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Old August 12th, 2003, 01:50 AM   #1
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Wary of DVCAM dropouts...

This is my first post here but I've been using DVCAM for awhile now and am a bit frightened by what's been occurring of late.

In a word, dropouts.

I've read the dropout/dirty head threads here so I have a bit of background but essentially I'm a bit frightened by how fragile DVCAM has proved to be recently.

In short, it appears that DVCAM tapes should only be used once, and even then there's no guarantee of anything.

Bad experience #1: Some dropouts on a mini-DVCAM 40 minute tape, where I realized I didn't want an existing shot and rewound a bit to tape over the material I knew I wouldn't need. OK, I figured, my fault as I know camcorders go into pause and I probably wore away the tape there more than most areas. No big deal.

Bad experience #2: Brand new, out of the case DVCAM 184-minute tape. Ten minutes in, major tape dropout. Rerecording over the same spot on the tape was not successful (still dropped out there.) Sent the tape back to Sony for a replacement but made me edgy.

Now here's the one that's got me spooked:

Bad experience #3: Recorded some material on a DVCAM 124-minute tape last May that had been used once before. I watched the material several times to make sure it was OK, with the intention that I would capture and edit it later.

Went back to the tape two days ago, and over the space of ten minutes of tape there were at least six dropouts generating single frames of blocks. Thinking perhaps it was gunk on the tape I rewound and fast-forwarded, no luck. This was in my DSR-20, so I also tried playing it back on the DSR-11 that feeds my Mac. No dice, dropouts at the exact same time codes, so my tape in essence "deteriorated" and generated dropouts over the past few months despite being kept in proper environmental/physical conditions (e.g. not too humid, not too dry, around 70 - 75°F.

So, this all has me extremely worried as my working style has always been to capture, edit, and output the final edit master back to DVCAM and to blow away the captured files with the assumption I could recapture later. However I am really, really concerned now that apparently my DVCAM tapes may be deteriorating sitting on the shelf.

Now I suppose this tape could have been from the same bad batch as the earlier 184 that was bad out of the box, but as I said, it definitely has me spooked. I went with DVCAM because the increased tape speed was supposed to make it more immune to dropouts; by comparison photogs for the local TV stations I've talked to have used the same DV tapes for six months at a time without experiencing dropout one. Perhaps there's a reason they're all shooting DVCPRO rather than DVCAM (they had told me it was just because of DVCPRO's 2x - 4x data transfer capability.)

Anyone else? Have I just been having an extraordinary run of bad luck, or is it time to dump the DVCAM decks and go with something else? (DVCPRO perhaps?) Or are all digital formats this sensitive? (D9 anyone?) Should I be treating DVCAM as exclusively a write once medium? (Painful at $45/tape, but less painful than not being able to recapture important footage later...)

It's almost enough to make me want to archive to good old SVHS; sure you lose quality, but at least if there's an analog dropout you get a sparkle, not blocks taking up ¼ of the image, and my SVHS tapes haven't disintegrated over a period of three months.

Thanks in advance, and sorry to make such a "panicked" intro to the forum...
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Old August 12th, 2003, 03:38 AM   #2
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William,

Just out of interest, what camera are you using? I've had a few dropouts on a DSR-390 and it does seem to be to do with one particular tape.

John.
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Old August 12th, 2003, 03:43 AM   #3
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Okay, lets get a few facts into the story before proceeding...

1) What camera are you using to record these images?

2) How long has it been that the heads on that camera have been cleaned [or if that has never happened, how long do you have the camera]?

3) Did you mix different tape brands [now or in the past]? Sounds like your using Sony now. Were all the tapes you mentioned Sony's?

On my XL1s I only had a dropout once. That was when a big
firework exploded in the sky [large bang] and it was very vold
outside.

John, I'm assuming you mean one particular tape BRAND?
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Old August 12th, 2003, 03:47 AM   #4
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Hi Rob,

I only use Sony DVCAM tapes in my 390 and it's only on one tape that I've had any dropouts. So it looks like a bad tape.

John.
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Old August 12th, 2003, 04:46 AM   #5
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Sounds like dirty heads. Long tapes probably use thiner tape material. Perhaps the heads have a lot of hours, so the cam needs to be serviced. Lastly, those Sony tapes could be faulty.
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Old August 12th, 2003, 06:06 AM   #6
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Definately in my case Frank it looks like the tape, the camera only had about 2 hours on it at the time :)

John.
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Old August 12th, 2003, 06:17 AM   #7
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I've seen brand new cameras, right out of the box, with dirty heads. I guess during shipping, dust or other packaging materials gets on the heads. I know of several dealers that run a head cleaning tape on new cameras before they are put on display. Has this only been a problem on the one tape? How many tapes have been used in that camera?
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Old August 12th, 2003, 07:46 AM   #8
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Some answers...

The dropouts have been seen in images recorded onto mini-DVCAM by a DSR-PD100A camcorder and on full size DVCAM tapes recorded by a DSR-20 deck.

The tapes have all been Sony DVCAM tapes, the only brand of DVCAM tape as far as I know. (I've seen ads for the Fuji but have never actually seen their tape.) They have also all been the non-chip "N" suffix tapes and have been the normal DVCAM tapes, not the slightly newer (and pricier) "Master" DVCAM tapes.

As I mentioned the camera generated the first dropout I've seen on an area that was paused and rewound a few times, so I expected that.

The just plain bad tape was generated on the DSR-20, and the "spontaneous dropout" tape was recorded twice on the DSR-20.

Both times, the dropouts were seen to occur at the exact same time code on a DSR-11 deck and re-recording in the area of the dropout yielded a new recording that was fine except for single frame dropouts at the exact same point as before.

I'm loathe to call it "dirty heads" on the part of the DSR-20 because I've never seen macroblock one on any other tape but these three - that's what's got me wonderng what kind of Russian Roulette I'm playing with the DVCAM blanks I have now.

I have not yet used the DVCAM cleaning tape in the DSR-20, and its head meter shows only 100 hours of use.
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Old August 13th, 2003, 10:50 AM   #9
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hmmm...
we have some 5 years of experience in using DVCAM equipment, some 5 pieces DSR-1, -300, -500 in the field, even more small ones (100, 150, 200), no mayor problems. There were two cases when tape guiding path was injured, then you can play out a cassette only on equipment what recorded a signal.
Tapes are reused 10 or more times. And even more, editing is done in linear, so even more stress to tapes. Just had one dsr-pd100 with 1700 drum rotating hours in routine check, drum was in perfect condition and even clean (cam users are film/video students, so it goes hand-to-hand all the time). Big cams work with the same tapes you are using, PDV(M)-xxN. The only thing what comes into mind that you have really bad luck with tapes.

Margus
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Old August 14th, 2003, 07:48 AM   #10
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Doubly interesting as I'm not exactly in a hostile environment - the Boulder, CO area - so perhaps I need to find a tape vendor other than B&H Photo in NY...
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Old August 14th, 2003, 08:46 AM   #11
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My own personal experience is that DVCAM has more drop outs than
consumer miniDV. I've had lots of drop outs on the 184 minute tapes.
Really irking because you expect this fast moving wide tape to be free
from drop outs . . . NOT so. This has happened using both
DSR-40 and DSR-11, so my guess is the tape stock . . . thanks Sony.

A good place to buy media is www.taperesources.com

Fast and excellent prices.
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Old August 14th, 2003, 09:19 AM   #12
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yeah, i'm really confused
i'm pretty sure that all dvcam tapes come from one factory. here they have a mark 'made in japan'. so it cannot be that one factory makes s**t and another one good job. we have had approx same amount of dropouts as with betacam sp tapes, they happen, but very rarely.
anyway, if it seems that dv tapes are better quality, you can use them with your dvcam equipment, just 60min dv tape will record some 39,5min. and that way you save your money as well;)

Margus
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