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Old April 21st, 2009, 07:38 PM   #1
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Mini-dv playback issues, please help!

I have a client who wants some mini-dv footage transferred to dvd. The footage was shot in Africa, on several different camcorders- the client isn't even sure what brands. I am using my hdv camera as a deck because I'm poor, and I've had some issues digitizing the footage. Two of the tapes I was able to play and capture, with several stops to clean the heads on my camera. One of the tapes is PAL and will not play.

The last two are stumping me. Both tapes appear to play (i.e. i get a minutes of tape remaining counter on my lcd screen) but neither provide any sort of timecode like the others do, and there is no audio or video. Are these tapes damaged? Could they have been recorded in a format my camera cannot play back? If so, would purchasing a deck solve the format problem?

I really want to give my client the best quality service and footage I can, but with the meager amount of digitizing I do, I don't think it would be cost-effective for either the client or myself, especially since tapeless is more and more becoming the standard.

Can anyone offer some insight and/or solutions?

Many thanks!

Chris
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Old April 21st, 2009, 09:10 PM   #2
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There's no way to know without information from the client on how the tapes were shot. They could be a number of formats--ie., they could have been shot DV on a camera with a slow play mode and won't play back on your camera...they could be DVCAM and won't play back on your camera if it's not a Sony...they could be 720p shot on a JVC HDV camera and won't play back...they could have been shot with a camera whose heads are out of alignment...they could have been shot 24F by a Canon and you're using a Sony, etc. And there are probably some more ways they could be screwed up I can't think of at the moment. You definitely don't want to spend money on a deck which may or may not play them.

Probably the most cost effective thing to do would be to take the tapes to a production house that has a Sony HDV deck, such as the M35U, which will play back DV, DVCAM and HDV in 60i as well as Canon's 24F and 30F. I don't know if it will play back JVC's type of 24p HDV.

The tapes must be numbered and somehow catalogued so the client would know who shot them and when. It might be possible he could contact the cameraman and find out what he used. Most people I know, myself included, write on the label what the format is (like, Canon HDV24F, Sony HDV60i, etc.) Many labels also have a place to at least check a box for HDV, etc. Did you look at the labels on the tape or the boxes closely?

If you were certain they were DV and not HDV, then the only formats to eliminate would be DVCAM and PAL. Well...there is one more--Panasonic's old DVCPRO25. There never was much of that around except at a few TV stations, but it is possible somebody could have shot with one of those cameras. There are some Sony DVCAM decks that will play back DVCPRO25, but most will only play it out composite or component, not via firewire. It would probably be very difficult for you to find a camera or deck to play that back today.

Take a close look at the tape labels. If the tapes came in boxes like Sony's DVCAM and others that give you a plastic case that's about twice the size of the tape, instead of the little clear plastic consumer type boxes, then you can slide out the label from the plastic sleeve and turn it over and it should reflect the brand of tape. If it says DVCAM or DVCPRO, then that could be your problem.

One thing you definitely want to do is use a head cleaning tape on your camera before you shoot anything after running all that different tape through it. There's really nothing wrong with using the camera as a deck. People do it all the time, and you're just using the play heads, not the record. What I do, to avoid lots of back and forth stopping, cueing , starting, and stopping again, is just capture the entire tape at once, then label the clips after the fact, instead of logging and capturing individual clips. Keeps the wear down. Most NLEs will indicate individual clips for you even though it's captured as a whole tape.

Good luck!
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Old April 21st, 2009, 11:27 PM   #3
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Thanks for the response Bill.

To clarify, I am using my HD100, so HDV and DV tapes should be no problem. The client sent some people on a missions trip to Africa, so the footage is from several different cameras and operators. Based on conversations with the client, it sounds like people were using their own cameras, and some of them are still on another continent. No indication what cameras were used, but 4 of the 5 tapes are JVC mini-dv, the other is a Sony. All are mini-dv, not DVCPRO25 or DVCAM.

Looks like I'll be contacting a production house.
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Old April 22nd, 2009, 03:21 PM   #4
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If you're sure they're all DV and not HDV, then, barring a head alignment issue, the only reason I can think of why they wouldn't play back would be that they were shot in the consumer extended play mode. I don't know for sure, but I'd bet your camera won't play back anything other than standard speed. Same for most professional decks that I've used. Should that be the case, one thing you might try is to borrow a consumer DV camera from somebody and see if it would work.
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Old April 22nd, 2009, 06:50 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Glavan View Post
All are mini-dv, not DVCPRO25 or DVCAM.
Just to clarify, Christopher... DVCAM is a format, not a particular tape. And isn't a JVC HD100 a HDV1? I'm not sure but I don't think that it will play HDV2. I could be mistaken.
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Old April 23rd, 2009, 12:19 PM   #6
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Could the mystery tapes be SECAM or NTSC4.43?
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Old April 23rd, 2009, 01:52 PM   #7
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The absence of timecode is most peculiar - all DV recorders are required to generate timecode according to the DV spec.
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Old April 23rd, 2009, 02:02 PM   #8
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This is what makes me speculate that there is damage to the dv tapes. Still, it's odd that two of them would be without timecode like that...
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Old April 24th, 2009, 12:56 AM   #9
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UPDATE: I borrowed a DCR-TRV50 from a friend (all I could find) so I could test these tapes in a different player. The one that looks like it was recorded on crappy heads still looks crappy and audio is choppy. One tape still offers no timecode, video, or audio. I wonder if this tape was never actually used?

The third tape plays on the TRV50, but I cannot log and capture into FCP. the deck is recognized by final cut, and I have vtr controls, but I get no preview and capture aborts after about 10 seconds, citing no video present. I am however getting consistent video and audio on the TRV50 itself. Using the vtr controls in FCP, I stepped through the footage and assuming I'm counting correctly, I believe it's 25fps (the timecode goes up to 24 frames and then rolls over to :00 which means frame 24 is actually the 25th frame right?). I have tried every DV capture setting for both NTSC and PAL, but final cut just does not want to ingest this footage!

Any thoughts?
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Old April 24th, 2009, 07:42 PM   #10
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Have you tried turning off the time code dependent thing...you can do that in DV but not HDV. I don't recall offhand how to do it, but I think you say no deck selected, or something like that, then rewind the tape, press play and then in FCP click capture now, and you should be able to grab the whole tape even with timecode screwups.

That tape that has no timecode, no video and no audio probably is a blank tape.

Another alternative, since the tapes play in the TRV50, run a firewire out of it to your HDV camera and dub the tape across to a new tape. I've had to do that before when a client gave me tapes with screwed up time code. Some people will rewind the tape to look at their footage without having recorded enough tail on the shot to recue it properly. So they play till it stops and often that's in an area of the tape with no reference, and FCP doesn't like time code gaps. If that's the case, making a dub of the tape is the easiest solution, probably. Or try the capture now first if you can find the no deck setting. I'm not at work now so I can't track it down. It's one of the settings where you tell FCP what type of input is there. Doesn't work in HD, only in DV.
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Old April 24th, 2009, 10:09 PM   #11
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i believe you're referring to the capture preset 'uncontrollable device', which I tried to no avail. Thanks for the tip about dubbing to my other cam. I'll give that a try.
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Old April 26th, 2009, 10:50 AM   #12
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Yeah, that's it--uncontrollable device. If that doesn't work, the dubbing is probably the next option. Let us know if that does it.
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