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Old January 6th, 2009, 04:26 PM   #31
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Is there really a difference in spec's..mini dv tape?

Hello All,

Currently I'm using Sony premium's for my XH A1. And I've yet to have a real problem with any of them even in HD.

I'm willing to spend more per tape if I could actually get a higher grade of tape to justify it.

Here's the deal.

When I look on-line for specifications on Sony tapes all I find are 'claims' that tapes are better with no specifications that would tell me why they are better by price.

Anybody know what specifications actually make a better tape? I mean for example: thickness, coating on the tape, better tape housing etc?

Thoughts?

Thanks again.

Rog Lee
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Old January 7th, 2009, 12:28 PM   #32
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As long as they're working for you with no dropouts, that's what counts.

Back in the old days when we used 2" and then 1" tape, there were two grades: mastering stock and pallet stock. Pallet stock, as the name implied, was delivered by big truck with a forklift to offload pallets. If you did a lot of dubs for TV stations, you'd need a pretty big area to store lots of pallets of tape. Mastering stock came in individual boxes because you didn't use so much of it. It was used for, as the name implies, mastering. The only difference, other than packaging, was the frequency of the manufacturer's dropout checking. Apparently they used some sort of automatic scanning devices that would inspect for dropouts, I'd guess microscopic anomalies in the magnetic coating. Pallet stock was checked at a rate of X times per running inch, while mastering stock would be checked at a much higher rate. So--same tape but you could be reasonably confident the good stuff would have far fewer dropout problems.

In more recent years, a tape supplier told me once that DVCAM stock was produced in big sheets, just like film, and slitters would cut it into the proper widths before it was wound onto cassettes. He said the good stuff came from the center of the sheet, while the cheaper tape came from closer to the edges where presumably it might be subject to more manufacturing stress and maybe the creation of dropouts. Who knows if that's legitimate or not. Sounds good.

I think it's a reasonable guess to say that the expensive stock might be subject to some tighter inspection criteria and that it's all probably from the same sheets running at high speeds across rollers. It could be that there is a lower rejection rate for cheap tape during some inspection process.

It would be nice if manufacturers today would say something concrete about all that instead of weaselwording claims that have little or no technical validation.
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Old January 7th, 2009, 08:59 PM   #33
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Sony has made claims on marketing posters that their higher quality mastering stocks in 6mm have higher gaussian magnetic strength (they retain the magnetic patterns laid down on the microscopic metal oxide "bits" better) than the run of the mill consumer quality. As well, Sony uses a different backing material in their higher quality HDV/DVCam/DV tapes containing more ceramic, again according to a poster I saw at a pro retailer in town.

Can I verify any of this? No.
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Old January 7th, 2009, 09:16 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Bill Pryor View Post
In more recent years, a tape supplier told me once that DVCAM stock was produced in big sheets, just like film, and slitters would cut it into the proper widths before it was wound onto cassettes. He said the good stuff came from the center of the sheet, while the cheaper tape came from closer to the edges where presumably it might be subject to more manufacturing stress and maybe the creation of dropouts. Who knows if that's legitimate or not. Sounds good.
Bill, I have been told the same thing about the center cut vs. edge cut tapes.
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Old January 7th, 2009, 10:38 PM   #35
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Many years ago I went to an Ampex Christmas party. I was seated next to the tape manager. The night wore on. Finally after a lot of small talk and many glasses of wine, I popped the question, "Is there any difference between your premium UMatics and the standard ones?" "Yes, the box is better." "And the tape?" "Exactly the same."

Today I buy from Costco at $2.20 a miniDV (Sony) - never had a drop out or any problem.

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Old January 13th, 2009, 12:41 PM   #36
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My own experience has been that standard MiniDV tapes give me dropouts on both my Z1 and A1. In 60 minutes I can pretty well count on one or two dropouts. Therefore, I use the two buck standard MiniDV tapes when dropouts don't matter. Where dropouts would create problems I use inexpensive HDV tape at about six bucks a pop. I have not had any dropouts using HDV tape.

I think it is safe to say that in a digital era of video capture, at any point in a tape either you have quality recording or you have unacceptable recording. There is no in-between. Therefore, as long as you are free of dropouts you cannot do any better. Use the cheap tape if it works.

The only exception might be for legacy issues. If you want to re-download a cheap quality tape five years from now it could have degraded causing massive problems.

Note carefully, however, that when I re-use a tape recording HDV, my dropout count increases radically.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 12:49 PM   #37
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I don't know in today's era if there really is a better mini-dv tape. Back in the days the best quality tapes were the Sony U-matic rainbow series, it was so good you can re-use it multiple times. Sony pulled the plug on the Rainbow series because of that (urban legend).
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Old January 14th, 2009, 05:45 AM   #38
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Note carefully, however, that when I re-use a tape recording HDV, my dropout count increases radically.
This is a very worrying statement Wesley, as every time you replay a tape you're 'reusing' it. The deck mechanism doesn't care a hoot if it's recording or replaying, both cause exactly the same stresses and strains. If I was meeting this radical increase you describe I wouldn't be able to sleep nights.

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Old January 14th, 2009, 05:09 PM   #39
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Tom, the way I understand it, there really is a physical difference between playing a tape and recording new video on a used tape. At least at a microscopic level. The information on tapes is recorded into these tiny pieces of metal that are glued to the tape. When you record to tape they magnetize the little metal bits and arrange them so that they become organized information. When you play them, nothing has to be moved or changed. When you re-record a tape, the tape is demagnetized (erased) right before it goes to the record heads on the drum. So these microscopic metal bits do get rearranged twice and theoretically they might come loose. At least that is the way it was explained to me.
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Old January 15th, 2009, 02:10 AM   #40
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What was explained to you was analogue recording Greg. Digital recording is tough, has error correction and only ones or zeros are laid onto tape. There's no erase head. There's no colours recorded, no audio, no sharpness, nothing but ones and zeros.

If a one is recorded badly as 0.72 (say) it's still read as one. If a zero is recorded as 0.3, it still seen as a perfect zero.
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Old January 15th, 2009, 08:47 AM   #41
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Darn. There I go mixing up analog and digital technology again.

Perhaps I should have said that when you are playing any tape, you are not rearranging the particles on the tape but just reading them, passively.

But, perhaps the reason you might experience more problems when re-recording a used tape is that you must rearrange those metal particles to store different information. And during that rearranging process the metal particles might become more prone to drop-outs. After all they are just metal evaported bits bonded to some sort of mylar backing, if I am not confusing analog with digital again.

Does that make more sense, Tom?
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Old January 31st, 2009, 08:57 AM   #42
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Mini DV Tapes for HD

Will regular tapes work as well for HD in camcorder as an HD tape????
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Old January 31st, 2009, 09:41 AM   #43
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I assume you mean HDV, and by regular, you mean DV. Yes they will work. But I wouldn't do it. Very good quality DV tapes will be fine. But they cost $8-$10 each anyway.
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Old January 31st, 2009, 10:33 AM   #44
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Tape rules:

Don't waste your money on HDV tapes. There is no difference in picture quality between these and regular MiniDV tapes -- it's all digital. Sony Premiums are fine and can be had online for a little over $2 each.

Tape manufacturers often say that HDV tapes are built to higher standards than regular MiniDV tapes. That's frequently claimed but so far no one has ever presented any statistical evidence, anywhere, that this is so.

Even if it is true you need to do a cost-benefit analysis to decide if overpaying for all your tapes is worth the reduced chance of a dropout, especially if such dropouts are easily cut around (as they are in all the shooting I do). If it's a once in a lifetime event and you want to maximize your chances of having every frame be perfect, then the more expensive tapes may be worth it for you.

When I first started shooting DV I used the TDKs available at Costco for about $2.50 each. I used a couple of hundred without a dropout or any other problem. Later I switched to the Sony Premiums because even with shipping they were cheaper. Iím on my fourth case of 100 and have had maybe three dropouts total in two years. Costco now sells the Sony Premiums instead of the TDKs.

Don't mix tape brands. Sony uses a different lubricant than others and switching could gum up your heads. Run a cleaning tape for 10 seconds and then pick one brand and stick to it.

Never re-use your tapes. They should go through your camera exactly twice: once when you shoot and once when you capture.
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Old January 31st, 2009, 10:52 AM   #45
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Originally Posted by Adam Gold View Post
Tape rules:

Don't waste your money on HDV tapes. There is no difference in picture quality between these and regular MiniDV tapes -- it's all digital.

Never re-use your tapes. They should go through your camera exactly twice: once when you shoot and once when you capture.
Yes, the data is digital. But the tape stock, and magnetic media are not. Having come from analog audio recording, I can assure you that differences DO exist.

Now, your second comment is interesting. It is quite likely that if you use a tape for 2 passes, you'll never see a problem. However, in a commercial environment, where we shoot, capture, archive, then get asked to re-capture 3 months later, and perhaps 2 years later, and perhaps again down the road, it certainly makes a difference.

I needed to pull some data out of archive this week. Something from almost 4 years ago. Guess what the head of the tape looked like?

My suggestion to tape shooters:

Shoot on whatever you want, but pre-roll bars and black for a minute, and archive on quality tape. If it's important enough to save, it's important enough to save on good tape so you can pull it back later if need be.
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