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Looking for camcorder wondering about minidv quality

by Superctg / April 28, 2013 5:25 AM PDT

I'm looking into getting a more professional camcorder and have found many camcorders use Minidvs. I think I figured out how to transfer the film to my PC but I was wondering what the quality of the minidv is. Would it be better to take the video on a minidv or on an SD card?

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MiniDV
by Terfyn / April 28, 2013 9:56 AM PDT

There is nothing wrong with mini DV. I have both, a Canon HV20 which is mini DV and a Panasonic HC-V700 which is SD card.

The quality of mini DV is excellent but you will need to (very occasionally) clean the heads. I would not trust tape as an archive medium as I have had problems with audio cassette tapes "printing through". You will need a IEEE1394 FireWire port on your computer and a cable to connect to the camera. Most new PCs come without this port and you will need to fit a FireWire card and load the drivers. Do not go down the "FireWire to USB" route - it does not work!!!
Usuallu on mini DV camcorders, video is captured on tape and still photos on a mini SD card. With SD card camcorders both video and stills are captured on the SD card as different file types.

SD cards are a doddle. The files are created directly on the card (along with a number of housekeeping files) and I extract both the video and the still files using the software supplied with my camera.

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Timing could not be better for this question
by ny2ca / May 3, 2013 1:26 PM PDT
In reply to: MiniDV

I am going down the same road as I am doing more and more videos but on a super tight budget so purchased a used Sony miniDV camcorder to step up cheaply. It has SD for stills but miniDV for video.

And here I am, with a newer laptop PC unable to download the video so I can edit. I have no express card slot so most adapters won't fit (unless you know of one...?). USB/firewire is no good as you point out (I haven't tried it but enough other folks have and kindly shared their experience). So.....where does one go? Is the Sony DVDirect the only reliable way to go?

(suddenly some of the money I saved is going out the door other ways...sigh)

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Easy transfer to computer
by doodyxx / November 24, 2014 1:14 PM PST

I am right now converting all my miniDV tapes to DVD. I am using a Dazzle HD Video Creator. One end of the cord goes into my camcorder and the other end is USB that goes into my computer. It comes with software to edit the tape content once I get it on the computer (if I want to) and then just burn it to DVD. I am burning them to archival DVDs. But still have the tapes to do it again if I want. It is real easy and simple. Works better than my DVDirect because there is no limit to the size of the tape whereas I found the DVDirect limited me.

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Digital tape - in this case
by boya84 / April 28, 2013 11:58 PM PDT

miniDV tape, continues to be a good, solid, affordable, low compression video, storage media.

And frankly, the storage media is not the important part - it is how the video is captured/compressed - then stored. For example, Vitec (acquired Focus Enhancements' FireStore line) and Sony make external hard disc drive and flash memory based portable storage devices that record low compression DV, HDV, DVCPro, DVCProHD and other low compression video file formats. These external devices connect to the DV/IEEE1394/firewire port of the (miniDV tape or other similar low compression video) camcorder.

Some camcorders can use various flash memory for low compression storage (P2 cards in Panasonic DVCPro HD camcorders like the AG-HVX200 or SD cards in Canon XF series camcorders).

terfyn, please tell us which audio cassette tapes caused "print through". This is usually a potential issue with analog audio tapes and not digital tape (whether audio, video or other data). Comparing analog and digital tapes is not appropriate.

Generally, digital tape is indeed a fine archive media. This is true whether video or other data. As an IT manager and 20 years of shooting with miniDV tape, my experience and the industry continues to show this is the case. Hard disc drives are getting large and inexpensive enough, but they continue to be the exception when used for archiving important data.

While it is true that flash memory re-use can be more cost effective than not re-using miniDV tape, the archive portion of the process flow should be understood. Flash memory is certainly not an efficient long-term storage option. I have found that use of a multi-hard drive RAID1 system (as a Network Attached Storage device) works best. When one drive fails, the RAID1 (other drive) has the data. Replace the failed drive with a working one and the mirrored data is copied to the new drive.

The real trick is to stay away from the high compression AVCHD process used because of the way the compression algorithm was developed. It is fine for finished product use, but fast action and high compression just don't get along to well. The professional implementation is not so bad at the high end, but at the consumer end, if you have a choice, it is best left to others to deal with.

MiniDV tape, when capturing high definition video, captures HDV format low compression. Lower compression means less video data is discarded in the acquisition/storage process. The HDV format is 1080 horizontal lines of video resolution.

Prosumer cams (like the Sony HDR-FX7 and HDR-FX1000) differ from their "professional grade" siblings because they have a 1/8" (3.5mm) stereo audio input rather than XLR audio inputs (and they cannot deal with professional grade DVCAM or HDCAM video formats). Then the jump to the pro HVR series. This is not to say AVCHD is always bad - the upper end of the XDCAM series from Sony is good, when the very highest quality settings are used.

As always, step 1 is to set a budget. and don't forget the other stuff (if you don't already have it): god tripod or other steadying devices, lighting, various mics, cases, cables and possibly computer hardware and video editing upgrades...

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Thank you, very helpful!
by Superctg / May 1, 2013 7:29 AM PDT

Thank you for the information! It's a lot to take in but it helps, I have almost everything except the better camcorder. I am currently looking at getting a Canon XL1 or XL2 (cheaper than a brand new camcorder for a young filmmaker) and just wasn't sure about the difference it makes to record on a MinDV vs an SD card. Your information cleared up a few other questions I had, too. Thank you for the help, it really is appreciated.

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The Canon XL series
by boya84 / May 2, 2013 12:02 AM PDT

camcorders are miniDV tape based, standard definition video, DV format, camcorders. If this is what you have on your short list, I'd nudge you in the direct of the XL2. You can probably find some posts and articles related to these regarding their imaging chip implementation. Specifically, in widescreen mode and how the imaging chip array handles the 16:9 aspect ratio vs the normal 4:3 aspect ratio.

Because these are standard def and 480 horizontal lines of video resolution, there will be a marked difference when compared to high definition video capture devices (720 or 1080 horizontal lines of video resolution). This does not mean these cannot capture good video, they can - but your expectation should be appropriate to the technology being used.

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