all the videos plopped on thewashingmachinepost up till now have been created with a flip ultra digital video camera, the quality of which doesn't quite manage high definition (though flip do produce one that does), but it does provide sufficient quality for my purposes, and equates very well with my limited ability when it comes to editing in imovie. the ultra accepts two aa type batteries, meaning that it's a practical machine to use when out in the wilds of islay, if the batteries die. they're very easy to replace, always assuming i've remembered to carry spares in the first place.
with my growing expertise in this area (i use the word in its loosest sense), the opportunity to test yet another variant on the growing number of compact digital video cameras, seemed like a fine one to take. the muvi micro digital video camera is produced by uk company veho and is so small that i missed it completely when the box turned up through the post. the camera sits in a clear plastic lid inside the box, only i thought it was something to accompany the muvi, and rummaged inside looking for the camera. boy was that embarrassing, since i was about to phone and point out that i had all the plugs and cables, but no camera.
this thing is tiny (see photograph), and stores its payload on something even smaller - a micro sd card (sitting above the pound coin in the photo above). the muvi arrives with a 2gb card, allowing up to an hour's worth of 640x480 footage at 30fps, though it will accept up to an 8gb card giving you up to four hours of video. the battery is a built-in lithium-ion, the video format is in the form of .avi files, making it windows and mac compliant straight out the box, and it also records audio from an impossibly small built-in microphone. in fact, pretty much everything you'd expect from a modern video camera, including a switch that allows it to be voice activated. connection to your computer of choice is via a usb plug, the socket for which also allows connection of a mains adapter for charging (supplied).
my muvi arrived along with the optional extreme sports kit, since i had notions of clamping it to the bars of the company colnago, and possibly even sticking it atop the catlike whisper, to video whatever i wanted to look at. you have to marvel at just what can be fitted inside such a small package these days: the lens is barely larger than a pinhead, and the body of the muvi, unlike that of the flip, is solidly made from metal, and convincingly screwed together.
now, despite the fact that the sports kit comes with a wide variety of brackets and straps, as well as a rubberised all weather casing, i could not find any practical way to fit the muvi to my helmet; since the catlike features round holes rather than the more common series of slots, a la giro, this may be one of those things that was just not meant to happen. however, the tiny rubber button atop the muvi would have made it very awkward to switch on and off when well out of the rider's line of sight. and given that there is an auto power-down, the button has to be pressed once to waken, and a second time to start recording. this latter is indicated by a a slowly blinking green led adjacent to the record button, but again there is no way for a rider to see if this has occurred when the camera is on top of a helmet. still, i daresay this is a problem that affects all helmet mounted cameras.
more practically, however, i fitted the handlebar mount to the colnago to test out the muvi's capabilities of on the bike filming. now don't get me wrong, i have no great desire to film my ride to and from anywhere in particular, because i cannot see why such footage would be of any interest to anyone, but just in case i found myself in cavendish's wake at this year's braveheart ride, it's as well to be sure. in similar way to the footage from a flip clamped to the bars, picture quality was a bit bouncy. i left the camera alone initially, meaning it had to fend for itself over our less than smooth roads; later i held the centre of the bars and placed my thumb behind the muvi to stabilise it as much as possible. i've titled both of these phases in the demo video below, and you can see that neither are particularly good: the video is substantially distorted, appearing as if i'd been filming underwater, and despite it being a bright(ish) day, the picture quality is rather dark. additionally, the muvi seems to continually revise its reaction to the available light, producing what i can only describe as an effect similar to blinking (very noticeable on the footage taken inside debbie's cafe). colour is dark and very flat, with pronounced indexing in the foreground of the road.
the latter part of the demo movie was taken during yesterday's port mor wheelers, and again, even though the camera was being hand-held, picture quality is poor, still marred by this blinking effect. the unfortunate trade-off by having such a small camera is the complete lack of any view-screen, so there's no way of telling just what is being recorded until the files are transferred to computer. it's likely that continued use would provide a solution here, but initially, i didn't always film what i'd hoped i had. sound (i left all the sound on the video below to give you an idea) is verging on the distorted, though wind noise while cycling pretty much affects every camera i've ever tried.
the use of a weatherproof casing is a nice thought, since sticking the muvi to the front of the bike, or atop a helmet, is probably just inviting the heavens to open, however, there's a missing link in the thought behind this. when the camera is comfortably encased in this opaque rubber, it doesn't fit securely into any of the brackets supplied. there are two small prongs at the top of the bracket which clip into the centre gasket of the muvi's two halves. when the weatherproof coat is used, its thickness prevents these prongs gaining any purchase, so the first bump will launch the muvi to its destruction. this is less than joined up thinking, since there would seem to be few other situations where weatherproofing would be entirely necessary.
all in all, i'm sticking with the flip: the muvi seems better made, but it has too many inconsistencies, it's not really particularly well designed for the purpose intended, and to be quite blunt, the video and audio quality is very poor. the muvi retails at £80 (not much less than the flip ultra) while the extreme sports pack adds another £20; i'm afraid i don't think it's worth the money.
posted on sunday 9 august 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................