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Old March 2nd, 2014, 12:27 PM   #1
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Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

Hi everyone, I've been capturing an assortment of old video tapes with surprising success, until I came across a couple of MiniDV tapes.

Unfortunately, when I playback the Fuji tapes, the video is covered in squares. I've got another Panasonic tape which plays fine so I don't believe it's a problem with the camera.

I'm contemplating sending the tapes off to be "repaired", but at 15-25 a piece, I'd rather not send them off if I can fix it myself.

I've captured some of the footage to show you my problem:

Hopefully someone here can help!

Thanks in advance :-)

Last edited by Levi Hunter; March 2nd, 2014 at 12:28 PM. Reason: Additional information
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Old March 2nd, 2014, 02:01 PM   #2
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

If other tapes play fine, then the problem is probably that either your machine or the machine it was recorded on is out of alignment - assuming dirty heads on record would have been spotted by the person who recorded it. The snag is their system will be working fine, just like yours, but the dodgy alignment just prevents playback on other kit. Trying the tapes on somebody else's equipment may just let you recover them - if the alignment of yours and the original kit are perhaps just both off from 'standard' by a tad.
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Old March 2nd, 2014, 09:07 PM   #3
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

Is it possible that this tape was recorded in DVCAM and your deck doesn't support it for playback?

Just my first line of thought.

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Old March 3rd, 2014, 09:21 AM   #4
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

Both Paul and Andrew have suggested good possibilities. DV camcorders and decks don't have tracking knobs to adjust for tape alignment issues. If a tape was recorded out of the range of the machine you are playing it back on you could get results like you are experiencing. Bigger decks have better error correction and could give you good playback. By the way some audio playback issues existed between manufacturers like Canon and Panasonic so DV was not always a completely compatible tape standard anyway. Add in DVCAM and you could have several kinds of DV issues to deal with even if the tape is perfect.
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Old March 3rd, 2014, 09:46 AM   #5
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

Hi Levi,

Is the entire tape doing this consistently, or just parts of it? I've had issues myself in the past when switching tape brands. Some will call this urban legend, but it has long been documented that there are two types of lubricant used on different brands of DV tape, wet and dry, and mixing them can cause issues.

If you have a DV head cleaning cassette (everyone should have one in their kit), run that before putting in the problem tape.

One trick that has saved me on occasion is this - try connecting the ANALOG outputs of the camera directly to a monitor. Do you see the same playback issues? I've had tapes with errors when captured via Firewire, that output a perfect (or almost perfect) picture via analog! I believe that when capturing via Firewire, you get a bit-for-bit copy, errors and all, but some sort of "error correction" must get applied during the D-A conversion process. All I know is that it can help, saved some crucial wedding footage for me. Of course, you would need a capture device that accepts analog inputs (I use Matrox MXO2 Mini).

Hope this info is helpful
Attached Thumbnails
Pixellated MiniDV Tapes-dv-1.jpg   Pixellated MiniDV Tapes-dv-2.jpg  

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Old March 3rd, 2014, 11:29 AM   #6
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

Good point there, Jeff.

I do believe that the Sony HDV decks perform a bit of automagical fixing of playback errors, even what goes out through the HDMI port. (Not that I have spent time looking in to this to get a conclusive answer.)

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Old March 5th, 2014, 07:25 AM   #7
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

Are these your DV tapes or from other sources? Squares suggest to me that the tapes are in NTSC not PAL as I would get the same effect here n the US if I have a PAL DV tape. That is until I change the system switch on the back of the deck. If the timecode is playing correctly while the squares appear, you can see if the frames go to 25 or 30. If the timecode is not playing correctly then the likelihood is that the tapes are bad as described before.
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Old March 5th, 2014, 10:51 AM   #8
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

Thank you everyone for all of your help. I really appreciate it as I'm attempting to recover home videos on behalf of a relative so the thought of losing them is pretty scary.

I have a feeling that William Hohauser may have nailed it.

The videos were recorded on a PAL camera and I was attempting the playback on an NTSC camera!

I have mislaid the camera which was given to me with the tapes (although I'm sure it will turn up eventually), so I have been using a very similar camera, except it's an NTSC import. Both are Canon ZR45MC, although the PAL is an earlier model (it doesn't have a memory card slot like the other but one day it randomly had an onscreen message telling the user to insert a memory card).

Please would you explain to me what the "system switch on the back of the deck" is and whether I have one that I can also change.
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Old March 6th, 2014, 09:17 PM   #9
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

Unfortunately DV cameras never came with system switches, only the DV video decks. You might be able to find an NTSC HDV camera that can play back PAL (I have one that I accidentally found out could do this). Some Sony semi-pro NTSC DV camcorders could play PAL back. Better to look for your old camera and hope it still works. You might be able to rent a Sony DSR-11 DV deck for these tapes or a JVC DV deck. The HDV decks had the switches as well.
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Old April 17th, 2014, 12:32 PM   #10
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

So I finally found the camera the tapes were originally filmed on.

Unfortunately, it's not good news!

The camera is a Canon MV500 (PAL) and is showing a memory card error. However, there is no memory card slot! It's entirely possible that I'm being slightly blind, but I highly doubt it as I can locate the memory card slot on the Canon ZR45MC (NTSC).

Upon turning on to 'CAMERA' mode, it starts up as usual and then displays a 'NO CARD' warning and then a small flashing memory card logo in the top right corner. The background is black and does not show anything to be recorded. This problem doesn't really bother me as I don't plan to do any more recording with this camera, however I wonder if it is related to the really annoying problem I'm having with it.

On selecting 'PLAY/VCR' mode, the screen is just black/blank.

I assume the problems are connected.

I would just like to be able to play the tapes back on the camera and thus capture them on my computer, however with the camera requesting a memory card and just showing a blank/black screen, it seems I am unable to do so.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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Old April 17th, 2014, 12:56 PM   #11
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

And it's not just me! It seems like the problem exists with others too:

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Old April 19th, 2014, 07:30 AM   #12
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

Possibly there is a built in memory card. Some cameras have the slot on the bottom of the camera where you attach it to a tripod.

Here is a trick that used to work with Sony DV cameras that were malfunctioning due to an internal memory error: remove the battery and AC power supply so there are no power sources for the camera, turn the camera on and wait a minute. This discharges all the memory chips in the camera and will reset the camera. Perhaps this works with Canon DV cameras.
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Old April 27th, 2014, 01:47 PM   #13
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

I don't know the MV500, but the Canon XH A1 HDV camera has an SD card slot in the battery compartment.
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Old May 3rd, 2014, 11:39 AM   #14
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

Thank you for your help, but unfortunately no luck so far. I've attached some photographs of the camera in hope that it can prompt some ideas.
Attached Thumbnails
Pixellated MiniDV Tapes-01b1af2c616bc02b8cffa17bc455fea996c9667066.jpg   Pixellated MiniDV Tapes-01b7fbec25b9443b3fdb19ef438e59472e5bfd57f0.jpg  

Pixellated MiniDV Tapes-01d00f0e6b2e4ee6f1f2e8036df17062354a279ec8.jpg   Pixellated MiniDV Tapes-01de110676b6cc57dc0b2d5aaea7877a1a89ef4774.jpg  

Pixellated MiniDV Tapes-01e2a8a726d26c01d0ef811debaa24cfa37c59d151.jpg   Pixellated MiniDV Tapes-012a122d637b0c171b532db1d25e604e34e830520c.jpg  

Pixellated MiniDV Tapes-016cb05321109406ec8862ba2dd004f172e69fc0aa.jpg   Pixellated MiniDV Tapes-01146a868ee07b58e6d867e32099485665a9e75239.jpg  

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Old May 3rd, 2014, 03:12 PM   #15
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Re: Pixellated MiniDV Tapes

I recall that some DV tapes had a memory card in the tape cassette for enhanced functionality. I believe there were contacts in the little rectangular boxes near the record disable switch on the cassette. Perhaps the camera is looking for one of these cassettes.

What happens when you put a tape into the machine? Does the transport load the tape or just sit there? If it loads, does it go into play and actually run the tape?
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