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Canon XL H Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XL H1S (with SDI), Canon XL H1A (without SDI). Also XL H1.


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Old March 30th, 2011, 09:21 AM   #1
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Choosing and using tape for my XLH1s

I'm new to this camera and in fact I'm new to a tape cameras in general. Up to this point all my experience has been with consumer cameras that record to either Cards or Hard Drives. I have a few questions that I would appreciate response to even if it's just a link to a thread where the topic has been dealt with.

1. Since the deck on the camera seems to be where they wear out, I should get some kind of Capture Deck to prolong the life of the camera. What is the best option for this. I've been finding they range in price from $1000 to $96,000. Do these Decks go bad? Is there a source to purchase a reliable one pre-owned?

2. I have been using 60 minute Sony DVC tapes. I go through 2 per game I'm recording. Is there a noticeable difference in image quality if I were to switch to HDV tapes?

3. Is there a reason to purchase pro grade tapes? If there is, is it image quality or durability.

4. Can tapes be erased and re-used without a drop in image quality? I plan to record the full season but after the season is complete and I have fully delivered the product I see no reason to keep the tapes as back-up any longer. Can I erase them and re-use them for a future job? I know they sell erasers but didn't know if that is just for security or if it makes the tape re-recordable. If I can re-record, what is the cycle life for a mini-dv tape. How long till it just goes bad.

Thanks for the help.
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Old March 30th, 2011, 07:36 PM   #2
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Re: Choosing and using tape for my XLH1s

Hi Paul,

All these topics have been covered in the forums here, but tape is getting less and less coverage as people are updating their gear to solid state storage type.

I'm no expert, but would be happy to get the ball rolling here.

1. If you want to go tapeless, there is the hard drive recorder made by Focus Enhancement. I know there WAS a version of this that was made specifically for the Canon, I think it's the FS-C model, but I don't know if it's still in production. I doubt it. This will record the same quality video signal as your tape. Not sure if they also record the audio signal. I'd think you'd be able to get a used one for $500 - $800. Then there's the Convergent Design recorder, which uses solid state memory and is a much more capable recording device, as it will record your video in a higher quality than is possible with the tape. I believe the latest models allow you to patch in the audio also. People using this device appear to be really impressed with the results they get. Do they go bad? Well, everything is subject to failure, but with the solid state memory, you can buy the expensive CF cards which have a good reputation for their reliability. The Focus Enhancement does have a hard drive inside, so there's still some moving parts involved there.

2. I use the Sony HDV tapes whether I shoot in SD or HDV. There has been some debate on whether there is any difference (other than price) between the two versions. Some say it's marketing hype. I was never able to find any specs on the tape, such as details on the tape's coating material/thickness, etc. I chose to use the HDV and pay the much higher price because I trust that they are made with a higher density of magnetic particles. The signal going onto the tape is digital, and the data should be identical whether on a SD miniDV or a HDV miniDV tape. The thing with HDV, is that the tape records one key frame which contains all the image data (like a snapshot) and then the next 14 frames only contain data to reflect the differences in the current image to the image recorded on frame number 1. This goes on for 14 frames. So, if you have a corruption in frame number 1's image data, then you will lose all 15 frames, which could be half a second of playback video. If you have a corruption in frame number 7, then you will lose frames 7 thru 15, or a quarter of a second. When shooting in SD mode, the recording method is different then this HDV scheme and is more tolerant of corrupted frames, which does not cause you to lose so many frames. I believe the HDV version of miniDV tape has a better quality coating to help reduce incidents of corrupted image data (or time code data for that matter). All things being equal, I don't think you can tell any difference between a good recording onto the miniDV tape as compared to the miniDV HDV tape. Many folks refuse to pay the much higher price for HDV and do just fine shooting their HDV video onto the cheaper miniDV media. Since you're looking to go tapeless, kind of makes all this a moot point though, right?

3. It would be for image quality INSURANCE. Actually it just buys you some "hope".

4. You can re-use them and you don't need to erase them first. There might even be an advantage to leaving the tape un-erased, as it has timecode laid down on it already. How many times you want to re-use them is another matter. Pick a number. How about 3. Why tempt fate. If the tape is stretched or otherwise not recording properly, I doubt you will discover that until you attempt to playback. Again, if you go tapeless, not really an issue.

Paul, as I said earlier, this subject matter has been highly debated and I'm not going to argue with anyone about how many times you can re-use a tape or whether there's any difference in the two types. But if I've got my facts wrong, hopefully someone will correct me so you get the best possible answer.

Mark
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Old March 31st, 2011, 02:39 AM   #3
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Re: Choosing and using tape for my XLH1s

Presumably you bought this camera secondhand? If so you should check with the previous owner to confirm which brand of tape he had been using, as mixing brands can sometimes cause problems on the heads (though a cleaning will usually resolve this).

1) Capture decks (tape decks) are very expensive (and not all of them can play Canon HDV progressive framerate). Most Canon users figured the best, and least expensive way to get a capture deck for an XLH1 would be to buy a Canon HV series camcorder. This plays all of the Canon progressive framerates, and it can also be used as a 'B' camera if required.

If you're talking about a tapless capture device that records off the camera then you could look at a Datavideo DN-60 at the lower end of the scale up to the Convergent Design Nanoflash at the higher end of the scale. Devices like the DN-60 and the Firestore devices capture HDV from the firewire cable (so there is no improvement in image quality, and the cable has a consumer connection) while devices like the Nanoflash capture the uncompressed signal from the HD/SDI output (meaning an improvement in the image, and they use a strong professional connection).

2/3) I use Sony Mini DV tapes too. Stock up on them as there may be a short supply of them in the future. I have used Sony HDV tapes in the past and never saw any kind of improvement. As Mark said in his reply, the higher quality was about less chance of corrupted images.

4) I've never reused tapes, but I might start doing it at some point (but I also use a Nanoflash to record tapeless, so the tapes are only for back up these days).
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Old March 31st, 2011, 11:29 AM   #4
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Re: Choosing and using tape for my XLH1s

Yes I did purchase the camera second hand. The dude I bought it from is a buddy of mine and used the camera to shoot a Music video and that's it. He uses the Sony tapes. I was just wondering if there was a better option. I guess I'll stick with them. Good thing too. They are cheap!

I had been talking about a tape deck. I don't know what they are called. I really like the Idea of the second camera. Are you talking about this one?
Canon VIXIA HV40 High Definition Camcorder 3686B001 B&H Photo
This works out perfect cause my home movie camera just crapped out on me and I had planned on it for a time I'm supposed to be in 2 places at the same time.

I've been kicking around the idea of a NANO Flash. I think that is a way to go in the future. I'll wait for a few more gigs first before I drop the coin though.

I talked to my dad (who works for a Huge law firm) and they have a large Degausser at work they use for security purposes with their tape servers and hard drives. He said he'd through my tapes through it if i wanted to zero them out. What I'm hearing here is that I can just tape over them without doing that. Is that the case? If it's good to Degausse them, is a Degausser a Degausser? Would the big one he has do the job well? I don't know anything about that part of this. I was wondering if his would be too powerful and ruin my tapes.

Thanks!
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Old March 31st, 2011, 12:12 PM   #5
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Re: Choosing and using tape for my XLH1s

The HV40 should work, though to be honest I have not heard from any owners to confirm it. The HV20 and HV30 definitely work, and they can be picked up for a couple of hundred second-hand.

Never plug the firewire cable into a live camera, as it can fry the port. Rather plug in the firewire cable first, and then switch on the camera.

The tapes can just be recorded over directly I believe. Though you could always experiment with one old tape in the degausser to see what happens!
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Old March 31st, 2011, 03:36 PM   #6
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Re: Choosing and using tape for my XLH1s

The HV-40 works just fine in playing back footage recorded on the bigger Canon camcorders. I use one with my XH-A1.

If you find your brand of cheap tapes is reliable, stick to that. You will not see any difference in using the more expensive HDV tapes.

Don't bother with the bulk eraser/degausser - waste of time. You can just record over the tapes.
Some folks here re-use them many times with no problems (I don't, because I use the tapes for archiving the footage).

BTW, there is some evidence for a shortage of tape stock in some areas due to some manufacturers ceasing production (eg JVC) and then the Japanese producers having problems recently, so you might wish to get in a reasonable supply.
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Old March 31st, 2011, 03:49 PM   #7
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Re: Choosing and using tape for my XLH1s

hmm... If tape is going away... Should I get out of this deal to buy the XLH1 and buy an XF305? I JUST bought this camera, I can't afford it to be obsolete and un-usable just yet. That's a lot of money to spend on a paper weight. I was hoping to get at least 5 years out of this one.
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Old March 31st, 2011, 04:04 PM   #8
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Re: Choosing and using tape for my XLH1s

I think the tape stock issue with Sony is directly related to the earthquake/tsunami event which damaged their magnetic media factory.
Production should start up again in the future, but in the short term you ought to stock up. Sony Mini Dv tapes are still easy to find (I just bought a couple of boxes from amazon), so no need to panic for the moment.
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Old April 23rd, 2011, 09:11 AM   #9
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Re: Choosing and using tape for my XLH1s

Well, I finally came across something about the differences between regular MiniDV tapes and those marked "HDV". This is from a wikipedia entry...

"Tape manufacturers also offer MiniDV cassettes specifically for HDV recording. Such cassettes have the same Metal Evaporate (ME) formulation as normal DV cassettes, but are manufactured with smaller tolerances. These cassettes are claimed to have reduced drop-out rate compared to standard DV cassettes. Usage of such cassettes is not required by HDV specification."

HDV - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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Old April 25th, 2011, 08:01 AM   #10
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Re: Choosing and using tape for my XLH1s

I've tried just about every kind of tape out there and had trouble with even the most expensive tapes.
For me, the Panasonic AY-DVM63PQ tapes are great, inexpensive and have had the fewest dropouts of any.
If you are using Sony, you will absolutely want to clean your heads before switching to Panny.

As always, YMMV.
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