The Surprisingly Thoughtful Design of a Cheap Camcorder


EETimes's article on the creation of the Flip Ultra video camera by Pure Digital is a great example of how learning the thought and care that goes into a product can change your mind. Or my mind, at least, having ignored the Flip Ultra as a piece of knocked-together mass market exploitation but now finding myself questioning if perhaps I wouldn't be just as happy with a little pocket-sized, all-in-one solid state camcorder instead of my fairly expensive and unpocketable HD camcorder.

To address the ease of use issue, the designers rallied around a theme: No extra buttons. "The user would always know what each button does," said Fleming. In fact, the team had a goal that within 30 seconds, the user should know how to use it. "It must be intuitive or we won't use it," he said.


The "Eureka" moment came with the development of proprietary damping algorithms to implement a non-linear response curve off stasis to give a smooth 'landing' quickly, without instability in the system. "For slow or little change, we keep the auto exposure stable or make very small changes which cannot easily be discerned by viewers," said Furlan. While the auto exposure has no impact on the underlying video frame rate, it does improve the perception that as the camera moves from one scene to the next, there were no significant jumps in brightness.

Under the Hood: Flip Ultra camcorder - An ode to clean design [ via Core77]

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