6:56 am

MacMost Now 293: Recording Video With the iPod Nano

Take a look at video recording on the new iPod Nano. Learn what it can do and how well it works. See a comparison between the iPod Nano, iPhone 3GS and the Flip Mino.

Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
Hi, This is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's take a look at video recording on the new iPod Nano.
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's take a look at video recording on the new iPod Nano.
So, as you can probably tell, that opening sequence was shot with the iPod Nano. Let's go and take a closer look at all the features of video on the Nano and how well it works.
So, video on the Nano gives you 640x40, 30 frames per second video with mono-audio at 44.1 Kilohertz. You get a really high frame rate but the quality isn't that great. You can't really do much with it. You can't focus, you can't adjust the exposure or color or anything like that. You can apply a handful of special effects by holding down the center button on the Nano and coming up with things like sepia, black and white, film grain and a bunch of distortions, things like that. But basically it's a click-to-record, click-to-stop and then you can go browse the videos you've taken and play them back and you can also go ahead and delete an entire video. You can't trim like you can on the iPhone.
Now they've put the video camera in probably the worst possible spot on the back of the Nano. It's right here. If you are holding your Nano like this and you decide to go and take video, you would normally go like this like you would hold a digital camera. But that means that you're completely covering up the video. Of course you can see that on the screen so there's no real danger of accidentally shooting like that. Probably the best way to hold it is like this in your hand, which is kind of a little awkward. Also, its small size and the fact that you're holding your fingers like this means you're going to shake it a lot. So you could really use some image stabilization. It doesn't have any. Of course, you can use the image stabilization in iMovie.
Another thing you should know about recording video is that you can record in any orientation. So you can record like this which seems the most natural. You can also go ahead and record vertically although I'm not sure what you would do with vertically recorded video. You can even turn it completely upside down if you're more comfortable holding the camera this way, and then you can hold it that way and you can actually use the controls over here. You know what orientation you're filming at because the little time indicator on the screen will actually always be at the top of the screen. So as you turn it you see the time indicator change where it is on the screen. So you know that the nano is at least recognizing that you've turned the camera.
Now the microphone is actually right next to where the camera is. And I guess it's a fairly decent microphone. I mean what can you really expect from a little tiny pinhole mic built into the body. I found it picked up sound from far away really well, but didn't adjust to changes in the volume or the sound. So, for instance, when I was filming something far away and I suddenly spoke to make a comment, even though I was not facing the mic, the mic was over here, that sound was so loud that it got distorted when I played it back. So, it's probably best that you either simply just record what's in front of you for the audio, or record yourself like this and keep a constant volume. What would be great was if you could use an external microphone with this. You can do that on the iPhone by plugging in your earbuds which have a mic or you can use one of the third party earphone extensions which have a microphone on them. None of these work here on the iPod Nano. Perhaps this is something they could fix in a future software update, but for now it definitely doesn't work. You're stuck using the microphone in the body at all times.
Of course, the biggest disappointment about this camera is that it's video only. You cannot take still photographs. Even if you wanted to actually capture something from the video you could do it. You could open the video up in say, Quicktime, and go ahead and take a still from Quicktime. But keep in mind it's 644x80 and the individual frames are not meant to be stills so you're probably going to get a little bit of blurriness there if you try to do it. It could be fine for say, taking a new Facebook profile photo but not for anything you're going to want to keep and definitely not for something you want to print out.
To transfer video from your iPod Nano to your Mac you can do it in several ways. It works through iPhoto. It also works through the Image Capture utility and you can also go ahead and open up the iPod Nano as a hard disk and look in the DCIM folder and you'll find all the .mp4 video right there.
Another problem with this as a video camera is that I found the glossy screen made it very difficult to shoot outside.
Now let's compare some video. The natural thing to do is compare the Nano to the iPhone 3GS which has a 3 megapixel still camera in it that it's using then to create video. Also comparing this to the Flip Mino kind of makes sense as they're competitors. If we compare all three together we can see that you basically have similar qualities. It's very subjective which ones better. I think the Mino actually had the better colors of all three of them and I think the Mino was probably the best in overall picture quality. The iPhone 3GS, though, could sometimes be pretty good as well. The Nano, I think, was clearly the third best out of all of them. So, probably not anything you want to use at all for anything professional and probably not something you want to use to replace a camcorder or other device for something important like say, filming a wedding or an important event. But for taking casual family videos, of course, the iPod Nano is just fine.
One neat thing I was impressed by was how the Nano focuses or doesn't even focus. If you notice here, I'm walking from far away and I'm coming right up to an object and it keeps everything in focus just fine the entire time. Basically having everything in focus no matter how far away it is or how close it is.
Now on some camcorders I've owned, you can actually see the camcorder re-focusing as you change distance from the subject. It was kind of nice to know the Nano is basically just a "don't worry about it" kind of thing when it comes to focus.
Okay, so the conclusion is that the iPod Nano video isn't that good. But I've got to go and counter that taking into consideration some things like the size of the Nano and it's price. It's really tiny. It's got to be the tiniest camcorder in existence and it's really cheap at $149. Add in one more thing. It's got 8 gigs of storage, 16 gigs of you get the bigger one. That means you can store a lot of video on this thing. A lot more than the other pocket camcorders can. And then you add on the fact that it's not just a pocket camcorder you're carrying. You're actually carrying your mp3 player, your personal video player with you as well. You've got other features like FM radio and pedometer. You're simply adding the video camera onto it. And suddenly it's got a big advantage over carrying a Flip Mino which will just act as a camcorder. So I think just because of overall value it's a big winner even though it's video quality isn't the best.
So, if you're looking to get an iPod Nano to just use it as a video recorder, I wouldn't do it. Probably best to stick with an iPhone 3GS if you have one or get a dedicated video recorder. But if you want it as a multi-use device, I think it's a great deal and the video recorder will come in handy.
Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: 6 Responses to “MacMost Now 293: Recording Video With the iPod Nano”

    9/19/09 @ 3:14 pm

    hi gary if heard theres a built in speaker for video play-back if so is it only for video or can it be used for music play-back and is the fm a receiver only?

      9/19/09 @ 3:31 pm

      Yes. There is. Can’t believe I didn’t mention that in either video! Anyway, it works with anything: video, music, etc. But it is very low volume and more for checking to make sure you got sound during recording, or getting the basic idea of what is being said on a video. You wouldn’t want to listen to music on it.

        9/19/09 @ 3:41 pm

        thanks for the fast reply, in regards to what i asked about the fm radio is it a receiver only or can it be used like most new devices to send your music though car radio or home stereo? i know this is off the topic but is there a way to stop iphoto from auto-starting when i connect my iphone 3gs

    9/20/09 @ 9:50 am

    cheers for that it was annoying the hell out of me but you might need to update the video as image capture has changed and doesn’t have a preferences menu. Thanks again

      9/21/09 @ 6:32 am

      Yes. Note that in Snow Leopard, this option is no longer in Image Capture. It is now in the General preferences for iPhoto. Look for “Connecting Camera Opens:” in that preference pane.

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