XH-A1 Remove Cassette Issue ... Playback footage starts / freezes / starts / freezes! at DVinfo.net

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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XH G1S / G1 (with SDI), Canon XH A1S / A1 (without SDI).


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Old September 24th, 2013, 05:22 PM   #1
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XH-A1 Remove Cassette Issue ... Playback footage starts / freezes / starts / freezes!

Finished an out-of-town shoot doing ENG style intvws, b-roll, etc. using my venerable Canon XH-A1. Shot 7 tapes...did spot checks on-site for audio, focus, etc. Everything looked and sounded good. Sony tapes were brand-new / from a trusted source I've been using for years and I always keep 'em cool etc. (not my first rodeo guys).

Anyways.... near the end of the shoot... a couple times I saw the "REMOVE CASSETTE" message in the display, which I promptly did and performed all the stuff like examine the tape for damage, power off, battery removal, wait 30 seconds, recite Ohms law while circling the camera, etc. I was able to record again without the error for a bit and spot-checked... things played back fine....BUT.... it did it a couple more times.

Thinking maybe the tape is the culprit... changed tapes...worked fine, recorded, checked playback...fine, sounds & looks good...BUT... trying to capture beginning with Tape #1 and the playback starts then freezes, starts then freezes...timecode is being read but starts, freezes, starts, freezes...etc. So I know there's a recorded audio / video on the tape. It's just the darn thing is doing what it's doing. AND it gave me the REMOVE CASSETTE message again...BUT... I insert a tape from a different time that I know is okay and it plays okay...no issue...SSSSooooooo

(And before anyone gives me answers like: go digital... let's not go there right now...I have buds who've had SD cards get corrupted ...that's a discussion for another thread, another time. AND YES... I did clean the heads as per Canon's User's Manual instructions using a "dry cleaning cassette"... I know...I know... but Canon said to do it this way and that's the story I stick to.)

AS I WAS SAYING: for the moment my major concern is not so much the camcorder... it's the footage as this was a OTO event and I want to know if the raw footage can be captured. Or am I screwed?

AS FOR THE CAMERA: probably needs to be "looked at" by authorized Canon Tech and yeah I get that. I'm really more concerned about the footage right now than anything else. That's the real question I need addressed. I don't have a back-up HDV camcorder / player... Got a call to a buddy who may help me out but for the time being......has anyone ever had this happen to them and if so... is there any possibility that my raw footage is okay?

anxiously awaiting a thoughtful reply...thanks in advance.
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Old September 24th, 2013, 06:13 PM   #2
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Re: XH-A1 Remove Cassette Issue ... Playback footage starts / freezes / starts / free

I've had some similar experiences lately with my Canon XH-A1 and Canon XH-A1S. Like you, brand new Sony tapes when it's happened. Like you, old tapes play fine. I'm suspecting quality control issues in the manufacturing of the new tapes. Had trouble with about 10% of the tapes I'd bought. Sometimes two out of the same box of five, sometimes several boxes with no problems. And almost never any evidence of a problem while recording, except the replace tape message once or twice in the past year or eighteen months or so.

What I started doing was to always use a tape that had worked previously, that's right, reuse old tapes for important shoots. Never had a problem with an old tape, I always threw out the tapes that failed.

Then, about two months ago, I purchased two DataVideo DN-60s. I used both tape and the DN-60s first few shoots. No problems with footage on DN-60s, but still sporadic problems with tapes. New tapes, not old tapes.

So, I will probably go tapeless with the two cameras. I think it's bad tapes. Had the same problem with two Vixia HV-30s as well. Can't prove it's the tapes, but 4 different cameras... If I use tape at all, it will be some of the used tapes I already have. I do NOT foresee buying any more new tapes. I have 3 32gb and one 16gb card for each DN-60, more than 9 hours worth for each camera.

As for recovering the footage, sometimes part of a bad tape the footage is okay. Sometimes the whole tape is shot. Unpredictable. Sorry.
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Old September 24th, 2013, 08:51 PM   #3
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Re: XH-A1 Remove Cassette Issue ... Playback footage starts / freezes / starts / free

Thanks for the reply Roger. Sounds like you had the same issue.

I've been carefully observing while troubleshooting this and this is a bit more information FWIW:

It seems that not the entire tape is giving me this "start / freeze / start / freeze issue" For example:
I had two- back-to-back interviews I shot several minutes apart (but back-to-back) on the same tape and yep, they were doing this
"start / freeze" bit. BUT... then the next scene is several shots of B-Roll and everything plays-back fine... I'm like huh??? Now I haven't checked all 7 tapes but suffice to say...there's issues on all of them...it was only during the interviews (the most important parts, naturally) where this anomaly occurred.

I observed that in the display on the LCD the HDV 60i in the upper right-hand corner would have just the 60i portion flicker on / off when the problem occurred during playback...but when the B-roll scenes played ...they were rock-solid and the HDV 60i was solid also.

I really...really ... really need to find a way somehow to salvage the interviews... these were OTO's and are really important to the project. My first thought is to see if I can get another HDV playback device that may compensate for whatever sync error (my guess) is happening on the tape... when I fast-forward / rewind...the timecode is working which would at least indicate that there is something to sync to... it's just some time/sync error is happening (again, I'm guessing) but maybe if I can get it on a more robust VTR with a solid output to a TBC / Frame synchronizer...it may correct the delay.. I don't know...just guessing from back in my old analog days of 3/4", 1 inch, BetaSP .

I'm beginning to think it may be as you said: bad tape. I've not had bad tapes in a looong, looong time.
Could be MiniDV is becoming a thing of the past and the QC just ain't what it used to be.


I've looked into simultaneous recording with a DVR piggy-backed ... but I think I may go ahead and just jump to a smaller camcorder with a HD on it and SD backup . The Canon is getting into year 6 or 7 and well... I'm sure it may be getting time to be replaced.
Thanks again for your reply.

Chaz
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Old September 24th, 2013, 09:55 PM   #4
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Re: XH-A1 Remove Cassette Issue ... Playback footage starts / freezes / starts / free

PS... had my Canon HV20 do this not long ago... I tried and tried to load tapes for playback but it wouldn't budge. I did some google searches and found several had similar issues. Some solutions (believe it or not) were to "Whack the side of the HV20" and for some that worked. Others were to send it to Canon for a $250 lookie/diagnostic which involved some repair. Hardly worth it IMHO for a camera that is now being sold online for about $250 used.

I'm beginning to lose my faith in the lower-end gear mkt. :( Could be tapes but I suspect it's a combo of things. :(
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Old September 25th, 2013, 06:24 AM   #5
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Re: XH-A1 Remove Cassette Issue ... Playback footage starts / freezes / starts / free

Well Chaz, from what I can tell trying to troubleshoot the problem systematically, I believe you hit the nail on the head when you said the QC during tape manufacture isn't what it used to be.

And I'm really sorry to report that I have not been able to salvage any footage from a bad section of tape even one time, even when I had the four cameras trying all four of them. Yet good tapes always captured fine whichever camera I used to capture.

I had switched to the Sony's about 4 years ago after having problems with JVC tapes. I'd switched to the JVC tapes before that from problems with Panasonics. I tended to stick with only one brand of tape to minimize problems and only switched because of problems. Now have switched from tape of any kind because of problems. Probably wouldn't have spent the money for the DN-60s had I not gotten fed up with the tape problems of the last year or two.

Perhaps none of the major manufacturers even make the tapes themselves anymore, just slap their labels on them. Don't know for sure, but tape manufacture is probably pretty low on the list of priorities for Sony and all the rest. SanDisk seems to take quality seriously in the manufacture of their memory cards though. So far not even one lost frame of footage from the two DN-60s. The cameras synch up more quickly without a tape in them too. So I may not even bother with tape anymore.

Wish I had better news to report regarding salvaging your footage. Luckily, I didn't have bad tape problems on any single camera jobs, like the sports shoots. Other events jobs I made it a practice to always have a second camera running.
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Old September 25th, 2013, 03:29 PM   #6
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Re: XH-A1 Remove Cassette Issue ... Playback footage starts / freezes / starts / free

Thanks for your reply.

Here's an update FWIW: I've yet to locate a 2nd playback device to see if the tape may be "tolerated" in a different machine but that is the next order of business.

The thing which is odd is that the playback error only occurs on certain entire scenes and not on others. For example, I have two interviews back-to-back on the tape that have the playback problem and then when the B-roll starts immediately after...the tape plays back fine. And I've seen interviews AFTER the B-ROLL not playback...??? Soooo.... why just the interviews? Are the video gods punishing me? ;-)

I spoke at length with a former colleague who works in Houston at a TV facility and his tech gurus tell me that it appears to be some sort of Control Track Sync Error symptom. They said it could be caused by:

Bad Tape
Dirty Heads
Extremely Hot Audio Peaking

Well... working backwards...the audio shouldn't be a problem because I was using AGC the whole time And there wasn't excessive peaking at any time. (I used the same setting for other interviews which playedback fine...so that seems to be eliminated.)

The dirty heads? Hmmm.... I really don't think so... besides...if the heads were "that dirty" ...would've thought the error would've been CLEAN HEADS instead of REMOVE CASSETTE as that's what the Canon Manual indicates would happen.

Bad Tape? Gee.... I don't know... this would be a first in all my years of using this tape service.
Unreal... but possible.


Anyways.... I'm hoping to get a 2nd playback device to playback and see if the machine will play it or will it glitch. In any event... I'm searching for a facility in nearby DFW (about 3 hrs drive) to see if they have some sort of video chain that can playback error-prone videotapes.

Gosh I sure hope so.

Chaz
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Old September 25th, 2013, 03:44 PM   #7
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Re: XH-A1 Remove Cassette Issue ... Playback footage starts / freezes / starts / free

My experience: it's bad tapes. For years no problems. Last year or so, lots of problems with the new Sony tapes. Pop an old tape in, plays fine. If something was gumming up the heads or something, logic says it would affect the old tapes too. Old tapes always play fine. New tapes with a problem, always act up. New tapes that don't have a problem, work fine just like old tapes. Believe QC in tape manufacture has gotten shoddy.

I fought with this issue for a long time. If there is something getting on the heads in the camera, how does it always disappear when I play an old tape? And how does it only reappear on the same problem tapes repeatedly. My conclusion is bad tapes. So, I bought the two DN-60s.

I cannot rely on new tape when more than 10% of the new tapes seem to be defective. Reusing old tapes has been working okay for now, but how many times should I reuse a tape before that gets risky?

Maybe the super expensive new tapes are still good, but the regular Sony DV tapes were just fine for a long time. I used to buy twenty or more at a time.
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Old January 21st, 2014, 07:44 PM   #8
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Re: XH-A1 Remove Cassette Issue ... Playback footage starts / freezes / starts / free

Okay,

Like you guys, I had this issue on the XLH1 when I first purchased it used from a Cragslist posting. The BAD NEWS....the heads in the tape deck are bad, the sensor needs to be cleaned and there is a timing mechanism in the camera that is off and must be reset. I took it to a very competent camera repair facility in Chicago and spent about $600.00 to have the entire cassette chassis replaced, the timing mechanism reset and the sensor cleaned. Going tapeless is a great idea but at minimum, I would make sure that my camera was fully functional.

Good luck.
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Old January 25th, 2014, 09:53 AM   #9
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Re: XH-A1 Remove Cassette Issue ... Playback footage starts / freezes / starts / free

Roger / Maurice - does this sudden issue seem to be only with recently manufactured batches of Sony tapes? I have been using the Panasonic and Fuji's for years... no problems yet... I do also still use the Sony DVCAM tapes in my DVCAM camera , but (knock on wood) have not noticed any issues there either.

Wonder if this will force us all remaining tape users to solid state? :(

thanks all
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Old January 25th, 2014, 12:56 PM   #10
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Re: XH-A1 Remove Cassette Issue ... Playback footage starts / freezes / starts / free

Dave,

I don't know that this sudden issue seems to be only with recently manufactured batches of Sony tapes. I have been told that when using any DV camera that a good practice is to use tapes manufactured by the same company for each use. So if you start off using Sony.

I don't know that I really got a sold answer as to the cause of this problem but in my mind it would seem that it seemed from dirty heads that were never properly cleaned by the previous owner.

If I had your problem now with the current cameras out on the market, I'd pay the money to have it fixed. I don't follow cameras as much as I used to but I don't know that there are many cameras out there priced at whatever it would cost you to fix your camera having the same of better features. At minimum with Canon, you'd be looking at a Canon XA25 a Canon XF105 or a Canon XF305 if the SDI connections are important to you.
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Old April 6th, 2014, 08:52 PM   #11
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Re: XH-A1 Remove Cassette Issue ... Playback footage starts / freezes / starts / free

I had the same issue with my Canon XLH1A. I was using a brand new Panasonic mini-dv tape. The old tapes worked fine, though, and it got to where I only used the "used" tapes for important events. Those new Panasonic tapes also had the same issues with my Canon XHA1/s camcorders... but the older, used tapes never had an issue. So I believe it is the newer tapes. Anyway, after much searching, I've been able to buy Firestore FS-4HD with 80 gig hard drives. Those are what I use now, with tape still being used for the "just in case" important stuff. I was planning on selling and getting upgrades, but now that I have the firestores, I intend to keep my cameras until they completely die...
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