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Old March 2nd, 2005, 11:19 AM   #1
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Quality difference Between "PRO" & "STANDARD" tapes?

I have just bought a large number of new "Standard" JVC mini DV tapes at a very good price (So I might as well stick to JVS brand tapes for the future). I am mainly using these for experimenting with new equipment, lenses etc, and was going to buy the more expensive "Pro" DV tapes when I actually begin the major film project in May.

Does anybody know the true difference between the three types of JVC "Standard", "High Quality", and "PRO" tapes?

High Output, Low Error, and High Tape Quality is given for the "Pro" version; but is there a 'real' difference in quality between the Standard, High Quality, and Pro types of tape, and would the end results justify the higher price tag?
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Old March 3rd, 2005, 10:04 AM   #2
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I can't speak for JVC brand tapes, as I have yet to use any. I use SONY. My major concern is frequency of dropouts. Dropouts significantly affect the quality of commercial work. I use the mid grade tapes and have few, if any dropouts. My reason for using a higher grade of tape is the belief that I am reducing the possible frequency of dropouts. In all honesty, I can't really see the difference between standard grade and mid grade tapes on a studio monitor.
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Old March 3rd, 2005, 12:30 PM   #3
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What about the "PRO" version tapes? Anybody who has given them a long-term test against the 'normal' and 'medium-grade' tapes?
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Old March 3rd, 2005, 02:16 PM   #4
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I really wouldn't worry about it and go for the standard tapes.
1- Dropouts with mini-DV isn't all that bad. It only happens in a small area of the picture for 1/30th of a second. If you have just one dropout then it isn't a big deal.

Your dropout rate can be overshadowed by transmission problems. I see transmission problems on TV all the time, ranging from extremely bad compression artifacts (where 15 frames or so have extreme, extreme motion blocking) or you don't get a picture at all. What's one measly dropout compared to that?

2- Visual dropouts can be fixed with Photoshop magic. You might have to waste lots of downtime rendering/copying the edited frames back into the video though.

3- There's no evidence that pro tape is any better than normal tape. If there is a difference, then it's likely neglible. There's lots of people here shooting normal cheap tape with an extremely low rate of dropouts.

4- There are other factors that are much more likely to cause dropouts:
condensation / temperature differences
dirty/clogged heads
LP mode
Tracking errors (this becomes much more likely when you shoot LP mode; when you shoot in LP mode, the camera that shot it may be the most likely to capture without dropouts because it has the right head alignment)
lubricant mixing (probably not a problem anymore)

5- When there are no dropouts, image quality is EXACTLY the same. It's all a bunch of 1s and 0s.
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Old March 4th, 2005, 05:28 AM   #5
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Thank you for your answers, Glenn.

I will never shoot in Long-Play mode, so that should never be a problem.
I only use 60-minute tapes (These would be 90-minutes on LP, but I have fears of tape stretch and lower quality etc, in this mode).

Judging by the playbacks on a large colour TV monitor, quality seems high on the Standard JVC tapes when using 16X manual lens, including Nikkor 300mm and 600mm lenses. I have yet to view them more closely on a proper calibrated screen.

The reason I ask about the differences in various tapes is not only the quality of the image produced, but also if the more expensive tapes are less likely to stretch, hold better fine colour balance throughout, and possibly other attributes. Can you notice any difference in sound quality (recording the exact same subject with onboard mic) between Standard and Pro?
For the company to sell them at a higher price and give the Standard only 3-stars, yet the PRO tapes 5-stars for High Output, Low Error, and actual Tape Quality, I would think that there must be at least some difference between them.

Do the heads remain cleaner longer using the Pro Tapes? Will a Pro tape give more accurate colours, and less colour fringing (when matched with the very best of lenses)?

There will be times when I will need to record for long periods away from base, or the main camera bags, and was thinking about also using a tape longer than 60-minutes (in SP mode). This would save me from sweating when I am near to the end of a short 60-minute tape when I don’t want to take the risk of changing tapes just when the action may occur! Has anybody had any problems using these longer tapes (not LP) compared to the 60-minute tapes?

I should add that the end film is going to be for both television and DVD sales, so quality and reliability is my main concern. I have yet to actually see concrete evidence of the actual difference between the three class of tapes by any manufacturer, but if I am about to pay out money for a large package of Pro-grade tapes, I’d like to at least know for a fact that there is a difference.
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Old March 4th, 2005, 05:43 AM   #6
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The ONLY thing that tape affects is drop-outs, and drop-outs ONLY result in catastrophic image failure, not image degradation.

There is no point in looking for resolution differences, colour changes or any other subtle effects of using different tape -- you could record a digital signal on paper using a lead pencil and you'd get exactly the same results ...

All the image decisions are made in camera when the encoding assigns a numeric value represented by binary bits to each pixel in the array -- nothing in the recording process will change that value later. And failure of that value doesn't result in a near value, or a substitute value ... it generates a block failure.

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Old March 4th, 2005, 10:35 AM   #7
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There are 80 minute tapes as an alternative to LP mode. Panasonic is one company that makes them... they cost about 2.5X and can be found online at sites like tapestockonline.com and taperesources.com

Normal mini-DV tape is like $2.60USD each new on eBay (which is cheaper than the two sites above).

Dropouts in HDV cause catastrophic 15 frame failures. For mini-DV, you'll get small blocks. See adam wilt's DV FAQ site for pictures.
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Old March 8th, 2005, 11:46 AM   #8
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Tape grade mythology (?)

} .... is there a 'real' difference in quality between the
} Standard, High Quality, and Pro types of tape

I have three relevant recollections. Have big grains of rock salt handy as you review these:

1] Back in the day I recall seeing some promotional literature from 3M, not meant for consumer exposure, which was basically snickering over a private joke about their several grades of Scotch VHS tape. The idea was to upsell higher grades, which were fundamentally no different from any lower ones, and pocket the difference in price.

2] My video instructor in college (circa 1988) was the first person I know to officially dismiss all claims of tape grade differences. I believe his judgment was, "It's all the same $&it!"

3] Years later a producer I worked for told me that the grade difference was real, but not in the way we are meant to think. Mag tape (reportedly) is manufactured in long bolts before it is sliced up into the widths required for whatever tape format. Supposedly, the higher grades are derived from the middle of these bolts, since the ends tend to be handled more by factory personnel.

From a purely experiential viewpoint, I have not considered DV grades to be of much concern. I'm more worried about the one or two reels that jammed and wrinkled, and about mixing brands in the same tape drive, and prestretching before first use, and vertical storage .... the stuff that seems to make an actual difference in preserving my hard work.

But I would not deny your curiosity in this matter or the chance that my ignorance is dangerous. The only way you will be absolutely satisfied is if you buy one of each and, like in a Consumer Reports test, shoot identical subject matter under identical conditions, then scrub tape in a ruthless fashion as if you're a harried editor. I'm sure we'd all love to read the results, if you or anyone else wants the challenge.
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Old March 8th, 2005, 11:50 AM   #9
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It is not possible that tape stock will change the quality of a digital recording beyond frequency of drop outs. The recording is binary bits, they either are or they aren't.

Drop outs in my experience are caused by many things -- quality of tape stock being just one. Tape handling, environment and device maintenance are probably more significant than tape stock ... but I don't buy the cheapest available stock, so maybe there is poor stock available.

But it is drop outs only that can/should be looked for.

All the rest is magical thinking ...

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Old March 8th, 2005, 12:37 PM   #10
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> The only way you will be absolutely satisfied is if you buy one
> of each and, like in a Consumer Reports test, shoot identical
> subject matter under identical conditions, then scrub tape in a
> ruthless fashion as if you're a harried editor. I'm sure we'd all
> love to read the results, if you or anyone else wants the challenge.

Would you be willing to wear your heads for such a test? Of course not. Me neither.

Anyway, you need very expensive equipment to actually measure error rate, and guess who has that equipment: yes, the same people that sell us the tape.

I once asked my Sony rep's tape salesperson what the differences were from standard DV to DVcam and she said something about the casings... nothing really significant ever came out of her.

So, for me it's just stick to the least expensive Sony tapes and run DVCAM mode when shooting highly mission-critical stuff. Oh yes and store tape vertically, I don't remember why but I think it's very important. Oh and stay away from LP mode.

As for DVCAM version DV SP, I think the difference is not significant. I guess that also explains why even the new prosumer HDV Sony cam, the Z1, doesn't let you record HDV at DVCAM track pitch, even though drops are a much bigger problem with HDV than with 25Mbps DV, beacuse of the GOP structure.
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Old March 9th, 2005, 02:17 PM   #11
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I have found a difference between the professional DVCAM tapes in the MiniDV cassette and the consumer MiniDV tapes. I haven't noticed any dropouts with the pro quality DVCAM tapes. Whereas before, when I was using the consumer tapes, I was getting noticable dropouts. I have not had any dropouts since switching to DVCAM. DVCAM tapes are more expensive, but as a professional, I can't afford dropouts. For everything I do, I use the DVCAM tapes in the mini shell.

Correct, you will not see better resolution, or color with a DVCAM tape, it's not like film. I think the tape base is stronger and the coating is more robust than the non pro stuff. I don't know what other attributes, maybe someone can expound upon that.

I use the Sony PDVM-40N tapes. I may switch to the new Sony Master tape, the coatings are even better.

Sony tapes. Three different types of DVCAM tape in the mini shell to choose from.
http://www.mediabysony.com/NASApp/ct...eProductDDLB=7

Panasonic tapes. The top two choices are DVCAM tapes. Pro on the right.
http://www.panasonic.com/business/pr...tape_media.asp
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Old April 6th, 2005, 03:13 AM   #12
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Longterm durability is also worth considering when choosing tape stock. I used mostly Sony Pro-grade Hi-8 cassettes, going back 16 years and they all play back without flaw today.

Now, I use only Sony Premium DV cassettes, even though they cost about twice as much as the standard grade. When you consider how much your camcorders, VCRs, accessories and production expenses cost, the tapes are only a tiny part of it. However, if the tapes have problems, none of the rest of your equipment can save your footage. It also says something to anyone who receives a tape from you, if you use the best quality.

If the truth is, that standard and premium tapes are made the same, I won't regret having spent this relatively small extra amount. Whether DVCAM cassettes are sturdier or better, or if so, that this extra quality would be of any utility in DV equipment, I can't say.
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