Gizmos and Gadgets

flipcamThis simple video camera is amazing. It’s no bigger than a cell phone, so it can easily be carried in a pocket or purse.
It operates on two AA batteries (included with purchase), and you don’t have to mess with tape.
It’s simple to operate. Turn it on, when the “ready” signal appears, start recording. Stop when you’re done. Review the video. If you like it, keep it. If not, delete it right on the spot.
It’s simple to download. Flip out the USB connector and plug it into your computer. It will launch the onboard software that you can use to make a quick movie and upload it to the web automatically, or you can save the video to a directory and import it into your favorite video editing program.

The picture quality is great for such a simple device. For web viewing, it’s absolutely fine. The audio may need a little tweaking inside the video editing software, but if you work with it, the sound comes across great.

There are several versions of the camera, ranging in price from about $90 to $175, depending on where you buy them. And now there are several brands of these small, easy-to-use handheld camcorders.

For more information, visit


Vlog it!


Serious Magic, now taken over by Adobe, developed a nifty program for video blogging that includes music, green screen backgrounds, titling and credits, special effects, video capability and a teleprompter. It is available for downloading through Adobe for under $30, and site licenses are available.
See this page for more information.
A similar program for Macs is VideoCue.


Radio Shack web cams
webcamYou’ll need a web cam to work with Vlog It!, and there are thousands out there to choose from. We tried several, in different price ranges, but found a deal we couldn’t pass up at Radio Shack. These little spider-looking gizmos came two to a pack and were $14.95. Very simple to install and if placed just right they give you a pretty decent picture.
If you are going to run your video large, we’d suggest investing in a more expensive camera, but for our purposes, these work just fine.
Read more about them here.


Desktop Microphone

desktopmicWhile we liked the cameras from Radio Shack, we weren’t too keen on the microphones that came with them which were headsets and put the mic in front of the speaker’s mouth. We prefer a simple desktop mic. Logitech makes them, and depending on the quality, they may range in price from $5 to $50.

This software, downloadable from, allows you to create embeddable slide shows from your pictures. It costs about $70, but the slide shows look very professional. A great way to tell a story visually and to showcase your photo students’ work online.


opuzzMusic adds a lot to video and audio podcasts, so you will probably want to invest in some royalty-free music. We stumbled upon which offers a huge selection of music, including several CDs full of news music. Individual CDs are $59 or you can buy multiple CDs for big discounts. We got a 5-CD set of news music for $149 and bigger discounts are available for bigger orders. The music is in 10-, 15-, 30- and 60-second segments. If you order the CDs you’ll have to rip the files and save them as MP3s. You can also download from the site to your hard drive, or for really huge orders, they will send the music files to you on an external hard drive.
audacity-logo-r_50pctFor podcasting, nothing beats free and easy, and Audacity is both. This simple to use audio podcasting software lets you compile podcasts by recording or importing audio files. This can be downloaded from You will also need the lame encoding file in order to export the files to mp3 format.

To take full advantage of Vlog It!’s capabilities, you’ll need a chromakey or green or blue screen. These can be pretty pricey, but we found a couple that were pretty affordable.One is a lightweight plastic green sheet that you can pin or tape to a wall, and this works great if you happen to have a wall behind the person who will be doing the video blogging. These are available for about $15 at

The other is foldable popup gizmo that is blue on one side and green on the other. They are pretty portable and can be taken with you if you think you’ll have need of a chroma key out in the wild. They can be propped up against something if necessary. Stands are also available for these, but the stands may run around $250. They have a wire frame, which bends into sections and the whole thing folds up and fits in a bag. We found one on ebay for about $50, but have seen them cheaper since.


The Flip video camera

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