Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Flipping for the Flip video camera
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Flipping for the Flip video camera


I know some of my friends think of me as a gadget freak, but I only get crazed about a new toy every once in a while. iPods, for instance. Or digital cameras before that. Walkmans (Walkmen?) in the ’80s.

Here’s my newest gadget recommendation: We recently bought two Flip video cameras and we’re having a blast with them. I had checked out the Flip last year when they were first introduced — Costco sold them for a few weeks and then stopped carrying them.
Several months ago, our pal Bill Imada, founder of the IW Group media and advertising firm, held up a Flip after giving a presentation to the Colorado chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals, and told us we have to get one.

At Denver’s Cherry Blossom Festival in June, my brother Glenn Asakawa, a former photographer at The Denver Post now working for the University of Colorado, held up his Flip, and I was reminded that I wanted to get one.

So we have a white one, and a black one. We chose the Ultra model, the one that uses AA batteries. Although the new Mino is smaller and cooler, it uses rechargeable batteries, and I prefer to have the freedom to pop in a couple of new batteries whenever the power fades.

When I opened the Flip, I was charmed by how much the Digital Technologies company had learned from the design and packaging style of Apple and its genre-setting iPod media players. The Flip cameras are elegant, simple consumer products that hardly need an instruction manual.

The things are intuitive to use — one red button to record and stop, after turning the camera on. The camera holds an hour of video files in the .AVI format, and when done, you just “flip” the switch to pop out the camera’s USB plug, which slips into your computer. The Flip’s ease of use shines here, because plugging in the camera launches internal software that can edit a movie, assemble a movie by splicing together multiple video clips and add a music background, upload a movie directly to YouTube or other sites, or save your videos to your hard drive.

Though the iPod comparison is an easy and obvious one when you open the box, once I started using the cameras, I began comparing the Flip to an older camera that helped spark a change in how people thought of still photographs.

With taglines such as “Shoot anything, share everything” and “As simple as it is fun,” the Flip reminds me very much of the Polaroid Swinger, which along with the Kodak Instamatic helped bring photography to the masses instead of those with the money and technical know-how to work fancier, more expensive and complicated cameras.

The aesthetics of the Swinger was for its day the equivalent of the Flip today; it’s being sold to the same youngm hio, media-savvy audience. The cost for the Swinger was $19.95, as the catchy TV commercial jingle burns into your memory. The Flip lists for $149 — it’s under $120 on Amazon.com.

The Flip is a perfect took for technophobic journalists to dip their toe into the multimedia world. It’s a great pocket-sized takealong for anyone young and old, to capture those “Kodak moments” only with motion added to the color. The quality isn’t cinemascope, but it’s more than fine for online use, and especially to upload to sites such as YouTube.

I’ve used the Flip to create videos for a couple of blog posts, including several clips on this one the recent JANM conference.

I’ve posted others on YouTube, including this silly one about our cat Rufus, who drinks from a water bottle every morning when I first get up:

Sure, it’s just a three-minute moving snapshot of a cute pet. But it’s also a newly evolved version of what would have been a single, still image of a cute pet just a few years ago. I rarely reach for my still digital camera anymore. I think the media revolution is fully underway, and that short bits of video content will replace the traditional “photo album.”

From now on, when a bunch of people yell out “cheese” for the camera, the yelling might be captured on tape, not film, and be part of the moment that’s recorded forever.