I need your help to find the perfect video solution for anthropological fieldworkers. At our company, Antropologerne, we create insights and change for a broad range of private and public costumers through design-anthropological methods. As an integral part of this endeavour we use video – both as a research method, as a component of analysis and as a medium for conveying realities and insights to our customers. The combination of moving images and sound is an intriguing medium to use for business anthropologist because of its inherent complexity and openness to interpretation. For the very same reasons, when applied consciously, it can be an incredibly powerful tool for communicating complex insights and giving customers that valuable sense of the reality “out there”. How often haven’t we felt - when presenting the results of our research and projects - that it was that short well-timed video clip that really changed the mind-set of a customer more than all the clever words and concepts we brought along with it.
Our technical enquiry: At Antropologerne we still use our beloved old Flip Cams from Cisco (Mino HD 3rd gen.) for practically all our in-house video production (for technically more demanding products we use hired guns). Besides sturdiness and decent video and audio quality they have one outstanding quality: they are dead easy to use. They fit discretely in one palm and have a big red physical record button you can’t miss – and practically nothing else. And this ease of handling is paramount when the ethnographer is at the thick of things – conducting an interview while moving around, meeting and interacting with people, keeping track of the research design, making mental notes, taking pictures – and simultaneously have to capture that revealing moment on video. In this situation, you need your video recording device to become an extension of your body – and the Flip Cam becomes just that. Furthermore, in our company we have a steady flow of people coming in and out, student workers and interns, and it is often these less experienced people who get the video recording job, sometimes with room for minimal prior training. So for this reason alone, the device have to be intuitive like nothing else - like the Flip Cam.
The problem: Cisco’s Flip Cam was discontinued in early 2011, coinciding roughly with the rising popularity of the iPhone 4. In the age of the smartphone everyone have a decent pocket camera in their pocket, and few or no companies want to sustain and develop a dedicated device that can only record video. But we need just that. And even though we hate to admit it - in mid 2014 the Flip Cam no longer have up-to-standard video and audio quality. So we have seen ourselves starting to use our smartphones in stead because of their superior video quality. But this is not a viable solution for us. We are about to replace a whole park of Flip Cams and smartphones are still too expensive to just buy a bunch and put them through the harsh handling of business ethnography. Secondly, the touch screen with the amount of possible errors it allows for, is simply not user-friendly enough. We really need that red physical rec button you can’t miss. Thirdly, the form-factor of smartphones makes an awkward fit in the palm, especially when used in the obligatory landscape-mode, and we need it to become that discrete extension of our body. And finally, the video and audio quality of smartphones is still not sufficient for the standard we seek.
So, what are the present viable alternatives? The desired features are: Easy as the Flip Cam – including flip-out usb connection for direct transfer to computer, automatic everything from focus to whitebalance, good image stabilization, recording in standard file-format suitable for editing in iMovie and mini jack input for external microphone plus preferably support for microports.
The best compromises we have come up with so far are:
iPod Touch 5th gen.: Have all the same drawbacks as the smartphone except the price. Released in 2012 and maybe a new version is coming in the fall?
Samsung HMX-W300: Drawbacks include poor video and audio quality, no input for external mic.
Kodak PlayFull Dual (Zi12): Drawbacks – already discontinued?
Zoom Q2HD: Drawbacks are poor video quality, omnidirectional microphone
Panasonic HX-DC3: Drawbacks - the flip out screen is too obtrusive
We're also considering the vast range of regular camcorders and point and shoot cameras, but they all seem either too obtrusive or not easy enough to handle.
So we call out to you: Let’s co-create the perfect video solution for business anthropologists and ethnographers! What are your experiences? What are the best compromises you have come up with? Tell us about that new invention that is cheap and solves all our problems. Google Glass…? No!
Anthropologist at Antropologerne
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If you actually want usable pictures. small camcorders (canon, sony) with external microphone jacks is still the best answer. Otherwise whip out your smartphones and be done with it.
Not 'Latest Video News': Moving to Camcorder Forum.
Yes, the small camcorders offer good quality and ease of use. But they are still too obtrusive for the situations I work in. The device I seek, should ideally fit discretely in one palm - at best also in the back pocket of my pants - so I can easily handle it while doing lots of other stuff simultaneously. Quality-wise we don't have high demands. One step up from present high-end smartphones would be fine.
Anyone out there with good ideas?
The product category you are looking for has been pretty much killed off by good phone cameras. Here are a couple of remaining options.
You could also look at any of the small canon digital cameras that record video, but it sounds like even that may be too much trouble for you.
Last edited by smrpix; 22nd Jun 2014 at 12:15.
Thanks for your input
I think the "General Electric Active Series DVZ Full-HD 1080p Pocket Digital Video Camera" might be what comes closest to what we need. But its already a couple of years old, and not really a step up from the Flip Cam.
Google Glass are fun, but then I'd have to find a way to stabilize my head during interviews and quit my habit of nodding...