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I was surprised to find that I needed to install software in order to watch my Flip Video files (first generation device). My initial thought was "what happens if this company goes out of business? Will I be unable to view my files 20 years from now?"

Should I just leave the files as-is, or should I convert them to something more open?

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3 Answers 3

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You don't need to install the software to access the videos on a Flip camera. If you look in the /DCIM folder (in the Mac Finder or Windows Explorer), you can see each of the videos stored as .MP4 files. You can copy the files as you wish and play them in any program that plays .MP4 movies.

Be careful if you manually copy the files. The flip software uses the file's date stamp to determine the date of the movie. If you copy the movie to another location, the date stamp is updated to the present time, and there is no permanent record of the time when the video was originally recorded.

So, to answer your question: you don't need to rely on the Flip software, and the .MP4 files are stored in a standard MPEG format that shouldn't be overly prone to obsolescence. Don't worry about the file format unless you have a reason to want them in another format.

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Thanks, Neil. I wouldn't mind MP4 so much; however, the files on my Flip are AVI and require me to install a codec just to watch them. Which Flip do you have? –  Ian Lotinsky Sep 26 '10 at 20:52

I called Flip directly. They confirmed that the first generation Flip Video encodes video in Xvid and save them as AVI files.

Xvid appears to be an open source MPEG-4 codec, so this probably isn't as much of an issue as I thought it was!

I'll just copy the files over for now as-is through USB mode.

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No format lasts forever. The file format, the software to play it, and the hardware on which it is stored will eventually be obsolete and unusable. This is a significant problem in libraries and archives. Unlike paper books, most new formats have a very short lifetime.

The best strategy seems to be to put the data into a widely used format. The more standardized the format, the more likely there will be software to play it. The files themselves should be kept in the latest hardware Copy the files to your newest hardware when you get it.

For instance I have files on magnetic tape (from a Commodore PET), 5.25 inch floppy disk (IBM PC), 3.5 inch floppy disk (PC format), Iomega ZIP disks, CDROM and DVD. I can read the last two on my current PC, I have an older PC that can read the 3.5 inch disks, and has a parallel port to connect the ZIP drive. Fortunately, I also have copies of all the files I care about on my current PC hard drive. I keep copying them to newer PCs as they come along, and when needed I convert the file format (like from WordPerfect to Word documents).

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Thanks, Wayne. What's the recommended format for videos? I have some video I need to dump off tapes too. –  Ian Lotinsky Sep 26 '10 at 20:53

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