Using a Flip Video Camera with Windows Movie Maker: File Conversions

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Last year I saw a large pile of Flip video camcorders in our Sam’s Warehouse store. That was about the time I first heard about the product, and it being a featured article on one of Oprah’s shows. I played with the demo unit and didn’t think much more of it…. I had my expensive mini-DV camcorder and didn’t need something less. But the pile was huge, which means an expectation for lots more sales than those looking for my camcorder model.

Sometimes ‘less’ features catch on and becomes more popular than ‘more’ features. A recent article in the local Kalamazoo newspaper said the Flip Video camcorder ramped up to taking 13% of the camcorder market in its first year. It couldn’t be totally due to Oprah!!! I decided to do some checking. As a Windows guy, I’m always thinking of what kinds of files a camcorder makes, and how to get them into Movie Maker for editing. The lower priced easier to use models are often a techie challenge needing a walk through codec hell.

The Flip website gave some technical info, but not enough to satisfy me. A forum post by a Flip owner said the file was an AVI but wouldn’t go to the timeline of Movie Maker. I sent an email to Flip’s tech support, asking if I could have copies of the Flip software, any needed codec, and a couple sample files. We exchanged emails a few times. Their responses were quick and I ended up with two sample video clips.

They couldn’t send the software because it’s built into the camcorder, not something to install from a disc or download. The camcorder records to an internal hard drive and the software on it lets you choose between avi and wmv formats. The samples I got were one of each.

I was told the avi file was Divx encoded, but checking it at my end with GSpot indicated it was compressed with Xvid…. Divx spelled backwards… close enough. It was 640x480 pixels at 30 frames per second. The audio channel was mono. The video played fine in my Windows Media Player, which said it was using a Divx Decoder Filter to show it. But it wouldn’t work in Movie Maker without file conversion.

The wmv sample also played fine in WMP11. Unlike the Xvid avi file, Movie Maker 2.1 on XP had no problem using it in a project. It was interesting that the wmv sample was 496x370 pixels, less than the pixel dimensions of the avi recording.

To use the higher pixel quality in my movie projects, I converted the avi file from Flip it to a DV-AVI file using VirtualDub with the Panasonic DV codec. Conversion was easy and quick.