Flip Video cameras continue to be popular in classrooms. They are simple to use, and there's no tape or cables to fuss with. There is, however, one big disadvantage to using Flip cameras versus other digital camcorders: the lack of an external microphone jack.
Audio is usually oh-so-important to video productions. Movies made by teachers and students often involve speaking. In fact, what is heard in the video is probably more important than what is seen. We've all watched videos where we could barely hear the person speaking--there are hundreds of them on YouTube and TeacherTube.
One way to improve the audio is to make sure the camera is very close to the person speaking. This doesn't mean just zooming into the speaker. In fact, don't zoom at all. Get the camera as close as possible to the talking person. To add variety to the video, you can back away from person speaking in between the bits of dialog. This way establishing and re-establishing shots are inserted between speaking parts.
The best method to improve audio in your videos is to use an external microphone. When I make videos with students, we use lapel microphones. A clip-on mic can be placed much closer to a speaker's mouth than the built-in microphone found on Flip cameras. Lapel mics can minimize background noise that built-in microphones pick up.
Check out these Explorer Interviews. Watch carefully to see if you can spot the microphones (we used a splitter so we could use two mics at a time). Listen to how clearly the audio comes through. (My favorite out of the bunch is the Ferdinand Magellan interview.) Those Explorer movies were from 2003, so they were not made with Flip cameras. Instead, we had to deal with rewinding tapes and Firewire cables.
What I'd like to use to make movies is a Flip Video camera with an external microphone jack. Unfortunately, none of the Flip cameras have this feature. Fortunately, Kodak's new Zi8 Pocket Video Camera does! The Zi8 has a swing-out USB port like Flip cameras. It records in HD and has a rechargeable battery. The big difference is that microphone jack. You can connect a lapel or handheld microphone so that your viewers can actually hear the person talking in the video! The Zi8 will be released in September 2009.