Much of the video you see on the Times-Gazette web site, such as Brian Mosely's video from Eagleville yesterday, is taken with a little handheld video camera called a Flip Ultra. When we first started talking about web video last spring, a trade publication recommended the Flip (which is about the size of a pack of cigarettes) as something handy for reporters to carry in the field. The newspaper bought one, and I, David Melson and Brian Mosely all liked it so much that each of us bought our own.
I used mine to bring back footage of my Costa Rica trip in July, the first time I've ever been able to video one of my mission trips.
The Flip is not perfect, and we're looking at getting a more advanced camera for certain special situations and projects. But given the price tag and size, it does a surprisingly good job in many situations. And it's idiot-proof to operate -- most of what you do is push the big red button on the back of the camera.
The camera contains no tapes or disks or removable memory. Instead, a little USB plug flips out of the side of the camera (hence the name) and you download the footage to your computer, where you can edit it or burn it to disk. There are also retailers that will take the camera from you and burn the video to disk.
The Flip Ultra sells for less than $150. There's a newer, flashier model called the Flip Mino. I haven't tried it but I don't like the fact that it uses an internal rechargeable battery. One of the things I like about the Ultra is that it uses common AA batteries, which I can get anywhere, even on one of my mission trips.
Kodak is also introducing a camera of roughly the same size and configuration. Kodak's version is a little bit more complicated, but it also allows you to save your video on removable SD cards.
Anyway, the company has now started a special program to make Flip cameras available at a dramatically reduced price (basically, two for the price of one) to 501(c)(3) non-profit groups so that they can document their work and make simple promotional videos.
Religious charities are specifically excluded, unless the charity part is clearly separate from the religious part and the services are offered without regard to religious faith and without prosletyzing. I'm a little disappointed at the somewhat heavy-handed approach they've taken to this. People of faith do a lot of important charity and non-profit work. I suppose they're trying to avoid a situation where they help out a group that turns out to be a weird fringe element, but couldn't that happen with a secular non-profit as well?
Anyway, if you're involved in a secular agency that might benefit from this program, here's the web site with more information: