View Full Version : HUGE problem... trying to diagnose... help!!

December 19th, 2004, 06:20 PM
Hello all,

Okay, here's the situation... I shoot wedding video's. I've never had a problem with downloading the footage I take to my G5's for editing in FCP. I shoot with Canon GL2's, use Maxell (DVM60SE) mini DV tapes, and clean my video heads when the cameras tell me to.

Today while downloading footage from 2 weddings I did over the weekend, something strange happened. While importing, all that was showing over 3/4's of the screen was a frozen scene from the particular wedding reception the tape was used to record that evening, and on the right 1/4 at the beginning of the tape showed what was supposed to be playing back all pixelated... w/o any better terminology for it. There's a link at the bottom of this message with actual video of it... but read the rest of this before you check it out.

I figured out that at a certain point, the video begins to play fine at roughly 27 minutes into the tape. From there on out, for the final 33 minutes, perfect footage. No problems. Whenever I tried to go back to within the 'problem' 27 minutes, the frozen image shown on the left 3/4's would be whatever I played last with no problem, and the right the pixelated stuff. The same camera was used to shoot the footage that turned out fine. The tape was a brand new tape... I never recycle. So, what in the world could be the problem?

I'm absolutely stumped, and scared to be honest with you! The 'problem' footage covers all of my staging scenes before the ceremony, the processional and a handfull of 'cut-in' shots.

Give it a look-see (need Quicktime):

Can this footage be saved? Can I save it? Can somebody else save it? What do you think the problem was/is?

I'm completely lost, and need a solution... if there's one to be had.

Thanks in advance for any help,


Ken Tanaka
December 19th, 2004, 10:00 PM
Sorry to read of your trouble, Matt. Are you observing the trouble on your computer screen while importing? That is, does the tape play back correctly from the camera to a monitor?

December 19th, 2004, 11:21 PM
Hi Ken,

The problem exists when playing back the tape on the camera, any camera (tried 4 different cameras) and also shows up on the screen during capture, just as it would play back from the camera. Each camera though had different results while playing back. Some would display the 3/4's as just a grey screen, while two other would show the last successfully played back frame the camera was stopped on with that 1/4 all pixelated in each attempt.

Ken Tanaka
December 19th, 2004, 11:47 PM
I am not a technician so take my thoughts as just educated guesses.

My primary guess is that the recording camera's heads may be misaligned. Such a problem might cause some or all of a tape's tracks to be improperly positioned, leaving an unreadable result.

My secondary guess is that the recording camera's heads are dirty.

Either situation leads to the same result; your footage is probably irrevocably trashed.

You might consider trying to read the tape back on a deck rather than a camera. Good decks have more robust transports and drums and can -sometimes- recover footage. But I would not bet on it.

Good luck with this and, again, sorry.

December 20th, 2004, 02:08 AM
You know, the camera did eventually tell me that the heads were dirty. I took a break and cleaned the heads with a cleaning cassette, and now realize the footage is good from the point on from after the heads were cleaned. I guess this means I'm screwed. Funny, cause the camera worked fine for awhile. I had to send it back to Canon to have a grain of dust removed from the inside of the lens. It was overnighted back to me the night before so I could have it in time for the shoot on Saturday.... I literally pulled it out of the box and threw it in my case. Once I got to the shoot I threw in the tape and went off shooting. I've seen what dirty heads can do, but nothing ever like this. I wonder if the camera was jolted or something during shipping throwing something out of whack and the cleaning cassette fixed it somehow. Very odd. Before the camera went off it worked fine... this really isn't pleasent!

Don Palomaki
December 20th, 2004, 04:41 AM
Sounds like a dirty head/clogged head that prevented proper recording. Usually dirty head problem forst surface on playback and are noticed before they trash recording so effectively. If nothign plays the tape, even for analog output viewing from the player, you have a problem. Cut aways can be staged, but live shots of people presenta real problem

No substitute for testing gear before important shoots, especially after returning from a loan, service, or any shipping or possible rough handling or use in a harsh environment.

Hank Freeman
December 20th, 2004, 04:36 PM
I didn't surmise if you indicated that the tape was NEW. As a professional, I always use a new tape for any money paying gig. Plus, I've noticed another anomoly with DV tape. This is for others who might be 'sharing' DV tapes among cameras...simply...don't. In other words if you record TAPE 1 and CAMERA 1, that tape is owned by CAMERA 1 and no other.

I believe it is true that heads are align ever-so-slightly differently in cameras and decks. Some seem to be more tolerate for play back than others. My JVC deck most always has problems with tapes used more than once, while my Panasonic is a God send; able to read most any tape from any camera used once or ten times.

just my 2 cents.

December 20th, 2004, 04:45 PM
Yup, it was a brand new tape. Always use new tapes for every project. They act as a good, last resort, archive as well. I save my DVD files of the final edit too for quick reproduction. If that fails (never has... knock on wood) and the client has lost everything, at least I'll have the original raw footage on MiniDV, forever:)

Jim Painter
December 22nd, 2004, 08:41 PM

I've had a similar situation - lost the entire wedding - hard lession learned.

Do 2 things from now on: (1) burn 30 seconds or so of color bars at the start of each new tape then play it back to make sure tape/heads are functioning ok - do this before you leave your house. (2) keep a log of head hours since the last cleaning - clean after every 15 hours or so - do not wait for the dreaded 'clean heads' message to appear in the middle of an important event.

Good luck!

Don Palomaki
December 23rd, 2004, 05:11 AM
Just a thought: Bars are a static (unchanging) image and might not show minor or developing head clog problems during playback. A changing image (e.g., a slow pan of a natural scene) might work better. Head cleaning every 15 hours sounds a bit much if using good name-brand tape of the same type and using the camcorder in relatively clean, dust-free environments. Each head cleaning does add real head wear.