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Old February 9th, 2009, 03:47 AM   #1
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Tape head cleaners - any online facts?

Someone recently told a clubroom full of filmmakers a long daitribe of how dangerous tape head cleaners are.

There were scare stories about effectively dragging coarse sandpaper over your camera heads, and that sort of thing, and even a single use of a cleaning tape will wear out heads!

I know tape head celaners are abrasive, but there are varying degrees of abrasive! On my old TRV 900, I probably used a tape head cleaner once or twice a year, and that camera lasted 8 years, so I doubt the head cleaners are that abrasive!

I'd like to correct him with citations or online evidence, like manufacturers statements saying that you should clean heads every 40-50 hours, or something like that.

Or is he correct, and I shouldn't even place my camera next to a cleaning tape in case it gets worn out! :-)
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Old February 18th, 2009, 06:59 PM   #2
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He is partially correct in the fact that tape cleaning tapes are very abrasive, and the sandpaper analogy is accurate.

However, it's overuse of tape leaning cassettes that lead to tape head damage.
If you use your cameras a lot, then cleaning the tape heads every 2-3 months is advisable. If you infrequently use your camera, then once or twice a year should suffice.

That being said, I prefer to clean my tape heads and pinch roller, manually using cleaning chemicals, and chamois swabs. It's much less abrasive, and I do this once a year.
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Old February 18th, 2009, 08:37 PM   #3
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Well, if it is a choice of junking the camera/having the heads replaced at great expensive because you can't play a tape anymore or running a cleaning tape for 10 seconds, I know which option I'd take.

Personally, with DV mechanisms, I'd never dare attempt to clean the heads etc manually as I might an audio cassette deck unless I remove the mechanism so that I can get at the parts from the right directions and get plenty of light in there. And that can be a very fiddly (if interesting) experience.
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Old February 19th, 2009, 03:42 AM   #4
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The trouble is, there's lots of posts stating opinions online, (no offense guys) :-) - I've been filming for 15 years myself, but I was after any manufacturers recommendations or something official? Hs anyone seen anything?

thanks! :-)
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Old February 19th, 2009, 06:49 AM   #5
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According to my official Sony PDX-10 service manual, you should use a cleaning cassette during routine use of the unit (10 seconds) when the picture quality indicates cleaning is needed and use the swab/fluid method during scheduled servicing or any other time the unit has to be serviced. In the swab/fluid case, it should only be done with specific swabs and fluids and with completely unobstructed access to the head. It is necessary to move the swab horizontally (never, ever vertically) and manually rotate the header counter-clockwise. This is virtually impossible to do without disassembling the unit to get at the transport mechanism module.

Service manuals are the oracles.
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Old February 19th, 2009, 07:05 AM   #6
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Thanks john, thats great, although they're being a little vague.. :-)

I'm sure I read in something a few years ago, that they suggested every 30-40 hours of operation, but I can't remember if that was a camera manual or a tape cleaner instructions.
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Old February 20th, 2009, 10:53 AM   #7
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I run a Sony service center and I don't recommend ever using a head cleaning tape. Bring it to a service center every 6 months or so for a good manual cleaning.
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Old February 20th, 2009, 10:53 AM   #8
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Chris: please forgive my analogy but here goes:

How often does one need to bathe? Does one bathe when one notices that he/she is beginning to become odorous? When one feels "less than fresh"? As a part of a regular personal maintenance routine?

I shower every morning so I feel confident that I will not offend the sensitivities of others' olfactory senses. If I've been working in a hog barn or race track, I'm likely to shower again at my first opportunity.

Now: replace "shower" with "clean heads", change "every morning" to "every 20 or so head hours" and change "shower again after the hog barn or race track" to "clean heads after exposure to harsh environmental conditions".

I personally can't wait until dropouts appear in my work to clean heads. I need to be more proactive. Is every 20 hours excessive? Not sure but I haven't had a dropout in 8 years since I started this regimen and my last camera was still going strong after 7 years.
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Old February 20th, 2009, 10:56 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scot Lenter View Post
I run a Sony service center and I don't recommend ever using a head cleaning tape. Bring it to a service center every 6 months or so for a good manual cleaning.
hah! I bet you do! :-)

I recommend that my clients make a new corporate video every month too, but hey ho, you can't have everything!
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Old February 20th, 2009, 10:56 AM   #10
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Scot does bring up a good point: there is more to protecting the integrity of the tape path than just cleaning heads. There are a lot of very precise moving parts in there that can also become "gummed up" or littered with tape oxide and other nasty bits.
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Old February 20th, 2009, 11:02 AM   #11
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Everyone's comments are feasible in theory, however I'm still looking for good technical facts.

With my TRV 900, I used it until the whole mechanism wore out and collapsed, and had to be replaced, and inspite of running a "sandpaper-covered cleaning tape" through it about twice a year, the head still managed to out-last the mechanism.

Was I just incredibly fortunate, or could people be exaggerating the abrasiveness of cleaning tapes? :-)
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Old February 20th, 2009, 11:10 AM   #12
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The technical "facts" are quite vague. It depends on how you use your camera: environment (hot, cold, sandy, dewy), choice of tape stock, how often do you re-use tape...

How much fuel does it take to get from Miami to Los Angeles? Are you driving a dumptruck or a hybrid car? Are you flying a jumbo jet?

I understand your frustration but I don't think there is a catch-all answer or solution.
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Old February 20th, 2009, 11:34 AM   #13
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Yes, there are facts available online. IN fact, you can google most user manuals to any camera.

The facts are on page 110 of the Canon XL2 manual.


Basically 'clean the heads' when they are dirty. Clean them with a commecially available 'dry' video head cleaning cassette.



You won't find a specific number of hours of reccomended frequency - as your mileage may vary.
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Old February 20th, 2009, 11:39 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
The technical "facts" are quite vague. It depends on how you use your camera: environment (hot, cold, sandy, dewy), choice of tape stock, how often do you re-use tape...

How much fuel does it take to get from Miami to Los Angeles? Are you driving a dumptruck or a hybrid car? Are you flying a jumbo jet?
Shaun, I MUCH preferred your previous analogy. :-) :-)

The tape either runs over the heads or it doesn't! Nobody says, "Don't lend your tapes to Chris, he's a heavy user - he'll wear out your tapes in no time. Lend them to steve - he'd much more sympathetic with tape usage" :-)

I appreciate EXTREMES of cold,salt,humidity etc will have an effect, but in normal use, tape usage is measured in hours, and that's it... isn't it?

I just have a big problem with anyone saying cleaning tapes are VERY ABRASIVE. I've felt sandpaper, I know very abrasive. I understand about microparticles, and under a microscope, cleaning tapes appear to be very rough, but camera heads are not made of feathers, or paper! They're made of metal! :-) Over 100 hours of cleaning tape use maybe you'll see a difference, but I really can't see much happening in 5 seconds of use! :-)

I just felt it was wrong of this old-timer telling a roomful of impressionable teenage filmmakers that holding a cleaning tape next to their camera will ruin it for ever!

I wanted to disprove his statements with facts rather than my opposing opinion, but I'm thinking I can either say nothing or just state a different opinion.
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Old February 24th, 2009, 07:50 AM   #15
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The only answer is to read the manual for your camera. Different cleaning tapes do different things and affect each camera differently.

My FX1 manual says to only clean when the camera asks you to. I have also read that you should do it before changing to a different brand or model of tape as the lubricants are different.

I plan on doing it at least once a year as we film weddings and really dont want dropouts. Any more than that would be daft.

Whos the expert? Us or the people which designed and made the camera?
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