Mini-DV tapes, firewire and heads

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    • #48297


      So I’m soon to buy my first prosumer camcorder (looking at the Canon XH A1) and am trying to work out what to do about recording footage. I apologise if these issues have been raised elsewhere (I couldn’t find the specifics I’m looking for) or if they’re dumb questions, but I’d really appreciate some advice. It seems the XHA1 records video to either mini-DV tapes or a DTE drive. Seeing as DTE drives seem to be extremely expensive (to me anyways), I’m looking more toward mini-DV and then transferring it for editing via firewire. However, I’ve read that doing this can wear the heads of the camera. Is this true? How quickly and how much damage does it do? Is it repairable? Are there any better solutions, like an external mini-DV player of some kind that could be used for firewire transfer instead?

      One last question: what do you think are the best type and brands of mini-DV tapes for recording HD? Is the cost difference between standard and HD tape really worth it? We’re trying to make our independent feature as professional-looking as possible but on a pretty limited budget, so are investing in the most important quality mark areas (some purchase, some rental). I don’t want to go to all the effort of getting good footage only for it to be ruined by crappy media.

      Thanks in advance for any advice you can give!

    • #198529

      Hi Elena –

      OK – To answer some of your questions. Don’t scrimp on tapes – one bogus tape can ruin your heads (it happened to me). Always buy from a reputable source. As for which brand – go with one that is compatible with your camera (lubricated vs non-lub, wet vs. dry) and stick with the one brand if possible. You can but as a rule I never re-used a tape – they’re cheap enough and it gives you built in archival.

      As for head wear, capturing from your camera will indeed use your heads more than using alternate means – Some folks have a dedicated capture deck for this purpose. You could also purchase a used camera with issues as long as the firewire, playback and heads are functional and use that (not recommended but others have done this).

    • #198530

      Elena……. I shoot with a XH-A1 I agree 100% with his comments…..

      I also use two HV-40 cams and I capture with one of those to help save on the A1 head wear. I’ve always used Sony Standard tapes for HD. Cost around $2 each.and nothing else.

      Nope, no external mini-DV player, just use a HV-40. You will need a second cam anyway.

    • #198531

      Awesome. Thanks so much for the advice guys. Really appreciate it.

    • #198532

      @Birdcat re: capture deck – any advice on how to research & choose a deck? I am one of “those people” πŸ˜‰ who utilizes a “third” camera for capturing footage to my PC.

    • #198533

      @TomB I also use a canon xh-a1 as my main camera and use sony mini dv tapes. now what I found was the cheap ($2) are sonys cheapest but they offer a “better tape for about $15. I use there highest grade but got in a pinch once and the cheap ones were the only ones avaliable. I couldnt tell a dif in the quality. What are your thoughts?

    • #198534

       @Ophelia- your deck will depend on what your “A” cam is.  As TomB says above, the HV series makes fantastic ‘decks’ for the XHA1 (because they are smaller and less expensive) but also make solid ‘B’ cams that can match color and output (including the Canon 24pf that many capture decks don’t do).

    • #198535

      I use an XH-A1 to record, a Canon HV20 to capture, after problems with drop outs I use only the high quality SONY though others have written in this forum (recently) they saw no difference. After 3 years and hundreds of tapes, for two documentaries and over 100 short videos on Youtube, Vimeo and in private hands; I detect no head wear. I use a Maxell head cleaner tape. If you can get a low mileage HV20, 30 or 40 you can extend the life of your XHA1. If you need the XHA1 for one project only I think you can do w/o a capture deck/camcorder. I also use my XHA1 directly into my laptop via firewire and record into Adobe OnLocation. Videomaker recently reviewed a product that the XHA1 can record directly to and it cost about $800 I think.

    • #198536

      I was a electronics technician in a previous life repairing consumer and professional electronic products including video cameras. From a technical view it is recommended to always use high quality tape such as Sony. Camera manufacturers tapes are always a safe bet, Panasonic JVC Sony etc. Equipment received for service that haduseddifferent brands of tapes are easily identifiable by excessive tape deposits both on the tape path and on the video heads. Tape deposits on the tape path are readily transfered to the video heads.

      Never everuse a cleaning tape unless thevideo heads are dirty. The actual video heads for want of a better descriptioncan be described astheheight of a razor blade and the width of a small matchstick with a v shape cut into each of the revolving heads. The action of a cleaning tape is to remove tape deposits from inside the v shape heads, but every time a cleaning tape passes over the headsit reduces the depth of the v shape. When the v shape is worn down to nothing the heads are destined the scrap heap.Needless to say the more hour’s video heads do,the more they ware down including transfer firewire use.

      As to difference between HD and DV tapes, I shoot in HD with DV tapes and edit in DV to broadcast standard and I have not found the necessity to invest in HD tapes.

      Elena’s other question involved tape & DTE. Tape mechanism are always potentially more trouble with multiple mechanical parts both plastic and metal which wear with use/age/conditions, greater humidity more problems.

      Any time a video camera goes in for service for whatever reason it isa good investmentto request the servicecenter to clean the tape path and lubricate the mechanism. Both minorlow cost jobsthat will save a fortune long term.

    • #198537

      A friend of my has an XH-A1 that we shoot with some times, and although we shoot on tapes a lot of the time, if I remember correctly it accepts SD memory cards as an output option. If this is the case, I would forget shooting on tapes all together and invest in some SD cards. They are amazingly cheap, and reusable. Just get a couple of back-up hard drives and your set.

      This will potentially save yourself many, many hours of capturing that you could be spending in the editing room, which is a big plus when you are on a short deadline to finish a project.

      That being said, if you are worried about having a back-up on tape, I think the camera may have an option to record to both SD and Mini-DV at the same time. I know some cameras do that, but I would research that a little more.

    • #198538

      The SD card is for images only, not video.

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