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Old February 20th, 2017, 12:21 PM   #1
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Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

Once I switched over from miniDV to memory cards, I never thought about them again. I figured I had most of the important footage already captured and didn't even know where the miniDV tapes are (I'm a hobbyist, so it's all home movies).

A few weeks ago, my wife asked me what I wanted to do with these tapes. I took a look, and it was dozens of miniDV tapes, most of which were never captured to my computer. Hard drive space was at a premium 10 years ago, so I didn't bother except for special circumstances. But now, hard drive space is so cheap that I thought I would just digitize all my footage. So I bought a used miniDV camcorder (same brand that I used to use, Canon. The ZR900) and looked forward to capturing all this missing footage.

I opened up Final Cut Pro (10.3.2) and started capturing the tapes. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that half the tapes cannot be captured. The time code is so messed up on capture that I have a bunch of 2 frame long files. Joining them together does not result in usable footage.

If it didn't capture anything, I'd chalk it up to a bad camcorder. But it captures some tapes fine. Other tapes, it captures half of a tape before the dropped frames start happening. Other tapes, the dropped frames are all over the tape.

I have a 2010 Mac Pro with 16 GB RAM and I'm not capturing to my system drive. With these specs, I'm 99% sure that the computer isn't the problem here. And yes, I'm capturing via Firewire.

I don't have any A/V cables for this camera, so I can't hook it up to the TV to see how the footage looks there. On the small screen, sometimes it looks fine, but the timecode just looks messed up. Sometimes the stuttering happens on the video also.

What are my options? I've tried capturing via iMovie, and it results in the same problem. I've tried Quicktime Pro, but it doesn't not capture audio at all, despite the audio being set correctly.

I also have a PC and am willing to try out Premiere if people have had better luck with PC. Of course, I'll need to get a PCI card with Firewire ports first.

Should I try to get another miniDV camera?

I just had no idea that miniDV was such a fragile media, which is so disappointing to me and my big collection of memories that may or may not be useless.

EDIT: I've cleaned the heads using a head cleaning tape several times and it doesn't seem to make a difference.

Last edited by Tom DelRosario; February 20th, 2017 at 01:33 PM.
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Old February 20th, 2017, 01:55 PM   #2
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

It's been a while, but I seem to remember that fast forwarding a problem tape all the way to the end, then fast rewind all the way back to the beginning, before trying to capture, SOMETIMES helped.

I do remember a couple of times where a tape was damaged that nothing helped. Also remember one time the only deck that would capture a particular tape was the camera that recorded it. Heads had gotten out of alignment, and only the deck (camera) with the out of alignment heads could read that tape.
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Old February 20th, 2017, 03:06 PM   #3
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

You could try this ScenalyzerLive Page PC only but was the bees knees in its time.
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Old February 20th, 2017, 04:16 PM   #4
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

Scenalyzer Live. That's a name I haven't heard in a long time.

I remember using that when I first got my mini DV camcorder as the best way to capture video that had broken timecode. I used it all the time.

It hasn't been updated since 2006 and hasn't even been sold since 2010. But I might as well see if it works.

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Old February 20th, 2017, 11:26 PM   #5
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

I've had luck in situations where the time code got screwed up by capturing via Windows Movie Maker.
Microsoft had just ended its support in January for the set of free software known as Windows Essentials 2012, which included Movie Maker, and they have stopped allowing you to download from their site; however, it looks like it's available at this other site. Give it a try. Windows Movie Maker Free Download - For Windows 7/8/10/Xp/Vista

The Windows Essentials 2012 site is located here, and maybe there's still some manuals or FAQs that might be helpful. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/...vie-Maker-2012


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Old February 21st, 2017, 05:42 AM   #6
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

First thing is to clean the camera properly with the right solvent and wipes, and check the camera is in good working order. Stick in a new tape, record on that and then see if that gets into the computer without dropping fames. This will prove the camera is functioning properly. If it passes this test and still fails on the old tapes, then, assuming they were once good, then either the old or new camera is not aligned to the standard to ensure compatibility, or the actual tapes themselves are damaged in some way.

I doubt that any software can recreate frames that are simply corrupt or missing. It's quite common for DV based cameras to be fine on their own, but fail on other people's tapes.

I guess the sensible thing would be to see if you can borrow another camera and that will prove if it's duff tapes or a poorly aligned camera that is to blame. You need to fix this - not repair the files. I have two DV players here - one plays back my very old tapes recorded on a JVC aligned incorrectly, and the other plays tapes recorded on the repplacement JVC camera. Crazy I have two, but as I have a large archive of tapes I still need access to, it's the only solution for me.
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Old February 21st, 2017, 08:40 AM   #7
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

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Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
Stick in a new tape, record on that and then see if that gets into the computer without dropping fames. This will prove the camera is functioning properly. If it passes this test and still fails on the old tapes, then, assuming they were once good, then either the old or new camera is not aligned to the standard to ensure compatibility, or the actual tapes themselves are damaged in some way.
Thing is, it's not all the tapes that have this problem. Some tapes capture without a single dropped frame. Others don't Others look fine on the little screen, but you can see that the timecode is stalling (suggesting that the timecode is bad, even though the actual data is good.

I just ordered a Firewire card for my PC and I'll see how the capturing goes on that computer. If that doesn't help, guess I'll just pick up another camcorder and sell the one I just got.I'll also look into some head cleaning videos. But I don't think the heads are very accessible on the ZR900. If you have any tips, they would be greatly appreciated.
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Old February 21st, 2017, 10:17 AM   #8
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

If some work, it suggests it's simply dodgy tapes. If some are totally solid, then I expect your computer isn't the problem. It's possible that the camera you have is a bit like my problem - it plays some but not others. If the tapes are not actually damaged, then it's possible it's just alignment - either of the camera now, or the original camera. Cleaning wise - if it works on some tapes, I would leave alone, but DV machines have always been tricky to clean. realistically, unless you know what you are doing, it's quite easy to damage the head drum.

Proper cleaning means a complicated strip down, then a spray with some solvent to soften up any debris in the head gaps, and then a lint free cloth (just so stray strands don;t snag the head itself) to gently wipe away the oxide you loosened. In some cameras, you can see the heads on the drum, and with some dexterity, you can get a finger in along with a cleaning device - I like a cotton bud with a small strip of lint free cloth taped to the end. I always hold this lightly touching the head after I have sprayed it with Colclene, but at a push, lighter fluid does pretty well, and evaporates quickly.I then rotate the head drum with my little finger so the slots pass under the very light pressure from the wet pad. This doesn't clean the mechanism and tape path of course, but will clean the heads.

Head cleaning tapes are the recommended way to do it, but they're a bit of a cop-out. If the tape says ten seconds, then 5 won't be enough and twenty could wear the head away. This just won't help on the dodgy ones.
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Old February 21st, 2017, 06:50 PM   #9
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

Are the problematic tapes recorded in 'long play' mode by any chance? Those were never guaranteed to play on any device other than the one that recorded them, and not necessarily even then.

Otherwise, I sometimes have problems when I capture old tapes from my DSR-11, but fast-forward and rewind of the tape usually sorts it. Not sure whether that's realigning the tape, or rubbing crusty crap off the heads.
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Old February 22nd, 2017, 04:32 AM   #10
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

FWIW I've never captured with anything other than Softonic winDV (free), and still use it occasionally - never a fault that couldn't be traced to hardware. And the recommended full FF and then rewind before capture should help if the tapes have been 'resting' for a while. Good luck.

PS Oh, yes - Firewire, of course...

Last edited by Brian Dollemore; February 22nd, 2017 at 04:35 AM. Reason: Addition
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Old February 22nd, 2017, 05:10 PM   #11
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

Most of my dropped frame situations were almost always traced back to low ram, some other software running, a slow drive.
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Old February 22nd, 2017, 05:16 PM   #12
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

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Originally Posted by Steven Davis View Post
Most of my dropped frame situations were almost always traced back to low ram, some other software running, a slow drive.
That was probably in the early 2000s, though. When I first got a MiniDV camcorder, I had a 400 MHz computer with 2 GB RAM and I captured fine. Even though the computer is 6 years old, I seriously doubt my 16 GB Mac Pro with a 2.8 GHz CPU is even close to running out of resources.(The hard drive is 7200 rpm drive connected via SATA).

In fact, when I check the diagnostics while it's capturing, I'm using less than half the RAM and less than 10% of the CPU.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Grant View Post
Are the problematic tapes recorded in 'long play' mode by any chance? Those were never guaranteed to play on any device other than the one that recorded them, and not necessarily even then.

Otherwise, I sometimes have problems when I capture old tapes from my DSR-11, but fast-forward and rewind of the tape usually sorts it. Not sure whether that's realigning the tape, or rubbing crusty crap off the heads.
I'll definitely try the FF/REW trick.

And no, all of the tapes are recorded in the 60 minute mode.

I just received a PCI Firewire card today, so I'll also be trying my PC instead of the MAC. And my PC is even less likely to run into resource issues, considering it's running a 4.5 GHz processor and has a nearly empty hard drive.
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Old February 22nd, 2017, 08:31 PM   #13
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

Lol, Scenalyzer Live is so old that it can't capture to my hard drive with 2.93 TB free because it thinks it is full. I assume that's because the program hasn't been updated since 2006 and can't process disk sizes past a certain amount.

So I'm forced to capture to my SSD with 295 GB free. But it looks like it's working!
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Old February 22nd, 2017, 08:34 PM   #14
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

Alright! Glad you got it working.

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Old February 22nd, 2017, 11:31 PM   #15
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Re: Tons of dropped frames on miniDV capture. What are my options?

That's so weird. But glad it's working. Is there a way to do a check on your hard drive in case it's on the way out.
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