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Old April 7th, 2004, 11:34 AM   #1
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Save Your Camera's Heads!

I messed up the firewire output jack on my nice Panasonic DVX100 the other day. Now have to send it in for extended warranty repair. Fortunately, this will only cost me $20.

But this error allowed me to learn a couple of things I had not thought of before:

1) Don't move your camera unless you've checked that you've unplugged it first. (!)

2) Don't use your good camera for playback or to capture footage into your computer for editing.

I didn't think about this before- but it makes way more sense to use my cheap Sony DV camera (PC101) to play back tapes, or to play back for capture in the computer. My little Sony DV camera costs 1/3 as much as the Panasonic pro camera, but it plays back the tapes just as well- regardless of how I film, whether in progressive move, or 24 fps. The Sony plays back all formats filmed on the Panasonic. All of the conversion, i.e. progressive, 24 frames per second, etc are done before the information is stored on the DV tape- and no special decoding is needed on playback or capture.

(My Vegas software appropriately is configured during capture and editing, and it makes no difference what camera is used for playback and capture regardless of mode used originally in the Panasonic.- Correct me if I am missing something, but I don't think so.)

When you capture or film using an expensive camera, you gain all the benefits of advanced machinery, 3 CCDs, good sound, etc, and this helps you create the best image. However, on playback, nothing is gained by running the tape heads additionally by using the good camera for this purpose. You just cause more wear on the heads-- in fact, double or triple (or more depending on how much you play back tapes) the time and wear on the heads when you playback and capture, and for no good reason.

Considering that you get about 1000 hours on the Panasonic heads (and I imagine the same for other pro cameras) before you need to send the camera in for head maintenance, it actually makes a lot of sense to use a much cheaper camera for playback and capture, and save wear on your good camera that you reserve for filming only.

I am thinking that there may be digital to analog converters in the camera- perhaps better in the more expensive models over the $800 Sony PC101, but I cannot detect anything upon playback, monitoring, or capture, and analog to digital conversion or vice versa may not even happen in the capture playback sequence in the camera anyway.
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Old April 7th, 2004, 01:30 PM   #2
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Good idea.

If you're using miniDV at all, you can even get cameras from eBay for $100-$200 bucks. Sure beats paying around $1000 or more for a playback deck if you dont need all the outputs.

After I got my GL2 and shot some tape with it, I ran an experiment and captured the tape once using the GL2 and then again with my old ZR25.

Once aligned in my NLE, I ran a difference composite on the clips. Any variation between the clips should have shown as a bright spot or a patch of color, but the result was pure black. Not a single difference between the two clips. Makes sense, since the video is already saved in digital on the tape. All the firewire is doing is copying the data. Short of dropped frames or data, the copy should be the same with any firewire playback device.

Anyway, from that point forward I just use the ZR25 for capture and save the GL2 for shooting only. (Saves a boatload of wear-and-tear just avoiding all the FF and RW seeks alone. :) )

Have fun.
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Old April 8th, 2004, 02:23 PM   #3
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Thanks for a confirmation of my idea. I am sure many people do this, but I am also sure there are probably more of whom this concept has not occured to.

Glad you did a deliberate test.

You may enjoy my GL2 DIY wide angle lens project, as well as other DIY pro video projects (bottom of page)
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Old April 8th, 2004, 02:42 PM   #4
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If you're playing back via firewire, then your camera is just reading data off the tape and sending the data stream to your computer via the firewire cable. No digital/analog conversion at all.

So you are, in fact, doing yourself a huge favor by using a cheap camera as a feeder deck and saving your acquisition camera from additional wear and tear.

As an added precaution, I have a rule where nothing goes into my camera except fresh tapes. That way I avoid letting contaminated tapes from elsewhere mess up my acquisition equipment.

Dean Sensui
Base Two Productions
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Old April 10th, 2004, 01:33 AM   #5
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I recently purchased a camera on eBay for this purpose.

A wonderful investment, if only for the ability to capture tapes without taking my VX2000 out of the bag every time (I'm lazy, sue me). It's a Sony camera, a TRV9, so I can use my existing F960 battery to power it, along with the 750 that was included.

The best part--I'm still having trouble getting over this, and have been looking for an excuse to tell the story--is that it only cost about a hundred and forty dollars, due to being stuck in Nightshot mode. Within an hour of receiving the package, I had taken the camera apart, reseated a cockeyed ribbon cable, and gotten the thing working perfectly.

Now I not only have a cheap deck, I have a secondary camera. Not a terribly great one, but that's not the point.

I heartily endorse this path for those without the spondulics necessary for a real deck.
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Old April 10th, 2004, 08:15 AM   #6
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I'm ready to get a "low-priced" camcorder for use as a deck...

I wonder which "lowest-priced" models would also offer digital pass-thru?

Ed Baatz
Sarasota, Florida
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Old April 11th, 2004, 12:07 PM   #7
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I wonder which "lowest-priced" models would also offer digital pass-thru?
Iīve used a Sony TRV-27 for pass-through. It sold for about $1000 new, but itīs an old model that you may find on ebay and such. If you find a TRV-25, itīs the same camera, but with a smaller LCD.
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