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Canon XL H Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XL H1S (with SDI), Canon XL H1A (without SDI). Also XL H1.

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Old March 1st, 2010, 07:30 PM   #1
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HDV plagued with dropped frames?

Hello fellow forum-ers!!!

Just wondering if anyone else experiences a lot of problems with dropped frames when recording HDV...

I have a Canon XH-A1, as well as an HV20 and an HV30. With all three of these cameras, it's pretty common for any tape that I shoot on (I always use brand new high-quality Panasonic & Sony tapes that are rated for HDV) to have anywhere from 5 to 10 dropped frames within an hours worth of footage. Typically, with all 3 cameras, the dropped frame problem is heaviest within the first five minutes of a tape, and then it usually lessens as recording gets further into the tape.

This past weekend I rented two additional XH-A1 cameras and ran into the exact some issue with the footage shot with them. Again, using a mixture of brand new high quality (some Sony and some Panasonic) HDV 60 minute tapes in SP mode.

Is this unusual, or just a common occurrence when working with HDV?

I'm capturing the footage shot on these cameras into Final Cut Pro 5. I have two editing systems (one an 8-core MacPro capturing to fast internal SATA drives, and a MacBookPro capturing to a firewire drive). I have the same drop-out problem with either system. I've also tried capturing from various cameras and run into the same problem no matter what camera is used as a deck.

Any advice, or sympathy, is greatly appreciated!!! :-)

Last edited by Carrie Cannaday; March 1st, 2010 at 08:35 PM.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 08:46 PM   #2
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Hi Carrie............

A few things to try.

Don't mix tape brand/ types in the camera's. Pick a brand & type and stick with it.

Get a handfull of cleaning tapes and get into the habit of running one through the camera every time before you load a new tape.

Use the shooting camera to load into the NLE, dropouts are more likely using another cam.

Won't guarantee DO free heaven but should improve the situation a lot.

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Old March 2nd, 2010, 04:16 AM   #3
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Carrie, after 46+ years with magnetic tape transports I can tell you the problem is due to fine dust and almost invisible microgrit sitting on the top of your cameras. When you pop the transports open to load tapes it flies up and settles in the transport.

It then gets on the tape at the start and that's why you get dropped frames within the first 5 minutes of recording and it lessens as you get further in.

Get a damp cotton bud and run it down the groove on top of your HV20/30 .. see the collected dust .. that's what I'm talking about.

The answer is to keep the top and of ALL your machines clean and dust free .. before you open the transports wipe them down with a cloth every single time .. even just blow the dust off if you're outdoors.
But first do this .. with the transports open upend all your cams and give 'em light shake to remove loose microgrit, then run a cleaner tape. I only use them once through then throw 'em out .. why deposit grit back on the guides and heads .. twice through is a marketing ploy.

Get into a regular routine .. have the recording tape ready and keep the tpt open for the minimum time. Never leave tapes sitting around out of their cases, they collect dust.

With the tapes you have already recorded, note the t/code where the dropouts are and play them again. If those areas change position it means the dust is just sitting there on the tape after you recorded it. Try spooling back and forwards 2 or 3 times .. you might loosen the grit, free it up and eventually remove it.

30+ years with our own audio and visual production company and studios.
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Old March 3rd, 2010, 09:52 AM   #4
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allan may be correct I don't know, but I would say if you were to use just panasonic or sony you would have far less drop outs.
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Old March 3rd, 2010, 10:16 AM   #5
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Ditto on tape mixing and cleanliness. I have always used Maxell DV tapes because of a cheap and plentiful local supply at the warehouse club. A year or two ago, I noticed that the color of the cassette shell went from a very dark gray to black. I had never had any trouble reusing tapes in the past and made a habit of it, but found that once I switched to the black-shell tapes, putting in a gray-shell tape after a black tape would often cause a head clog warning right away and I would need to run the head cleaner, so I'm now sticking with newer black-shell only (still reusing those). Something changed in the tape formula apparently.

Also, when I take a brand-new tape out of the packaging, before I put it in the camera, I run my finger across the outer parts - I can see little dust specs on the black plastic, especially around the door the flips up. I want to wipe that off so as not to introduce dust into the camera. I don't use a cloth because that would add more lint, I just use my clean finger.

As others mentioned, wipe or blow off outer area of tape door on camera before opening. Little things like that go a long way in preventing dropouts. I also have a head cleaner tape in each camera bag, never know when you'll need one

Jeff Pulera
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Old March 3rd, 2010, 12:48 PM   #6
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the dropped frame problem is heaviest within the first five minutes of a tape

this could also be an indication of the places you were paused over the tape, as in the beginning or waiting or getting going is when there is a tendancy to have less roll and more pause. the heads dont stop spinning on most of the cameras unless you turn it off, eject the tape or the camera goes on standby. with some cameras standby is off, and some standby is just head spin down.
when the tape is stopped in ONE place, hundreds if not thousands of times more "wear" will hit that one place. when we recognise that we are paused for to long in one place, we put on "leader" so as to not destroy the tape , or we just shut down the camera instead of waiting the 3-5Minutes of tape ripping head spin.

if your camera stands-by or shuts off because you let it SIT there paused on the same hunk of tape, then you turn it BACK on, and let it shred the tape some MORE, instead of tossing on some leader to get it out of that location, your just setting yourself up for tape failure. and people will do this 2, 3 TIMES on the same place on the tape.

best tape is the really highly metalic ones, often called "pro" and getting them from reliable sources that know how to treat a tape. in DV there is a sony "premium", in 8mm there was a sony "master edit", and if you open up the door and look at the tape, you see they are NOT premium high metal tapes, and they suck completely. What i SEE has been more valuable than the words they try to make me believe with.

there is ONE end of great tapes, and that is all the way at the TOP end, and they arent cheap often 2x normal prices, but i can reuse them many times and i will amost always know where any possible dropouts will BE on the excessivly reused tapes, and that is where they were harshed on, by me or by camera people not paying attention to the camera pause time.

so its all there in the mechanics of the thing, 9000rpm head spinning, plasticy or metalicy tape, time spent with the drum/head combo on the same place.
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Old March 5th, 2010, 07:12 PM   #7
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one more note,
when the tape isnt paused over the same place for as long, which starts doing lots of wear, and heat, and breaking down the tape itself, the heads/drum dont get as much accumulation of broken down stuff on them too. so this can keep you from having a full on head clog or having to do a head cleaning as often too.
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