Why don't my PAL Mini DV tapes play anything?
July 31, 2008 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to play some Mini-DV tapes, which were sent to me from Lebanon and, I am told, shot in PAL. When I play them, all I can see is a blank screen. Why is this and what can I do?

I have 13 Mini DV tapes, and all of them show nothing on the screen when I try to play them. I tried watching them first on a Sony DSR-11. I made sure it was flipped to PAL, and when that didn't work I shut everything down and tried again in NTSC. I've tried fast-forwarding to different parts of the tape as well. I then tried watching on a Canon XL2, and all I could see was a blue screen. These tapes were shot in Lebanon and I'm told they were recorded in PAL, which is the standard there. I've tested other tapes, PAL and otherwise, and they are playing fine, so I'm positive it's something with these specific tapes.
posted by sswiller to Technology (10 answers total)
Sounds like the tapes very well could've been blanked by heat, magnetic scanning, etc. Was the package marked as Magnetic Media?
posted by chrisfromthelc at 12:24 PM on July 31, 2008

They didn't happen to be shot in HD, did they? HDV is the same form factor but completely incompatible. If I accidentally put one in my DVCAM unit, I get the blue screen.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:24 PM on July 31, 2008

We are looking into the possibility now that the tapes were damaged by magnetism. All thirteen of them are having the same problem. GhostintheMachine, the tapes are all miniDV, so I assume they were shot in a miniDV camera. Could they have been recorded in HD?
posted by sswiller at 12:30 PM on July 31, 2008

Yes, you can record HDV on miniDV tapes. There are some differences between the two that can result in problems for your deck (even from the same manufacturer), so it's best not to mix them, but it can be done.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:06 PM on July 31, 2008

So it's down to either the tapes were damaged during shipping (demagnetized) or they were shot in HD. I will have to track down the videographer to find out if they were shot in HD since I don't have an HD deck here.
posted by sswiller at 1:10 PM on July 31, 2008

Also, if they were recorded LP instead of SP and you don't have the same type of camera, you'll get the same results. There isn't a LP standard, so every manufacturer does it differently.

Never record LP. Just don't.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:25 PM on July 31, 2008

I see miniDV tapes recorded with HD mistakenly put into DSR-11s all the time. You get nothing, zippo. I think GhostintheMachine's dead on, that's probably it. Rent an HD camera to capture the footage.
posted by Izner Myletze at 7:05 PM on July 31, 2008

Or just ask nicely at a dub house / post production facility and see if they can find out.
posted by rocco at 8:14 PM on July 31, 2008

Definitely have a pro check them out (e.g. at a post house) before concluding that they've been blanked out by magnets. Format incompatibility seems much more likely.
posted by intermod at 9:01 PM on July 31, 2008

Mystery solved. They were shot in HD. That was scary. They should have labeled them if they were using MiniDV tapes.
posted by sswiller at 8:18 AM on August 1, 2008

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