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Old September 11th, 2005, 03:42 PM   #1
Fred Retread
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The "Use One Brand!" Controversy

One of the tell-tales of an unsubstantiated claim is the emphasis with which it is stated when it is passed on. I find the "stick with one brand" of miniDV tape advice to be of this type. Am I sure there is no truth in it? No. I am also not sure that holding my cams upside down would not extend their lives. But until there is evidence that this is true, I'll continue to use them upright.

I don't want to be argumentative, but I think It's a disservice to this community or any community to stand by and let urban legend or folk wisdom be granted the same status as real information.

So, believers, I ask you to produce some evidence.
  • BEST--An experiment or published report of an experiment that responsibly tests a clearly stated hypothesis regarding the use of more than one brand as opposed to the use of a single brand.
  • NEXT BEST--A peer reviewed expert article explaining the technical reasons for the caution.
  • IF ALL ELSE FAILS, even a manufacturer's recommendation not to mix use of their product with anyone else's would be better than nothing.
I'll reply in advance to several types of posts that would move the discussion backwards rather than forward. They would just be further examples of the kind of "knowledge" that gave rise to this legend:
  • ERROR 1: Anecdotal experiences. These don't count. If they did, here's mine. I've mixed five brands in my Canon, Sony and Panasonic camcorders for many hours without problems. I've used a head cleaner ONCE in one of the cams.
  • ERROR 2: "A lot of people say so," or "A lot of knowledgeable, respected people say so." Lame. Do I have to list some infamous examples of this kind of folly?
  • ERROR 3: "I've heard that the explanation is...." Please place such litter in the proper receptacle and give us your source.
  • ERROR 4: "It's better to be safe than sorry." We could say that about staying in bed rather than going out and living. Actually, isn't it better to be free of irrational fears?
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence..." - Calvin Coolidge
"My brain is wired to want to know how other things are wired." - Me
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Old September 11th, 2005, 03:45 PM   #2
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Fred, it used to be that Sony and Panasonic (and probably other brands) tapes didn't mix well. The lubricants would interact with each other and cause dropouts. But that was then. I believe Sony and Maxell reformulated their tapes in 1997.

I more or less agree with you that there's lots of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) over tapes. Which is why there's an entire forum for this, where people rehash the same things over and over and over again.
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Old September 11th, 2005, 03:55 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Fred Retread
  • IF ALL ELSE FAILS, even a manufacturer's recommendation not to mix use of their product with anyone else's would be better than nothing.

To me, this is the worst evidence. When CD-R's were becoming popular, label manufacturers helped spread the rumor that sharpie makers had chemicals that disolved the disc and lowered disc life. It was completely wrong, but it helped them so they said it.

Of course a tape manufacturer, once you have their brand in their hand, would love to assert that you will hurt your camera if you switch brands.
Barry Gribble
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Old September 11th, 2005, 03:58 PM   #4
Fred Retread
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Glenn, if this issue were only rehashed here, it wouldn't bother me so much. It seems I see this "wisdom" proclaimed about every day in other forums, even when it's almost off topic.
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence..." - Calvin Coolidge
"My brain is wired to want to know how other things are wired." - Me
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Old September 11th, 2005, 04:09 PM   #5
Fred Retread
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Originally Posted by Barry Gribble
...Of course a tape manufacturer, once you have their brand in their hand, would love to assert that you will hurt your camera if you switch brands.
Then why are they all not saying it? I think the answer is that it would be a double edged sword, just like a statement that you should not reuse tapes, which would also seem to serve their interests. Trouble is, either of these statements could imply negative things about their products.

So if one were bold enough to say that you shouldn't mix his with others he'd have to give a pretty convincing and in depth explanation as to why, and this is why I might give it some credibility.
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence..." - Calvin Coolidge
"My brain is wired to want to know how other things are wired." - Me
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Old September 11th, 2005, 05:58 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Fred Retread
So, believers, I ask you to produce some evidence.
Fred, since you're the non-believer here, why don't you prove the rest of us wrong by mixing brands in your camera (more than you have--keep going)? After all, it was your idea. If anyone's heads should (might) get screwed up, why not yours?

Keep in mind, it may take many more tapes and many more hours of recording. But do let us know what you find.

In the mean time, I'll stick to one brand, thank you. I'd rather err on the side of safety and prudence.

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Old September 11th, 2005, 06:09 PM   #7
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agree with Jay

the problem is that while most brands probably mix just fine there certainly was a known issue between certain brands of tapes where the lubricants did not like each other.

Now for me i rather simply stick to one tape that i know to work well in my camera then to start buying all kinds of different tapes and having two possible problems one being that their might be an issue with mixing and the other an unknown tape that i have not used before.

There is nothing i would gain from buying different tapes so why should i ?
Michael Salzlechner
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Old September 11th, 2005, 06:42 PM   #8
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Fred ,I agree that "wives tales " are a diservice to fellow videographers.How ever many things are discovered outside of big budget and/or corparate involvments.An example is specific "bugs" with software,or equipment defects that the manufacture may not admit to.If you need examples I can supply them.
I believe the diservice is a result non responsible reporting such as per your error 2 & 3.We all have people that we trust that the info they give us is true and people we don't.It is up to the individual to decide whom is whom.
Some people in their zeal to help others make comments that they are not qualified to make but they wish to help and will use info suppied by others whom they may not have put in the right category( trust / dont trust).So the intent of some may be good.I try not to get upset by them.Just put them in MY right category.
As for your BEST--Who would benifit from an expensive experiment other than users?NEXT BEST-- An article is just a story which may or not have any merit and again reviewed by whom?Who can you trust?A search will show many complaints of errors in articles.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS-- Most manufacturers suggest their own brand and to be able to make a definitive statement about tape they would have to engage in a large experiment(costly) and still could find themselves in court.What would they gain from such an undertaking?
But anecdotal experiences I will consider if properly presented.
They may not be correct but if I think they are I go with them.Scientists have flip flopped on number of issues and I thought they had FACTS.
My experience is that I bought a new XL1S and ran about 10 new Maxell tapes in it with no problem.I bought 2 Sony tapes when because I was low.After I put the Sony tape in the machine it recorded for sometime (about 15 min)at which point I stopped the tape.When I restarted I got a clean head warning.I changed the tape to the other Sony and got the warning again (a number of times).I sent the camera in and they replaced the record assembly.Off the record(not on the invoice ) they suggested staying with 1 brand of tape.I switched to Panasonic ,order by the case and have not had a problem in 2 years.The camera was not exposed to extreme enviroment
I dunno if it was the tape brand switch or not.But I'm sticking with Panasonic until something changes my mind.I offer that info to help others in a case where no definitve info is available as far as I know.They can decide.
I accept others anecdotal experiences in case I might change my mind.That's our right.All of ours.
Now I appreciate your anecdotal experiences because I tend to put you in MY trust category( but the jury is still out)HA HA.Let's keep the info flowing ,but I agree lets try to supply trustworthy info.
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Old September 11th, 2005, 07:10 PM   #9
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I consider Adam Wilt to be one of the most straight shooting DV "gurus" around. Here are his remarks regarding this issues, lifted from his DV advice page ______________

Mixing different brands of tape: In DV's early days, Sony and Panasonic tapes used different lubricants, and if you used one brand a lot and then switched to the other, incompatibilities between the lubricants (which get deposited on heads and tape guides) could cause VTRs to jam up or the heads to clog, sometimes permanently. Supposedly the lubricants were made compatible starting in 1997, but I'm still hearing horror stories about these problems in the summer of 2002.
This is not a DV/DVCAM vs. DVCPRO problem; while many of the people reporting the jams are inserting the occasional DV tape into a DVCPRO transport, many others are seeing the problem in DV and DVCAM equipment, which (high-end DVCAM gear aside) can't play back DVCPRO to begin with. It also happens when other brands of tape are intermingled, not just Sony and Panasonic.
Anecdotal evidence would seem to indicate that the biggest problems occur when one brand of tape is used exclusively for a long time, and then the other brand's tape is used: instant mess! If one switches back and forth between the different tape brands frequently, say, switching between Sony and Panasonic every three or four tapes, the problems don't seem to appear.
Frequent switching apparently prevents a critical mass of one lubricant building up in the transport; switching tapes may clean off accumulations of gunk before they get heavy enough to cause problems. Whether this is really a solution, or if frequent switching only leads to a longer-term buildup of cross-contamination pollution on the tapes themselves, is unknown.
I run about 50% Panasonic DV tapes in my gear, with the remainder being a mix of Sony DV or DVCAM, JVC, and the occasional Fuji. I've never had a problem. It's rare that I run more than four hours on one brand before using the other brand of tape, so that may be a good starting place as to what a safe interchange frequency may be.
Thus there appear to be two general approaches to this problem:
Pick one brand of tape, and “stick” with it (sorry about the pun!). You simply won't see the problem. If any foreign brand of tape comes into your facility, do not put it into your VTR; make a FireWire dub of it onto your chosen tape brand on your machine, using the client's camcorder or VTR as the source deck.
Interchange tape brands frequently, so the gunk from one never builds up a critical mass inside the transport to jam up the other tape when it's inserted. Always clean the heads when changing brands, too.
Problems with tape interchange of this sort seem to be reduced by using a tape cleaner in between the different tapes. Especially in this instance, do not rewind and reuse the cleaning tapes; you'll just be mixing old gunk with new if you do so. Also, do not wait until you've run one pass on the new brand tape and seen blockies or dropouts: using the cleaning tape at this point may only polish the gunks firmly into the heads. Clean the heads before inserting the new tape.
Your results may vary: and if you've had any positive or negative experiences of this sort, I'd like to hear your story...

I think Mr. Wilts take is fairly responsible. As for first hand experience, after sending in a Canon Xl1 with head problems ... Canon repair specifically said TO ME "You're not using Sony tapes are you? Cause there's an issue with them, we don't recomend them." We weren't we were using Fuji as it happens. That's first hand from Canon to me to you.
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Old September 11th, 2005, 07:36 PM   #10
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Anecdotal evidence is sometimes all we have. I have sucessfully mixed TDK and Maxell in my Canon XL-1, and now both XL-2 cameras. Have not had a problem.

You should realize that anything you read on these forums in the way of advice is subject to being inaccurate although well intentioned. That's the nature of these forums. We all offer our own experiences and you the reader, have to decide whether the information is something you should or should not heed, act upon, believe, etc. Remember, it's free advice we are all giving in an attempt to help our peers. In that regard, it is not a disservice at all.

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Old September 11th, 2005, 09:26 PM   #11
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I have shot DV since day 1, I was given a VX-1000 the day they were released in the US in 1996. I have since shot with every 3CCD DV camera ever released in the US and shot THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of hours of DV. I can tell you that in general, tape problems are rare but switching brands makes them worse and more prevalent. Do I have data? No...just a decade of experience, sorry if that is not enough for you.

I generally clean the heads when changing tape brands and have not had a problem in many years but before then I mainly used Sony but noticed more dropouts and bad tapes when I used other brands. I first thought the problem was inferior other brands but when myself and others who had the reverse experience got together on sites like this and talked, we deduced that the problems arose when we used tapes other than our standard tapes.

Will changing tape brands make your camera break? Probably not, but it WILL cause there to be more aberrations than if you stick to the same brand.

ash =o)
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Old September 11th, 2005, 10:49 PM   #12
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Look at it from strictly the physical point of view.

Tape heads are designed to read the data off the tape, therefore the mechanisms inside must come into contact with that tape.

The only phyiscal damage that can occur here is through abrasion and lubrication of the head through the dry/wet fluid on the tape itself.

Sony's Master tapes use a wetter-type lubrication on their tape, and therefore transferring from these tapes to a drier TDK tape for example would transfer the lubrication on that tape and cause reading problems for the head as well as physical damage to the TDK cassette.

Consider what's actually different about the tapes, which isn't much, and then consider what matters to the camera, which will read magnetic data regardless of what it's on. If there's uncompressed DV footage on a tape, it will read it, and the only thing that could possibly inhibit that is physical issues with the tape itself, and the only one that I have ever found is the issue of lubrication.

You could possibly consider the mechanics of the rotating mechanism, but if they turn, they turn, and switching from tape brand to tape brand isn't going to change that.

Bottom line: If different companies use different types of lubrication on their tapes, than it is 100% possible that switching tapes without properly cleaning the heads will cause this lubrication to accumulate and mix together, producing undesired results.

That said, I can say I've used an extensive amount of DV tapes of differing brands over two camcorder lifespans and never even encountered a dropped frame. Although with my new GL2, I'm not willing to take the chance, so my Head Cleaner cassette is my best friend at this point.
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Old September 11th, 2005, 10:51 PM   #13
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<< So, believers, I ask you to produce some evidence. >>

Sorry. It's up to *you* to produce some evidence. You do the tests.

Until somebody can prove to me conclusively that tape brand switching is *not* an issue, I'll continue to recommend against it.

Anecdotal evidence is all we have to work with, and there is plenty of it here. Yes, anecdotal evidence certainly *does* count. I just don't buy the argument that "since it hasn't happened to me, that means it's not true." As the owner of this board, I have to look at it from a liability standpoint. I have to look at it as "what is the safe thing to recommend." And clearly the safe thing is to recommend *against* changing tape brands.

Show me the problems caused by *not* switching brands. Show me the reason why anybody *should* switch brands. I can think of no issues or problems caused by *not* switching brands. If somebody wants to argue against that, then the burden of proof falls on their shoulders, not mine.

If you say that tape brand switching does not cause issues, then *you* do the tests and you prove it. Until that happens, the official DV Info Net stance is to recommend against it. There is no FUD involved here. I'm just waiting for somebody to prove to me conclusively that brand switching is not a problem. More importantly, prove to me why it would *not* be a good practice to stick with one brand. If you can't show me why it's wrong not to switch brands, if you can't demonstrate the harm it causes, then I don't think you have a valid argument against that practice.

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Old September 12th, 2005, 01:19 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Chris Hurd
Until somebody can prove to me conclusively that tape brand switching is *not* an issue, I'll continue to recommend against it.
Chris, logically that's a fallacy.

You're right when you say that anecdotal evidence is all we have to work with, and anecdotal evidence is by definition inconclusive. Therefore it's impossible to conclusively say either way.

Anecdotally, I've used Panasonic, Sony and JVC tapes in the same camera (DVX-100) as long as I've owned it, since it was first released. The heads appear to be in excellent condition and I've experienced no dropouts or image quality issues.

So what makes my anecdotal evidence more or less conclusive than that of someone who says "Don't mix tapes, lest your camera enter into congress with the Beast"?
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Old September 12th, 2005, 02:08 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Tim Brechlin
So what makes my anecdotal evidence more or less conclusive than that of someone who says "Don't mix tapes
Granted, there is no scientific proof either way. But I think Chris stated his case very well. Look at it from a risk/reward point of view. We don't know for sure, but there might be a risk involved with mixing brands. OTOH, I fail to see any reward whatsoever associated with mixing brands.

So why would you want to take a chance when there's essentially nothing to gain by mixing tape brands? But of course it's your camera, so you have to make your own choices.

Personally I only use Sony premium tapes in my Sony cameras. I haven't had any problems with dropouts, so why would I want to start mixing brands? To save a few pennies when something is on sale??? The Sony tapes are available just about everywhere (WalMart, Target, CompUSA, Circuit City, etc) and I suspect the same is true for the other major tape brands as well.
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