Looking to go back to mini-DV

Discussion in 'Cameras and Photography' started by SaSi, Nov 11, 2018.

  1. SaSi

    SaSi Seriously Illogical Subscriber

    Athens, Greece
    This is half relevant for this forum, but it looked like the most appropriate.

    I am not hit with nostalgia, just a good friend came to me with a box of mini-dv cassettes in need to "digitize" them. Well, I know they are already digital, but my knowledge of mini-dv camcorders ends just about there. And also that they were usually connected to PC for downloading the video using a firewire interface. My PC doesn't have a firewire interface but I found there are PCIe cards with such interfaces still in the market.

    If I were to look for a decent camera to mount these cassettes and transfer them to a PC, what considerations should I make? I am fairly certain the cassettes are PAL format, since the camcorder originally used (a SONY) was purchased here in Europe, but am not certain about resolution (were there HD versions in consumer miniDV camcorders?).

    I understand the format used is Mpeg4, which I can handle with the video editing s/w I normally use. But have no idea what to use to connect to the camera and stream the video onto the PC. Should I aim for a camcorder model that the manufacturer still offers download support for relevant s/w?


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  2. jlb2

    jlb2 Well-Known Member

    Hi SaSi,

    I don't know if you still need help, I've just seen your post almost a month after you wrote it. First off, DV does not use MPEG-4, it wouldn't be possible since the latter was released only 2 years after the former. This is of no importance though, since you will not copy the original signal anyway, just the decoded contents.

    Yes, there have been consumer HDV camcorders, but I suspect not as many as DV since the switch to memory cards occured not very long after HDV went to market. It is easy to tell wether a tape is HDV or DV, since HDV used a different tape quality. HDV tapes are marked "HDV" on the shell.

    You don't need video editing software to copy DV (not HDV). I have always used a small free program called WinDV (http://windv.mourek.cz/) to make AVI files directly from tape, via the IEEE1394 (aka Firewire, aka Sony's iLink) cable. WinDV manages all the pesky details, like splitting the files to avoid exceeding the 2GB file size limit and controlling the player / camcorder. It really doesn't take much more than a mouse click to copy a DV tape to file.

    As for the player, any DV-capable camcorder or deck will work, providing it has an IEEE1394 socket. Note that DVCAM decks usually play mini-DV (but they don't all have IEEE sockets). OTOH, not all players can play both 480/60i and 576/50i (usually misnomed "NTSC" and "PAL", but those were analogue colour-coding methods and were never used in DV).

    There is not particularly a "best" DV player: any camcorder or deck in good condition with an IEEE socket will give you the same quality since the signal is decoded in the same way and transmitted digitally. Not many pro machines have IEEE1394 connectivity, so it is usually best to avoid them. OTOH a notable IEEE-capable DVCAM is the DSR30P.

    I very much doubt that any manufacturer offers updates for their DV machines anymore, but it's not a problem since they have always been self-contained devices that don't need external software to properly record, play and output recorded data. I've never seen downloadable firmware either.

    One last important thing: the most difficult problem is probably to find a machine that still plays ok, as their tape transport is fairly fragile and next to impossible to fix now. Always check the condition of a player with an unimportant tape since the risk of damage is not negligible.

    BTW you might have more answers by posting video-related questions on Videokarma.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018
  3. SaSi

    SaSi Seriously Illogical Subscriber

    Athens, Greece
    Hmm. Videokarma, I have forgotten about it. Not a video guy myself.
    I am asking around several friends and colleagues if they still have a dusty miniDV camcorder they would lend me to try out. If I get lucky and find one soon, I will try it out. I do have a couple of sealed, blank tapes so these are the "safest" to try out a camcorder without risking damage to recorded ones.

    Thanks for your input, much appreciated. Especially correcting my ignorance thinking that DV was Mpeg4.

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