A while back, I talked about using a Cisco Flip video camera to document my walkthroughs and act as a visual note taking tool. Little did I know that just after that post, I was going to get a chance to look at the new hotness to my old-and-busted Flip. I present…the Flip MinoPRO:
Pretty, ain’t it?
The Cisco Flip MinoPRO is the “prosumer” offering that Cisco is targeting for the business/enterprise customer. If you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, John Chambers is driving video like a herd of cattle in City Slickers. From the Flip acquisition to Tandberg to the new Cisco Cius, Chambers believes that video is the future. By putting a video camera in the hands of your employees, you can get them to capture things and share them with many other people. Want to save the New Employee Orientation for posterity? How about a lesson on BPDUGuard? Chalk talk with the virtualization architect about Vmotion? Chambers wants you to record all of this and let everyone see what you’ve done.
So how does the Flip MinoPRO fall into this? One of the things that I noticed about the Flip Mino that I’ve been carrying is that it felt a little…well, flimsy. It was made out of plastic and weighed next to nothing. While this a great thing for the consumer space, it always seemed to be a little disposable to me. In fact, my Mino has already started to show a few cracks around the edges. I’m sure that most of it is due to me being a little rougher on it that the average family of 4, but if this is a device that is going to be used day in and day out by your employees, it should probably be a little more rugged than your average CD jewel case. With the Flip MinoPRO, it is definitely sturdier. When I first pulled it out of the box, I noticed the housing was made out of metal, not plastic. It has a great heft while staying light. The PRO really feels nice. I’m sure if I threw it at someone, I could cause a bruise.
The unit itself is fully capable of recording in 720p HD (1280 x 720). This is wonderful for getting details on things in racks and noticing all the little nuances you might miss on a cursory glance. In addition, the audio seems to be somewhat better, although if you’re expecting movie camera-quality you’ll be disappointed. The unit can pick up lots of ambient noise, but it’s still a condenser microphone, so loud background noise will overwhelm it. Another nice upgrade from my Mino is the storage size. The old camera had 1GB of storage, which at it’s standard definition was good for about one hour of recording time. The new camera has a staggering 16GB of storage space. Even with the increased HD recording, that’s 4 hours of recording space available to me now. Whereas before I had to be judicious about removing video after I was finished with it, I now can leave it on the camera until I’m ready to use it. I don’t have to be concerned if I can’t capture a whole event or lecture, as I’m now able to get as much as I can. In addition, the PRO can also function as a USB memory stick. While it’s a bit more unwieldy than the USB drive I carry in my pocket, it’s quite handy if I need to copy something back and forth and it’s already plugged in. In addition to the HD recording, the output of the camera got a matching upgrade. Gone are the three-pronged composite video/audio outputs of yore. In their place is a shiny new HDMI output! This means that when you’ve finished recording your video in it’s pixel-orgy quality, you can plug your camera into any HDTV with a simple cable and play away. It also makes it much easier to find a cable instead of always forgetting the proprietary one that came with the old camera.
The software for the camera stays the same as the consumer version (FlipShare), but as businesses have different requirements for their video, Cisco too has the answer. Cisco FocalPoint is a video portal run by Cisco that allows you to upload video directly from either the FocalPoint software or from FlipShare. Acting essentially as a corporate YouTube, you gain the additional options of keeping video secure as it is uploaded to the portal, as well as wiping the camera after the upload. The hallmark of FocalPoint is the ability to easily search the video that you’ve fed into it, while at the same time securing the content so that only authorized users have access. That way, your manager’s retreat videos don’t get downloaded and sent to Wikileaks. FocalPoint is a licensed product, so you’ll need to have a license to create a workspace and attach users.
Now, just like every silver lining has a cloud, so too must this device have a drawback. It’s not necessarily unique to the Flip MinoPRO, but to HD video in general. I’ve noticed that my ‘notes’ are starting to take up much more space now that I’ve switched to the new-fangled HiDef stuff. I’m clocking in at about 1 Meg/second. That means that any of my longer videos will no longer be able to be disseminated via e-mail. I’m sure that this is what Cisco had in mind when they created FocalPoint, as the only other method available to me currently is burning the movies to a CD/DVD, or uploading them to a shared internal storage location. Oh well, if nothing else you can sell a lot more storage space with each new Flip MinoPRO.
If you’d like to get a look at what kind of video the Flip MinoPRO is capable of, take a look at this video of me on a Segway. Be sure to select 720p to see it in all it’s…um, glory.