Idiot-proof, lightweight and compact–the Flip camera appeared poised to revolutionize online video when it was introduced a few years ago. Reporters and photographers quickly took to using Flips or similar point-and-shoot cameras to produce Web-only video blogs and interviews. Sometimes, Flip video even showed up on TV newscasts. But now, it appears the Flip may be flopping.
Smart phones, especially Apple’s iPhone, can shoot decent video as well and they have a big advantage over the Flip. Files can be emailed and posted directly from the device, so you don’t have to download the video to a laptop before sending it. With UStream or similar software, smart phones can be used to stream live video as well, giving them another leg up on the Flip.
Reporter Jason Whitely of WFAA-TV in Dallas was an early adopter of the Flip, using it to produce Web vlogs during breaking news stories like Hurricane Ike. Now, he says, the Flip is “on the edge of becoming obsolete for the immediacy of newsgathering.” Covering tornadoes in Oklahoma recently, he relied exclusively on his iPhone to send back photos and video for the Web.
Whitely learned the hard way that shooting with the iPhone is a little different from the Flip. “It’s natural to hold the iPhone vertically but that produces a video that looks weird when playing back on an end-user’s computer screen.”
Whitely says he discovered one drawback to using his iPhone for video during the Oklahoma tornado coverage. “I wanted to shoot as much as I could on my iPhone and send back to Dallas to get on the web to crush the competition. But at some point you have to save some battery life to make calls on your mobile device and also to use Google maps in order to find your way to more destruction.”
As a non-iPhone user, I still find the Flip very handy to have around. But Whitely’s experience makes me wonder if it’s going out of style almost as quickly as it came in–at least for news purposes. What’s your view?