW. Since you’re not going to get that from anyone else (at least not as cool as me), you download the videos and I keep the camera.”

Ted, whose firm is handling social media outreach for Flip, made no promises, and I haven’t seen my video online yet, but last Wednesday, my new FlipVideo Ultra arrived. I immediately recorded a few minutes at the office just to have an example of the quality for you to see.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp60aVqkbSM[/youtube]

What the FlipVideo Ultra does is make web video – recording a video, doing some basic edits and posting it to sites like YouTube – easy for even the technically challenged. The unit has six buttons: On-off, Record, Play, Delete, Volume Up, Volume Down, Skip Forward and Skip Back. If you can work a VCR remote, you can figure out how to operate this thing without need for the tidy little instruction booklet.

The switchblade-like USB plug pops out of one side, plugs in and software kick-starts that allows you to easily navigate through the process of downloading, editing, saving and sharing your videos. The user interface is simple and there’s an indexed help section for when you do get stuck. When you’re ready to share your videos, you can email or upload to AOL Video or YouTube with a couple of clicks and entering your username and password for the respective service, or it will convert your file into an even more upload-friendly version if you use other video sites like DailyMotion.com or even Utterz.

I turned to my wife after using the camera and software and said, “This is so simple, even your mother could shoot, edit and upload a video with this.” (Sorry, Ma.)

While the beauty of the FlipVideo is its simplicity, the tech-savvy users will probably find nit-picky things to complain about. Like John Stammerman in my video suggesting a reversible view screen so you can see yourself when aiming the camera at you, experienced video folks will not like the editing functionality … trim from beginning and end, but anything more complicated and you’ll need to open the video in a separate software. I also found there was no real quick, easy way to rearrange the video clips in a different order than that which they were shot. Plus, when I renamed a file, it slapped it at the end of the playlist, so my finished video would have been all out of order. I fixed this by going back to each clip in the order I wanted and saving it to a new library (folder) in the proper order. In essence, I had to create 2-3 libraries to compensate for a couple of simple mistakes just to get the clips arranged correctly.

And if you don’t have administrative privileges on your computer, you’ll be frustrated. The software requires a codec download (provided on the camera) to see the videos and without admin permissions, you’re stuck until someone can install it for you.

That said and provided you have admin access to your computer, if you just want to record a quick, one-minute or so video, impromptu and quickly zap it to the web or to someone via email, this gadget is pretty darn handy.

In addition to the above, the automatic upload feature to YouTube failed. It gave me an error message saying it had trouble connecting and I should try back later. My browser got to YouTube just fine, so I’m not sure what happened there. I was also a little confused as to where the Movie Mixes (edited, up-loadable versions of the videos) were saved since I couldn’t find a cache or program folder on my hard drive. I would imagine it would have to then reside on the camera meaning the thing is going to fill up at some point. I did discover, however, a YouTube uploader end-around – an “Upload Videos To Your Favorite Website” function that compresses the finished video a bit more and dumps it to a desktop folder for easy find.

For web video made simple and, thus, more accessible, FlipVideo has a stellar product with this camera. I wouldn’t recommend it for experienced video users unless you just want a utility camera for quick, easy captures, but with a retail price of $149.99, it’s not a hefty investment for that, either. If you have a not-too-tech-savvy person who digs video and wants to start posting clips to YouTube or other services, then the FlipVideo Ultra is absolutely a good buy.

And for the record, I was not asked to blog about the camera, nor am I being paid anything by Flip Video or The Conversation Group, other than the unit I’m reviewing. I am friends with Chris Heuer, one of the principals at The Conversation Group, but he did not ask me to blog about the camera, nor did we have a conversation about it until after I’d written this. Regardless of that relationship or whether or not I got a camera to keep, I would have blogged about it and recommend it.

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. DAVOS08: Tiny Cameras
  2. Pure Digital Announces Million Camcorder Giveaway For Non-Profits
  3. What The Flip?
  4. Unsurprisingly, Flip Has 13% Of Camcorder Market
  5. SXSW After Hours (Not nearly as entertaining as my version.)

[tags]FlipVideo, Flip Video, Pure Digital, SXSW, video camera, camcorder, camera, digital camera, camera review, Flip Video Ultra[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.ebooks-with-reseller-rights.com/ James Mann

    Pretty cool camera and I want one.

    I haven’t picked up a camera yet but I have a fly fishing site, a garden site and a travel site that all need video so I am going to try and get over my fear of mics and cameras and get started in my new video career.

  • http://pointlessbanter.net kevin

    I have one… the only problem I have with it is that I got a new Mac for school and it doesn’t work with imovie. It is a “known issue” that is being worked on… so I have to go back to my laptop if I ever want to edit work on video.

  • http://www.janequigley.com Jane Quigley

    I’ve had mine for a few months and LOVE it! I also let the people in my office use it when I can’t get somewhere – like last week’s Mashable event and SES conference. Our sales team did short interviews to share with the team and captured some key points – and they enjoyed using it. I’d like us to buy a set to be used on an “as-wanted” basis!

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    James — It’s a great starter camera and does simplify the web video process. I’d be surprised if you didn’t find it easy to use.

    Kevin — Good info for the Mac users out there. Thanks for letting us know.

    Jane — I’m recommending a client buy 6-8 for an ongoing UGC project. At that price, companies can have a handful on hand to use. Well worth the investment.

  • http://www.nonstickpan.net NonStick Pan

    Thanks.

  • http://www.nonstickpan.net NonStick Pan

    Thanks.