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Old June 3rd, 2004, 05:35 AM   #1
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XL1 playback problem - is tape recoverable?

I have searched these forums, but can't find my exact problem described here, so am making a new post. I bought a Canon XL1 new in May 2000, and (don't laugh) it has shot about 40 tapes in the 4 years. I always use Panasonic Professional DVM63 tapes. I usually pre-stripe the tapes to get continuous timecode before use, so total passes through the camera transport mechanism is less than a hundred hours. I couldn't imagine the XL1 is worn out. It has led a sheltered life. Here is my problem:

Last month May 2004 I hired a second XL1 and did a 2 camera shoot of a family wedding, with pro audio etc. Actually this was the first serious use of the camera, when I wanted to see several good tapes all the way through, before capturing them into an edit suite. OK - now problems arose when I used my XL1 in VCR mode to playback all the tapes (hire camera been returned). Situation as follows:

1. Tapes shot with my XL1 playback fine for the first 40-45 mins, then the last 15-20mins, the frames started to 'jump', and this gets progressively worse as the tape winds down, quickly getting unwatchable. The 'jumps' typically have part top of scene on bottom of the viewed picture, but sometimes the bottom on the top, and the general appearance to me is somewhat like an old analogue TV set with the 'vertical hold' out of adjustment. It doesn't matter whether I preview the tapes to my edit monitor via analogue cables, or via DV firewire. In painfully watching a tape all the way to the end, there is even about three brief 'blue screens' of presumably no signal at all. Generally, there is audio breaks associated with the 'jumping. Do the symptome make sense? There is probably a technical term I should be using, but I don't know it, so please understand.

2. Tapes shot with the other hire XL1, upon playback in my camera, are not as bad, but do exhibit the same jumping.

3. I was shocked, and grabbed a tape shot in my XL1 August 2000 and was disappointed to find even it jumped (much more subdued) in the last 15 mins or so. So either my current playback is related to the problem, or (unlikely) the camera has had a problem since day 1?

4. I thought the prestriping and rewind in advance of shooting would make it hard for tape tension on the reels to be an issue? I also briefly ran a Panasonic head cleaner tape but this made no difference to these reported symptoms.

5. I then borrowed a 2nd Mini DV camera (a smaller Canon) and tried to preview via playback of the same three tapes in it. Results were:

a. The May 2004 tape shot in my XL1 camera still displayed audio dropouts, and some jumping (not as bad).

b. The May 2004 tape shot in the hire XL1 now was OK without jumping.

c. The Aug 2000 tape shot with my XL1 now was OK without jumping.

6. At this stage I tentatively conclude my XL1 has some problem that gets worse as the tape spools change, and that affects the recording itself.

7. I loaded up a fresh prestriped tape 2 days ago, and left the camera running all the way through, and confirmed that the tape completes right to the end without any visible jumping or other symptoms. However, if that tape is backwound and then playback in VCR mode, the same thing happens ie. starts jumping with audio problems in the last 20 minutes or so. In this case, if I noted the exact timecode of a 'jump' and then rewound and approached again, it generally jumps, but not at the same timecode positions previously noted - in fact it could be a couple of minutes different. Does this make sense?

8. Fortunately, I had taken out an optional 5yr warranty on the camera when I bought it, but that is small consolation for my footage. I have lodged the camera with the outfit I bought it from, and it goes back to Canon in Sydney on Monday coming. It's funny how all sorts of dark thought pop up - like will I get my own camera back etc - but obviously I've got to have faith in the system, and at this stage I do have.

9. Am I doing the right thing here? Could the XL1 actually have a problem after so little usage? Have you guys any experience of this issue with an XL1?

10. I read a post where it was suggested that the footage should be captured with the same faulty camera, as a playback deck may not be aligned the same, and the camera will come back aligned (or something) differently as well? But in my case this seems futile, as my tests appear to indicate the playback camera is not going to allow a proper capture of the end of the tapes. So I'm guessing my (serviced) camera or a deck should be used to capture, and I 'may' have to accept the end of the tapes (those shot with my camera) are going to be unusable? I hope someone can tell me otherwise!!

Apologies for such a long post in my first contact with your forum. Looking forward to the benefit of wise counsel. Thank you ever so much. regards, Myron.
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Old June 3rd, 2004, 05:49 AM   #2
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Make SURE you include a tape that exhibits the problem when you
send your camera to Canon. Include a note that says the problem
starts at the end of the tape etc.

This will allow them to see the problem firsthand.

Other than that I would just wait to see what Canon does. They
will not send you a new camera, but they might replace the whole
tape assembly for example.

If you where not going to send it in I would have proposed trying
a different tape brand (after running a cleaning tape) to see what
that does.

Just wait on Canon's report first!
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Old June 3rd, 2004, 06:26 AM   #3
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Hi Rob. Appreciated your quick response.
Yes, I DID include a detailed note, and also my last fresh tape I described in point 7 - and it was stopped toward the end, right where the problem will be immediately visible to Canon.

This doesn't give me a good feeling. I know the camera is quality gear, so maybe I'm just unlucky? I have a sense of humour, so I sure wish I'd had reason to edit up some footage a few months ago, as I'd maybe have discovered something then. Part of the price of currently being a non-professional user, I guess. M.
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Old June 3rd, 2004, 06:07 PM   #4
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Anyone else care to comment briefly about what might be causing these symptoms? Surely I'm not so unlucky I got the only XL1 in the world that would do this? Thanks, M.
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Old June 3rd, 2004, 08:00 PM   #5
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I'm curious to know if you've always used your camera to input the footage? (I.e. the previous 40 tapes)

I think that might help me diagonis it.
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Old June 3rd, 2004, 10:24 PM   #6
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well, my first guess on this would have been dirty heads--- but if it's under warranty and it won't kill you to send it in I'd let them figure it out and fix it.

That reminds me that I should look into extended warranties on my stuff--- one cool thing is that I live about 10 minutes from the Canon service shop in NJ.
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Old June 3rd, 2004, 10:37 PM   #7
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I am not a video technician, so take my thoughts for whatever they may be worth. Your "jumping" frames sound symptomatic of some type of alignment problem in the tape transport. I suspect that the tape might not be moving over the head in a stable manner.

Regardless of what I think, this does not sound like an owner-fixable problem. It will require a visit to Canon service. And do be sure to take Rob's suggestion to include a sample tape with the camera when you send the camera to Canon.
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Old June 3rd, 2004, 11:04 PM   #8
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Allow my technical side to jump in here for a moment. It sounds from your description and different scenarios that you might have a component, possibly even the tape drive that is getting hot and failing. Why? Because your problems start at the end of a full pass of the tape. In one scenario, you said you backed up the tape after noting where the problem started and it wasn't as bad. You also said it didn't occur in the exact same spot on the timecode which also leads me to believe that this is somehow heat related.

Try this. Position the tape at the spot where you have noted the problem starting. Remove the tape from the camera. Let camera have a couple hours of cooldown time. Then play the tape. If the problem is less prevalent, suspect a heat issue. Also, keep in mind that the tape you shot with the problem may be corrupted during the recording process and will still show problems.

Get a fresh tape, forward the tape to approximately the last 20 minutes of remaining time and record some video after the camera cools off. See if it plays back ok.

That's my .02 worth. Hope this helps you narrow it down.

regards,
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Old June 3rd, 2004, 11:14 PM   #9
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Excellent observation, Greg.

But, assuming that Myron has not omitted a small detail such as his hobby of shooting blast furnaces, a trip to Canon service is still in the camera's future.
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Old June 4th, 2004, 06:42 AM   #10
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Hi Nick
Actually (this is a tad embarrassing) my previous 40 tapes were only ever subjected to an occasional few scenes of playback in the camera VTR, and then fully backwound and the cassette tab slid over to make them safe, and then they were progressively placed in a cupboard ready for the day when I was going to get organised with an edit suite! So (unbelievably) this family wedding shoot last month (4 yrs after camera purchase) was the 'first' time I paid detailed attention to the full tapes, and now intended to capture them onto my hdd. Yeah - I know - it's hilarious really - the sort of thing you read about happening to some 'other ' clown! Hoo boy - I've learnt some lessons here. I'm actually a Forestry Scientist in my day job, and have a very strong still camera background, but I'm only now in a position to get serious with video editing and stuff. On another post today I asked about some proper semi-professional decks I'm looking at to keep away from the camera's tape transport.

Hi Greg
That was an interesting analysis about maybe some form of heat failure. Although I live in sunny Queensland, it is autumn here, and my fresh tape (point 7 of original post) was shot in mid morning (mild 19 degrees Celsius) from an indoor position viewing outside, and still gave the problem. That was also the only tape shot that morning. I'm puzzled how that tape showed zero symptoms of anything while it was being shot, yet was similarly faulty on playback toward the end of the tape as described. Actually apologies on one point - where I said in 5b the tape was fine in another camera playback - to be more specific it wasn't 'jumping', but the audio dropouts were still there (the 'stereo' on the other cameras foldout screen was flashing on and off in association with some slight 'white sparklies' on the screen as well). I would have liked to try your diagnosis idea of taking the tape out/cooldown stuff, but the camera is already on it's way to Canon. Maybe better still in case of playback of previously corrupted tape - I could have only recorded the first 45 mins - then done this cooldown stuff, and THEN fresh recorded on from there in that last 15 minute zone where the big problems were.

Hi Kevin and Ken
Yeah, I'll have to see what Canon come up with now. I just hope they call me if they are not happy with the amount of detail in the note supplied a few days ago. Hey Ken - shooting blast furnaces was never one of my hobbies - he he!

Hoping for some more comment, as this is a great learning tool for me. Will keep you all posted on what the final outcome is. M.
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Old June 4th, 2004, 07:57 AM   #11
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I'm also not a technician, But I'm thinking that it is something with the tape drive motor. I was curious about amount of playback because that would tell us exactly how many operation hours are on your heads. Even if you only shot 40 hours of footage and you used the camera to prestripe the footabe that puts you at 80 record hours, then you take into account that the 40 tapes were each probably looked at at least once that would raise it to 120 operation hours, I suspect that when you now try to digitize the tapes and are noticing the skipped frames you are adding another 10 to 20 hours on the heads. which brings you up to say 130 to 140. Now 140 hours over 4 years of real work shouldn't be that bad but if a tape got left in the deck for a while that would pull on the tension springs needed for keeping tape slack correct for record and playback so that once the tape reached a certain length the springs would be fully stretched out and unable to give or receive a signal.

So my guess is that the drop outs will not be there on b camera and on yours they most likely aren't completely lost, how long before prestriping the tape did you actually record an image on it? If the prestriping didn't jump then it porbably happened during the time between the two. I don't know if that helps, but I think the tension springs (or whatever they're called) are what's at fault in this case.
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Old June 4th, 2004, 09:28 AM   #12
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I am also obviously not a technician, but your note made a lot of sense to me. Now that I think about it, as I'm on acreage and haven't been in a real job for the 4 years (I do consulting) I DID get into the bad habit of leaving a tape in the camera so the setup was ready to go next time some wildlife walked past the verandah, when I would grab the camera and take a few minutes or whatever, and then put it away again until next time. Sometimes this might have gone on for weeks (about a year or two ago) with the same tape always in the camera! So you're suggesting/stating that if the tape is left in the camera, it would likely be (constantly?) pulling on the tension springs that keep the tape tensioned correctly? Seems logical that if that was happening, maybe the springs permanently lost tension - which would explain how old tapes (or b camera tapes) replayed today in the XL1 wouldn't playback properly toward the end of the tapes (lost tension) - yet would playback OK in the b camera. Is this correct, or have I misunderstood how the spring tensions work?

You lost me on the prestriping queries, Nick. I prestriped in the XL1 (no image on tape because lens cap on) about 24hours before the actual shoot, which has the 'end of tape' problems only on my camera footage - not on the 2nd hire camera footage, as would be expected. I don't know if the prestriping 'jumped' but if the lack of spring tension toward the end of the tape is the cause, then logically it would have jumped during (unseen) PLAYBACK of the prestriping, but this was never attempted and/or wouldn't be visible anyway without an image at that stage. I say this PLAYBACK because my point 7 of original post used a fresh tape (but leftover unused from the prestriped ones) and in recording on it, it fully completed without any jumping during shooting, yet it DID jump in that last 20 mins on PLAYBACK again - exactly as per the 'wedding' footage I had shot. I don't want to get confused - but would playback of the prestriping effectively be happening as the tape was being recorded the next day, or is the spring tension thing different for playback vs record modes? Is there any possibility that timecode was somehow made out of sync and contributed to playback problems (I don't understand this part).

Does the spring tension theory allow for the audio dropouts apparently present as well? What about the 2 or 3 brief bluescreens I described in point 1 of my original post? Finally, I imagine my (novice) sin of previously leaving the tape in the camera for extended periods was a bad idea for other reasons such as encouraging tape residue on the heads etc? Thanks again for your feedback.
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Old June 4th, 2004, 10:39 PM   #13
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Yeah that prestriping thing was kinda stream of conciousness, so don't worry about it.

You got what I was talking about with spring tension, I've never seen it happen but then again I've never seen half of the problems discussed on these forums.

With the prestriping thing I was trying to figure out how many hours were on the heads, because initially I thought it might be a head cloging thing, then I realized the spring tension thing. I was wondering if there was loss of time code because the spring thing should occur during playback and recording since it's basically just a part of the VTR. The prestriping should have lost timecode as well because it's basically the same part of the tape (regardless of recording or playing back)

I believe the spring tension theory would give you a reason for audio dropouts, and the loss of time code would be the reason you got the bluescreens -I think- Yeah, the usual problem with leaving a tape in is gunking up your heads, (as I've done on occasion) but the worse problem would be the one you experienced. Bottom line you probably still got at least 40 minutes of useable footage from (a cam) and all of (bcam) should be fine. When the camera comes back I suggest maybe using a deck or a smaller cheaper dv camera, like the elura that way you'll only have to worry about tension from recording the image on to tape, and in a way it's king of good that things happened when they did instead of say in a year when your 5 year warrenty might have expired.

Hey when the camera comes back let me know if they tell you what was wrong.
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Old June 5th, 2004, 12:47 AM   #14
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wow my first post.

i'm actually having the same problem although mine is slightly worse. any footage i record with my XL1 jumps when trying to import it via firewire. a non xl1 shot tape imports fine with the xl1 so i don't think its the firewire. the frames get very jumpy and i get these weird blocks of gray and blue and red randomly on the monitor.

it's extremely annoying since i just picked it up. i have run a head cleaner through there so that shouldn't be the case.
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Old June 5th, 2004, 11:22 AM   #15
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Congrats on your first post! Maybe you cuold go into a little more detail aboutt he problem you're having? Are your importing problems occuring thru the whole tape? Are the XL1 tapes and the non XL1 tapes made by the same manufactuer. How many tapes have this problem?
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