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Old February 12th, 2004, 12:07 AM   #1
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Archiving U-matic to Digital8 to DVD - HELP!

Hey there gang.

It's poor form to have my first post on this delightful site be a longwinded ramble about how screwed-up I may be; highlighting the differences between my understanding of the theory of things and how they really are, but I WILL appreciate being set straight, advised, or otherwise hobnobbed with.

Situation: I have hundreds if not thousands of hours of irreplaceable archival video on decomposing tapes. This stuff goes back 30 years... though I've given up on the 2" quad tapes and the 1" reels. However, I actually have functioning playback decks for the 3/4" stuff, and there's a ton of it.

My plan was to dub it to D8 using a Sony TRV310 camcorder, and thence to DVD using a Panasonic DMR-E50 DVD-R deck. The various theories I employed in deciding this were that D8 using a more robust tape than miniDV, not to mention slightly cheaper. I'm on a budget, and the difference between a Digital8 signal and a DVCAM signal is pretty much nothing. The reason for additionally dubbing to DVD is simply not to have all eggs in one basket archivally. The DMR-E50 does very clean video in 1-hour mode. Moreover, I have to view the finished D8 tapes anyhow to make sure they playback OK, so I might as well be dubbing them at the time. Also, while DVD's are nice for scrubbing through to find stuff quickly, having it on a DV tape will make editing it in FCP easier, which I plan to do from time to time on my mac.

So for the last week I have been dubbing old tapes, using head-cleaning cassettes, and when things have gotten really funky, resorted to acetone (for drum cleaning, not sniffing). How nice to have all these onto neat little D8 tapes.

Except today, after dubbing one of them perfectly (I reviewed the vid quality on my 32" entertainment TV upstairs) to DVD, I started the second tape, and was horrified to see gross pixelation - if that's what you call it - blocky smear when things moved. ARGH! The DVD recorder decided to die at that point, too and refuse to cough up the blank, so it's off to panasonic for repair as proof the universe hates me.

But the pixelation problem vexes me. The camera doesn't pixelate when shooting through its optics and imaging chip, ever, that I've seen, even though it's just a 1-chip cheapie. Presumably the processing of the signal which is fed from its internal chip gets more processing help than an s-vid signal jacked into its side. In which case I need to figure some other kind of hardware, fairly cheap, to get this done.

On the other hand, there was NO such pixelation on the previous tape, recorded several days earlier, which ALSO had a lot of movement, and was recorded using the same decks, camcorder, and setup. So THAT makes me wonder whether it's variation in the Hi8 tape blanks I'm using (TDK premium, all the same type), or if this is a 'dirty head' problem (or something else) in the D8 machine. If any of you would care to take pity on my ignorance and clue me in, I'd appreciate it.

Again, this is being done for a charity with little money to spend. There is also just too much footage to import it into a computer and save it thatway; real-time dubbing is the only way it'll happen.

Thanks!

Don
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Old February 12th, 2004, 07:21 AM   #2
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Don,

First guess, dirty heads on the High 8. Clean them and see if that helps.

Second guess, the Camera tape transport has lost allignment. (This will result in pixelation along one side...) If you are in fact, using the camera for hours on end, shuttling and rewinding and recording... it's possible the heads and tape path are out of allignment. (This is why "pro" decks cost so much. Much more sturdy.)

Good luck.
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Old February 12th, 2004, 12:47 PM   #3
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I think Richard is probably right in that diagnosis. Digital 8 tape should be as good as miniDV, but the camera probably has a lot of hours on the heads. Lots of people run into trouble using a cheap camera as a deck. Even though you CAN do it, that doesn't mean it's really sturdy enough for that kind of work. If what you're doing is a charitable thing, maybe you can get a local rental house to let you use a decent deck for awhile to do the project? If you could score something like a DSR11, or any of the DVCAM decks that takes full size tapes, you could use 184's, which in DV mode would give you around 4 hours per tape. Might be cheaper in the long run than using all those Hi8 tapes.
I'm on the board of a local film festival, which is a non-profit organization, and we get excellent cooperation from local equipment suppliers. We get decks and video projectors all the time. If you go and explain what you're doing, maybe somebody there will help you out.
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Old February 12th, 2004, 02:09 PM   #4
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Thanks, I'll try...

Hey thanks, I appreciate the input, which if true is sorta the direction I was thinking.

The digital8 camcorder has low hours and I don't use its motors to FF or RW, so it didn't seem like I would be straining the tape transport too much. I'm aware that it's a non-robust (even fragile) taping system, but my charity has used a lot of such camcorders for ENG and they generally have a pretty decent useful life; ie, my people destroy them before they have a chance to break.

I've tried getting local resources to lend us a DVcam deck, but these days there are too many charities - 800,000 in the US, I hear, anyone can hang out a shingle for $25 or so - that it isn't like it was a quarter-century ago. That, coupled with the fact that I need a dubbing deck for months of use, has made it a non-starter.

Moreover, looking at the specs of DVcam, it seems like aside from fancy nuances like chips in the tapes, all they (mostly) do is stick the DV signal on a more robust tape (spreading the signal over more tape). Which D8 also does, cheap. I was unable to find any "sturdy" D8 decks; do they exist at a price cheaper than DVcam decks?

Any recommendations on how often to clean D8 tape heads, and with what sort of cleaner? Do these cameras screw up if you keep them on a long time, like 8 hours at a stretch?

I must say that if the heads are now out of alignment, but that's the only problem, I would be tempted to buy a new D8 camcorder - you can get one in the box for about $400 - and keep doing things as I have been. Once this batch of tapes is archived, the need will be over... and I can easily do firewire transfers from the new tapes to whatever future format emerges.

By all means give me alternate advice, though, if this sounds wrongheaded.

and again, thanks

Don
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Old February 12th, 2004, 02:19 PM   #5
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I don't think Sony ever made a Digital 8 deck, so you're stuck with using a camcorder. You might want to just take the one you have in for service and see what it costs to get it tuned up, cleaned and all. Only problem, if the heads are out of alignment, any tapes you recorded under those conditions won't play back on the camera once it's put back into spec.

About DVCAM...the tapes and recording are indeed more robust than miniDV or D8. But I wasn't suggesting you record in DVCAM. The DSR11 will also record in DV, so you can get more on a tape. The main issue would be to use a good deck. But if you can't get one, that's show biz. Since you have successfully done some recording and now it's not working, that means there's some problem with (probably) the camera, not with your system. The way you're doing it seems to be the cheapest way, in the absence of a deck. Eight hours of recording shouldn't cause head clog unless the tapes you're using are crappy ones.
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Old February 12th, 2004, 08:41 PM   #6
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It...is... alive....!

Say, I gave the heads a cleaning, used the same camcorder and U-matic hookup, and... no pixelation! So good advice, and I also don't feel quite as stupid. Reasonably stupid, but not quite as much.

Of course, my DVD burner is still 'in the shop' and will be for 2-3 weeks since panasonic now sends all repairs to the mainland (I'm in Hawaii). So as long as I had to watch the new tape anyhow, I tried a new toy that I personally picked up recently... an SVCD deck. And just burnt a nicely serviceable SVCD of a 30-minute production my group did in the past. I have no idea WHY I'll need SVCD ability, but the deck was cheap, well-made, and does a nice job. Not good enough for archiving, but it's nice to get a full production onto a 5-cent blank.

If anyone is into SVCD trivia, the decks are being closed out now by a couple of large 'net electronics outlets... you can probably find them by using one of the price-comparison services for "LiteOn LVR-1001". They're going for $118 with free shipping, and also play DVD's and most other digital formats, and are high-speed CD dupers as well (two trays).

anyhow, thanks, and carry on.

Don
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Old February 17th, 2004, 09:36 PM   #7
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Don, thanks for the headsup on the LVR-1001.

The wife said to get another DVD player for the second living room and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. NewEgg is closing them out for $110 with free shipping!

Its progressive scan but with a kick, a CD-R kick!

Thanks again!
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Old February 18th, 2004, 01:08 AM   #8
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SVCD deck....

Hey, you're welcome. I got great advice from my first post, and it seems like a great group of folks. I was hoping someone would enjoy a cheap fun toy.

I'll try to post other stuff as it seems useful... and so far I'm enjoying the LVR-1001 I got, though I haven't tried all features yet.

Unique toys are their own excuse, right?

DW
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Old February 19th, 2004, 06:59 PM   #9
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Just an update that I received my LVR-1001 at work today and the darn thing actually copied a Windows 2003 Server CD... Flawlessly and in about five minutes.

For those wanting to archive footage to SVCD it can record real-time from your camcorder's s-video output!

Nice touch that includes two PCMCIA readers for your digital camera media (CompactFlash, Memorys Stick, MMC, SD, etc..).
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