I had been eyeing a Flip camcorder for some time and with an upcoming trip I decided to finally purchase an ultracompact camcorder. I felt this product type was right for my current needs. Highly portable, easily uploaded, and good for interviews. I should note my laptop is PC as is a desktop at the house.
Multi-part post, feel free to skip ahead:
- Models to Choose From
- Using the JVC GC-FM1
- Using the Bundled Software
Models to Choose From
I went to the store, several actually, thinking I was going to purchase either a Flip Ultra HD or a Sony MHS-PM1. I came home with JVC’s GC-FM1. At the store I also saw a Kodak in this market space, but it was the largest of the lot.
For an excellent review and comparison of these products see Camcorderinfo.com’s “JVC Picsio GC-FM1 Camcorder Review” by Kaitlyn Chantry and Jeremy Stamas.
I found this review after I made my purchase, and while I was looking up info as I ‘played’ with my new ‘toy’. I’d recommend it to anyone who purchased or is thinking about purchasing an ultracompact camcorder.
A few items swung the pendulum toward the JVC for me, including in no particular order:
- Video image quality (Flip not as good, lower top resolution, Sony same resolution, not quite as good video – according to the review – this was my top interest)
- Image stabilization (Flip no)
- Still photo capability (Flip no)
- Batteries not required (Flip yes)
- Charge via USB (Flip no)
- Memory Card (Flip no)
- No proprietary memory (Sony requires Sony memory sticks)
Drawbacks I’ve seen so far:
- “Tacky” design, blue with reflective squares and chrome plastic sides were a hit with my 12 & 7 year old daughters, not so much with me (Only Sony I saw was purple, so call it a wash)
- Ports are exposed
- Review had concerns with durability, which concerns me
- No batteries for backup IF charge goes out
- No jack for audio input (microphone, etc, but none had this feature)
Using the JVC GC-FM1
So how did it work? You do first have to charge it. The guide said 180 minutes, mine was closer to 120. You also have to buy either an SD or SDHC memory card with at least 4GB of memory. I had several SD cards, didn’t buy a new one at the store and had to make a return trip since they were under 4GB. I bought a 16 GB SDHC card from PNY. In the brief printed manual, PNY is not listed as a SDHC card company, but it has worked without a problem for me (it is a standard spec afterall).
Once charged, the recording is simple, hit the center button it starts, hit it again it stops. There is a toggle switch to move between still and video. It automatically powers off after 3 minutes of no use. There is no autofocus, but there is a standard and close-up switch.
Glare can be an issue making it difficult to see what you are recording. The sun was bright and it did make it difficult at times to see the image in the screen. I’ve had the same problem using the camera in my phone.
Using the Bundled Software
When I plugged the unit into the laptop, I had problems. It was not clear that the bundled software and library installation was required (as opposed to simply cutting files from the unit and pasting them to a folder). I did get the software installed, but it still doesn’t seem to automatically update files from the unit to the library.
Mediabrowser LE is the software used. It doesn’t seem to be very intuitive. I did go to their web site and found a manual to download to attempt to better understand it.
In attempting to use its edit feature, the software became unresponsive. Once I restarted the software, I plugged the unit back in and turned it on. It finds the video on the camera and on the computer, but you can’t use the software to move the file from the device to the computer. I found no info on this in the guide, so I went to My Computer and found three drives indicated, all were parts of the device.
One “drive” is the product guide and bundled software, the second “drive” is the internal memory of the device, and the third is the SDHC card.
The files download as .mov files, which are Quicktime. I couldn’t get Quicktime to run them correctly, very choppy.
The Mediabrowser software has some editing features and works with .mov, but for anything more than cutting out some frames, if you’re not on a Mac, you’ll probably need to convert the files first.
To edit in Mediabrowser, open the shortcut and upon arrival you’ll see a calendar on the right and a left side bar file folder. You can either click on the date on the sidebar or on the calendar (there are screenshots for each video).
Once you click on the left sidebar date, the calendar will shift to a day and indicate at what time video was taken. Select the file you want by double-clicking.
Now you have a left sidebar that appears to be cut off, and the right side looks like a typical player. In the left sidebar, there is a scroll bar at the bottom. By scrolling to the right you will be able to read details about the files from that day, the file you selected will be highlighted.
At the bottom central/right portion of the screen is a button titled “Movie Edit.” When selected you can trim the ends of your video, or create multiple clips from one larger piece. It doesn’t appear you can cut something out of the middle.
Now you will see two pointers under the start and end of the timebar. You will use these to indicate what portion of video you want to use to make a new clip. Whatever is between the arrows will become a new file. So if you have a three minute clip and you want to capture several short sequences you can do that, but if you want to take a chunk out of the middle you can’t, you have to make two new files.
The video will be stored in My Documents/My Videos/Media Browser LE/Edit In the edit folder will be a numbered folder containing your edits for each project.
What I found difficult is that the videos do not run smoothly on my laptop (am guessing this is a memory issue – the JVC box indicates a memory of 1GB ram and a dual core processor, I have neither on my laptop).
Easiest option is to simply upload the clip unedited.
I downloaded “Any Video Converter“, which is freeware and seems to be working reasonably well to turn .mov into .wmv, with one considerable drawback, I couldn’t covert a framesize larger than 720×480 in MPEG-2.
I selected the MPEG-2 format from the drop-down and adjusted based on the JVC specs. Under video options, I set Frame size to 1440 x 1080 with a 30 (29.970) framerate. I didn’t do anything with the audio. I hit “convert”, but at the end I got a “fail” message. I tried again at 1080×480 and again got “fail”. At 720×480 it worked fine.
So if I want to edit/enhance video at this point in time using Windows Movie Maker or another product I found, Wax by Satish Kumar (also freeware – looks good, but haven’t tested completely yet), I have to do so with a converted file in 720×480 frame size.
If you want to regularly edit, best bet is to probably invest in editing software of which there is plenty on the market. In this way you won’t have to compromise quality of video for some enhancements and edits.
Too early to tell how good this product is, but I will put it through its paces this weekend and post a follow-up. I’ll need to shoot close-up, distance, sports (high speed) and edit and upload daily from a remote location to YouTube.
If you have comments or info to share please make a comment.