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Tape Malfunction

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You Can Call Me AlTape Malfunction
by on Sep 19, 2006 at 7:37:45 pm

Hello all,
I know this is a long shot but a sony Mini DV tape screwed up and not sure why.

I blacked the tape first - recorded over it with cam lens on. It had been previously used.

Then used it for an event and nothing was recorded for about 10 minutes on the tape even though it said it was recording then at about 15 minutes it has thick black lines and you can see half the footage. The lines are horizontal and are spaced evenly apart so it recorded half the pic (sort of)....After a few more minutes the picture straightens out just fine. But assume the part with lines is unuseable.

My fault for reusing a tape.


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GregRe: Tape Malfunction
by on Sep 19, 2006 at 9:13:02 pm

What was the advantage of recording with the lens cap on? That's not REALLY blacking a tape. What you really did was re-use a reused tape. You're bound for disaster with that workflow as you found out. That Mini DV tape is good for one pass. You've used three. Put that in your lessons learned file.

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Don GreeningRe: Tape Malfunction
by on Sep 20, 2006 at 4:43:51 am

[Greg] "That Mini DV tape is good for one pass."

Actually I've heard from many people that MiniDV tapes are good for about a dozen passes before problems start. Urban legend? Perhaps. Not that I've ever tried it, though. I use them for one pass, only becaue I like to keep my clients' footage around just in case they want a re-edit sometime in the future. And with an NLE's project file, recapturing is a snap.....unless the footage has been recorded over.


Greg's comment is correct. Blacking an entire tape is not really necessary. I record timecode on the first 20 seconds or so, then back the tape up to about the 15 second mark. It's a lot easier to batch capture starting at the first second of footage if you have some breathing room at the beginning of the tape.

Your tiling problem could be the result of many things:

- tape not properly lined up with the camera's tape transport
- tape not running smoothly against the recording drum (loose tape)
- camera's tape transport needs cleaning,debris on the recording drum from a previous tape, etc.

Occasionally a fast forward/rewind cycle will help to throw out any particles in your camera's tranport mechanism and will pre-tention your tape againt the recording drum (read: preventive maintenance).

But your first ten min. of problem tape is indeed unsusable.

- Don

"Please take a moment to fill out your profile, including your computer system and relevant software. Help us help you."

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You Can Call Me AlRe: Tape Malfunction
by on Sep 20, 2006 at 12:06:35 pm

Thanks Don. I have reused tapes for years and never had a problem.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Tape Malfunction
by on Sep 20, 2006 at 2:45:36 pm

Head clog. Play the tape on another machine to see if it was clogged during recording in which case you got nothin'. I think only the most expensive decks have a confidence head after the recording head. On all the rest you are always rolling the dice unless you stop frequently to check playbacks.

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MatteRe: Tape Malfunction
by on Sep 20, 2006 at 10:02:53 pm

[Greg] "That Mini DV tape is good for one pass. You've used three. Put that in your lessons learned file."


SONY claims that you can reuse DV tapes over 200 times without any dropouts.

I've never had any trouble with reusing any DV tape (the cheapest of the name brands work perfectly for me).
I have video "work tapes" that get constant use and re-use... no drop-outs, no problems.

Every time I see the reply to NOT do it (or only do it a very few times) I just shake my head.
Video folks get very nervous and superstitious about these things, I guess.

The cautionary tales get told and re-told so much that they finally become "common knowledge" (EVERYBODY KNOWS you shouldn't re-use DV tapes). Kind of an "Urban (Video) Legend."

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Jeff CarpenterRe: Tape Malfunction
by on Sep 20, 2006 at 6:37:30 pm

Yeah, this isn't a re-used tape issue. You should get your camera cleaned or this will come up again, even on a new tape.

The best bet is to find a repair shop that does cleaning. If you're in a pinch, you can buy a mini-DV cleaning tape. They get the job done but they're not so great for the camera. It's a good idea to own one anyway. If you're actually ON a job it's better to get the job done rather than just giving up or recording glitchy footage.

And mini-DV tapes are perfectly fine to use more than once. You WILL eventually run into trouble if you keep re-using them, but 2 or 3 times is perfectly fine. I've gone through a few hundred mini-DV tapes and use each one about 3 times. The only problems I've ever had were directly related to camera heads needing cleaning...when I have had a problem it effects new and used tapes alike. I've not yet run across an issue that ONLY appeared on a used tape. Just keep track of which tape is which so you don't end up using one a dozen times by accident.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Tape Malfunction
by on Sep 20, 2006 at 9:34:16 pm

Which reminds me: if you insist on "blacking" the tapes this way, for time code reasons or whatever, don't mix tape brands in the same camera or deck. Some call this superstition, but I have seen way too much empirical/anecdotal evidence of the old "wet and dry lubes mixing on pinch rollers and heads equals clogs" issue, so I believe it. If you have to mix brands, always run a head cleaner cassette between the changes, preferably the "wet type" that uses a cleaning fluid. The dry type are abrasive, but also work, they just increase head wear.

I'm long out of the event video business myself now, but if I WAS still in it, one very good piece of insurance would be one of those strap-on external DV firewire hard disk recorders like the Firestore as a backup to the tape one shoots. Head clog would never affect the images going into the Hard Drive, only the tape. This or bringing a spare backup camera would be the plan if I was working on multi-thousand-dollar event videos.

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You Can Call Me AlRe: Tape Malfunction
by on Sep 21, 2006 at 1:57:00 pm

Thanks everybody for the suggestions.
I tried the head cleaning tape and no go.

I use 2 Sony cams and only Sony tapes... fortunately this was not REAL important footage but still.... It was the back up camera or I would be really nutso. From the way the tape is performing I would say it was blacking the tape that did me in.

I typically reuse a tape 3-4 times max. But now I might change - but then again this is the first time in 7 years of biz ....


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Mark SuszkoRe: Tape Malfunction
by on Sep 21, 2006 at 2:36:07 pm

Tape is the cheapest thing we buy, really. Unless it comes back from the shoot blank, then it's the most expensive thing.

No client ever pays you big bucks for a tape with nothing on it. Unless perhaps your job was erasing evidence or something.

I say economizing on tape stock is the singlest most silly thing to do. Find a good, reliable brand that works for you and stick with it, and hang the cost, you pass it on to the client anyway.

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GregRe: Tape Malfunction
by on Sep 21, 2006 at 2:42:20 pm

I have to agree with Mark here. Tape is so cheap that it's pointless to re-use it. Kepp those tapes for work tapes. I'll never risk using a used tape for shooting. Makes no sense. I had a client who hired us to shoot a corporate video and send them the camera footage. The sooter I sub-contracted accidentally used a previouslu used tape. Even the client was ticked off when they saw footage on the end of the tape that wasn't theirs.

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