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Tomorrow we are heading on a trip to the waterfalls of Agua Azul and Misol-Ha and the Mayan ruins of Palenque. No doubt, there will be spectacular scenery, wildlife and local customs that would be great to get on film, and I’ll certainly catch some of it on my Kodak zi8 pocket camcorder. However, the footage that gets uploaded to our YouTube channel won’t be edited, unfortunately, because of all the hi-tech, user-friendly and useful aspects of the Kodak, the editing options are terrible.
Don’t misunderstand; the Kodak Zi8 is a fantastic device which has moved the pocket camcorder market up a level. Though we’re not an overly tech-savvy pair, we dig in and do our research before committing to a product that will form an integral part of our travel (blogging) experience.
We snapped up the camcorder in the UK for ₤109; an excellent price for a sturdy, compact camcorder. The zi8 is a vast improvement on its older sister, the zi6, and this version has also surpassed the more famous and funky-looking Flip Video camcorders. The device films in standard and High Definition; the top HD mode is 1080p, plus there are two 720p modes – one at 30 frames per second and the other at 60, good for grabbing sharper images of fast-moving objects. This means that the footage you record looks great even when hooked up to most massive HD flat screen TV, and there is a cable included for this.
As you travel, however, most likely the footage is seen either on YouTube or on the device itself. The zi8’s wide, bright LCD screen is much better than the smaller Flip screen, and makes watching footage on the device much easier. YouTube clips need only footage in a standard film setting, which allows for many more hours squeezed onto the SD card. (You will have to purchase an SD card with the zi8, unlike with the Flip which comes with 4G of space. Although this is an extra cost, it also means that fresh cards can easily be swapped into the device on a busy filming day without deleting or uploading clips onto the computer first). Also an improvement compared to the Flip is the 5 Megapixel camera. After all, if phones can take snapshots, why shouldn’t a camcorder be able to? The zi8 takes great pics.
Like the competition, the zi8 has a built-in USB stick to transfer files off the device. Even better, however, is that the Kodak comes with a rechargeable battery which charges whenever the USB is plugged in and until recently, the Flip depended on 2 AA batteries. The newer Flip Mino does come with a rechargeable battery, but the Mino still doesn’t film in HD and only has a 2x zoom. The zi8’s 4x zoom is high-quality, if not a bit too jumpy. Traditional camcorders have a much better stabilization element while filming as compared to pocket camcorders. An additional feature unique to the Kodak zi8 is the external mic jack which allows users to get a much higher sound quality than relying on the built-in mic. This is very useful for travel bloggers who are conducting interviews, filming tour guides or creating online travel videos.
But it is this last little snippet – editing the video – that has been the challenge with the Kodak. Between the .mov format of the HD footage and the downright medieval software which accompanies the product, editing the footage has been a complete flop so far. From experience, the iPhone 3GS allows users to edit/trim footage directly on the device with one finger. Literally. With the zi8’s free software (which is not made by Kodak and for which the company claims no responsibility), even trimming the files is a pain, and as of yet has been impossible. Much less useful editing options include adding a bit of sound or text over the video before uploading, but the footage would still remain uncut. There is free editing software available online, but apparently the .mov file format requires QuickTimePro.
In principle, we are not opposed to purchasing this or similar software, but for those travelers like us who have moved over to the lightweight and practical netbooks, it might not even be possible to use the program at all – the RAM does not allow for large software programs to run without seriously slowing down everything else on the computer. In fact, after speaking with a few tech-geeks much more knowledgeable than ourselves, it seems that doing any editing at all on a netbook is out of the question.
If anyone out there can advise the best way to edit footage from Kodak zi8 HD .mov files on my Asus Eee PC netbook, we would be eternally grateful. Of course, then we’ll actually have to take the time to do all the editing! But it’s worth it. There have been so many moments that we have recorded and wanted to share, but couldn’t thanks a blip or a beep or a sneeze or busting out into laughter inappropriately that should be edited out before being added to the infinite eternity of the web.
Here are two of our unedited videos with the Kodak zi8 so far – the quality and zoom are excellent, the sound quality (no external mic) leaves a bit to be desired but overall we are very satisfied with the device.