Some old mini DV tapes won't play back properly on new camcorder

Discussion in 'Amateur Video Production' started by davidrobinson, Aug 25, 2007.

  1. Group, I have a problem(!)

    My old Sony mini DV camcorder died. It had a faulty screen, I
    attempted to fix it, and killed it dead. It was a DCR-SC100E PAL from
    1998. It had lasted well, filled 80 mini DV tapes, though never really
    wowed me quality wise.

    After much consideration, I bought a Canon HV20. Lovely machine. Will
    have to save up for a new PC fast enough to decode HDV, but that's by
    the by.

    The problem is that _some_ of my old DV tapes won't play properly on
    the Canon. Problems range from slight tiny few pixel drop outs, to the
    entire right 1/4 of the screen constantly dropping out and being
    replaced by the previous frame - with the audio dropping out almost
    constantly too. However, some tapes play without any visible problems
    (even those with lots of panning and movement where it would be easy
    to spot).

    I can find no pattern to the problems. SP or LP, Sony Panasonic or
    Matsui(!) tape, widescreen or 4x3, 1998 or 2007 - I have good and bad
    examples from each.

    I'm wondering if it had something to do with using different brands of
    tape occasionally. In the reading I did before buying the HV20 I
    discovered this was a complete no-no. No one told me 9 years ago! I
    mainly used Sony Premium or Sony Colour Collection - and I'm wondering
    if problems appear on the recordings after using a Panasonic instead
    (or, most recently, on recordings made after transferring some old
    Panasonic tapes onto PC).

    The old camcorder had occasional problems on the recordings, which
    were always there when played back. Using a head cleaner once, and
    later giving up on LP in favour of SP, seemed to solve these for good
    on future recordings.

    However, on the new camcorder, the tapes I had with a few problems are
    now disasters, but also very recent tapes with no previous problems
    are also disasters.

    Has anyone experience this? I considered the old camcorder's heads
    could be out of alignment, but I have plenty of tapes recorded on
    there which play fine. I considered the HV20 could be picky or faulty,
    but a friend playing one of my recent, wrecked tapes sees exactly the
    same problem. Yet I still have the AVI copied onto my PC using the old
    camcorder which is just fine.

    I would be interested to know how this happened. I suspect the old
    camcorder was "never quite right", maybe because I used different
    brands of tape, or maybe because of a manufacturing (or handling!)

    Most importantly, I am wondering about the best way to play back these
    tapes. I don't have copies of most of them, so want to transfer them
    as well as possible. Do I try to get my old camcorder repaired
    (telling the repairer _not_ to fix any transport problems it may
    have!), or can I buy another machine that's more "forgiving" of "bad"
    tapes, whatever that may mean?

    Any advice gratefully received.


    P.S. do I risk wrecking the HV20 with these damaged tapes?
    davidrobinson, Aug 25, 2007
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  2. davidrobinson

    peter Guest

    miniDV have narrow track and may not read properly on different camcorders

    try a different camcorder to read the old tape
    peter, Aug 26, 2007
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  3. davidrobinson

    MD Guest

    I would definitley repair the old machine and stop using the HV20 to
    play the tapes.

    If budget is an issue, you can always e-bay the fixed camera once
    you've transferred the vidoes to a hard drive.

    MD, Aug 27, 2007
  4. davidrobinson

    sandyprice Guest

    If only the screen is dead, could you not hook up the camcorder's
    video output, either S-, composite or firewire and play the tapes out
    to either a VCR to make a VHS or S-VHS tape copy, or (by firewire) to
    a computer, for capture by video capture/edit software?

    If, indeed, you further disabled the entire camcorder in the process
    of attempting to "fix" it, you are out of luck with this suggestion.

    Considering all the "static" on the internet about the use of the long-
    play feature of the camcorders capable of doing so, I find it strange
    that you made those LP tapes. From the beginning, there were many
    warnings against using the LP function, specifically due to the
    likelyhood that other camcorders would likely not be able to play the
    LP tapes back.

    In addition, I, and several others on this same
    forum, (back when it was still "dejanews"), posted warnings about
    using various brands of tape indiscriminatively. I posted based upon
    personal experience with an early VX1000.

    Sony tapes were hard to find, and when you could find them they were
    2-3 times as much as a Panasonic, so I had to interchange them.
    Within the first 3 months I had to run the abrasive "head cleaner
    tape" twice. At the end of my first year, I sent the camcorder to
    Sony for annual maintenance without mentioning the problem. It was
    returned with a stern message written across the service tag to "use
    only Sony tapes"!
    years, have never had to use the head cleaner tape again. Since then
    I have purchased and used extensively a TRV900 and a PC-120, none of
    which have ever needed the use of that same head cleaner tape.

    I hope you can use my suggestion to copy your tapes. But if not, I
    can only wish you luck.

    sandyprice, Aug 27, 2007
  5. Sounds like your old camcorder was marginally within
    "interchange" (the proper alignment that allows tapes to
    be played back on other machines).

    The only real solution would be to get a machine that is
    adjusted for the worst of the marginal tapes and use it to
    read those tapes. It might be worth it to get your old camcorder
    running at least to the point where it can read the tapes
    (which doesn't require the viewfinder, etc.)
    Richard Crowley, Aug 27, 2007
  6. Thanks for all the replies. I'm relieved to find some knowledge in
    here (as you probably know, there are some useless Usenet groups out
    there). I clearly should have visited years ago.

    I know, it even said it in the manual. I was young and foolish, tapes
    were expensive, it seemed to work OK at the time, and I assumed I'd
    copy them before it became an issue. Then I completely forgot I'd ever
    used LP, had kids, and never had time to go back to the old tapes.

    Anyway, plenty of the LP tapes do play back just fine - that's what's
    so strange - whatever was wrong, it wasn't constantly wrong. Meanwhile
    there are SP tapes that are "bad".
    I wish I'd been reading back then, because I could easily have stuck
    to just Sony tapes. The reason I stopped using Panasonics was because
    they didn't seem quite as good, not because I knew better.
    I think my best bet, as others have suggested, is to try to get the
    old machine fixed.

    I just wish I understood exactly what had happened, because it might
    help, if I can't get the old machine fixed...

    The old machine played back the "bad" and "good" tapes. I guess it
    must be a combination of tape tension, head alignment, and the wet vs
    dry tape lubricant. I'm also wondering, if my old camcorder had
    perfectly clean heads again, whether it would actually play the "bad"

    If I can't get my old machine fixed, might it be possible to "break"
    another machine to mimic whatever was wrong about with the old one.
    I'm guessing tape tension and wet vx dry lubricant can be recreated,
    but head alignment can't be?

    davidrobinson, Aug 28, 2007
  7. Yes, you can have a technician "align" any machine to your
    "bad" tapes so that they can be played. (And then restore it
    to proper interchange alignment) The question is whether
    it is worth the expense/hassle?
    Richard Crowley, Aug 28, 2007
  8. davidrobinson

    2Bdecided Guest

    I've found someone who can probably copy the tapes with an "adjusted"
    machine for £15 per tape, or can probably fix my old machine for £110.

    I'm going to go and count the "bad" tapes and see how many are

    I'm also going to make damn sure that I make backups of my footage in
    the future! I'm very careful with the digital photos that I take,
    because I know how easy it is to lose computer data. I've got copies
    on CDs, DVDs, and HDDs in three different houses. I think I'll adopt a
    similar approach to DV/HDV now! (but using the original tape as one

    2Bdecided, Aug 29, 2007
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