The differences in various


The differences in various grades of tape has nothing to do with their capacity to record the DV25 (DV50 or even Digital Beta.) And using different brands of tape is not going to increase the amount of “gunk” anywhere. Using old or re-using tapes is what “gunks up” your heads. The biggest differences in tape quality have to do with their capacity to repeatedly being run back & forth over the heads. So better tapes are on thicker plastic and have improved bonding of the oxides to the plastic tape. So using cheaper tapes in your machine becomes more of a problem the more you run them over your video heads. Cheap tapes, especially as they age, will start losing their oxide coating. And that is what causes problems.

Now really cheap tapes, especially ones that have set in warehouses for a long time, can lose oxide on their first pass. But medium quality tape is much better and unlikely to present any sort of problem for, at a minimum, six or eight passes. Now a pass occurs each time the tape runs over the heads. So recording is a pass and playing it back to capture in the computer is another pass. It is true that recording passes are more likely to hold oxide on the heads, but playback is just as hard on the tape (just not quite as hard on the heads.) So here’s where we’re at. The best quality tapes have the strongest plastic backing & the best “glue” holding the oxide coating on it. But even moderate quality tapes will run through a deck several times before they start losing oxide or the plastic stretches. And the signal laid down on the tape is indistinguishable (except by extremely sensitive meters.) So you (or I) cannot tell the difference in the image or audio between professional tape and moderate priced consumer tape.

The difference used to be critical. Back when I was using AB linear suites, the tape was repeatedly shuttled over the same short segments every time we previewed or made an edit. Tapes would be fast forwarded & rewound repeatedly and stopped suddenly. The cheaper tapes would quickly “gunk up” the heads & pinch rollers. And small amounts of stretching would cause playback problems so they wouldn’t edit correctly. Linear editing requires quality tapes for source & master.

But here in the non-linear era, the tapes are only used to record source video then played back for the digital capture. Plus the signal is digital so it’s pretty much a direct copy of the source video (instead of only 90% of the source video.) So the tape quality isn’t really a factor in the video quality. (Now I doubt you’ll find tape manufacturers saying any of this; they have a vested interest in selling the higher quality tape at a higher profit margin.) Should you perform a double-blind test of video quality once it is in your computer, there will be no discernible difference.

So why not buy those moderately priced tapes? Actually there isn’t a production reason for getting the good stuff. But if you are archiving your tapes, get the best you can. All tapes will experience some breakdown of the oxide binding and let oxide rub off on video heads. The difference is how long it takes for the same amounts of oxide loss. Cheap tapes can start losing oxide during shipping. Moderately priced tapes will take two years or more for the oxide coating to loosen. But the top grade professional tapes can hold their oxide for as much as a decade without significant oxide or signal loss.

So what I find most economical is to get a good quality tape to record & capture the video. Then I archive the tape, but my permanent archives are on data DVD’s. Since i don’t shoot huge quantities of tape for a program, I only need a dozen or so DVD’s to archive a half hour program. You may shoot more and find that 20 minutes of DV25 video per DVD (roughly 3 DVD’s per hour tape) is too time consuming. Or maybe you don’t really need to archive your source video for more than 2 or 3 years. You would do fine with a good quality tape. But if you’re shoot oral histories for the historical society, you’ll really want to shoot on the best tape you can find.

Now let me address the questions tepeco asked. It sounds like you are losing oxide like crazy. If it happening more frequently, are you using older or cheaper tapes more? And I’m concerned with how well you are actually cleaning your heads. Are you using a chamois damp with tape head cleaner? I’ve seen people using cotton swabs with rubbing alcohol on their heads and not even touching the pinch roller. They are damaging their recorder and setting up for the deck to eat the tape.

You can purchase both dry & damp 8mm cleaning tapes. The damp system does a little better job, but both are rough on the heads. Nothing beats a good manual cleaning. But if you’re having playback troubles more often and the tapes are no different than before, then you are not getting your heads clean. Remember their are four individual recording heads on the spinning drum. Each one has to be clean and smooth or they will start stripping oxide off right away. I would suggest you consider a professional cleaning at a local shop. If the problem continues, it will certainly be the tapes. And as I explained above, you shouldn’t use any given consumer grade tape more than 4 times. Hope this helps.

Good luck all. Hope you can start saving money on tapes real soon.

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