DVCPRO archival transfer fun

I feel spoiled. I use DV video tape equipment sometimes and none of my stuff ever gives any issues. It just works. My stuff is Sony, Ikegami, and a couple of consumer grade mini dv camcorders. Every camera’s tape works in every other deck, dropouts are minimal and usually happen in the first second or two of rolling so if you preroll for “speed” it’s fine. My Sony DSR-1500A will even read DVCPRO media, though I’ve never tried it. Maybe I should?

Our station used to have a bureau down south in another city. This station had a 3-deck a/b roll editing system using DVCPRO. This was in service until about 2008 when everything was switched to HD when the network bought it and actually spent money on the station, unlike Shitclair which owned it in the past. Anyway, they had over 300 tapes of file footage there which were mostly dubbed on this one deck. The time finally came to get this footage transferred to the current digital archive system in use.

I’d been warned that DVCPRO tended to have alignment and timing drift issues that cause tapes to not interchange freely between equipment unless it’s all been field aligned to work together. So, thus, I tried the deck they were recorded on. First thing I found was a filthy transport, so I cleaned it up and replaced the little roller that cleans the video heads on load/eject. Please note in the picture above that there are two heads on the drum – the small interconnect boards just link the two heads to the rotary transformers.

Failure. The deck had severe picture breakup trying to play anything back.

I talked to one of my more experienced coworkers who told me to stop there and use a better deck. See, this 450 series, these were the cheap seats in the DVCPRO bowl. It didn’t even dawn on me until then that the 2-head deck is just not common! My consumer grade DVCAM stuff tends to have four or even six. I opened up one of the nicer decks and found four – it uses a finer pitch head for playback, making it even compatible with the narrower tracks of consumer DV! Also, uh, my decks are in good condition and not packed with 12+years of dust.

Clearly it’s time to deploy superior firepower, which is to say, the cybergoth falls and the air compressor….

Ok, time to get serious about reviving some old forgotten crap.

I want to appropriate the content of these for vaporwave purposes

These decks were known for having terribly bad capacitors; before the great Capacitor Plague and Samsung’s current habit of putting out lots of home electronics with crap caps, Panasonic put out a lot of gear that needed dozens of crappy smt electrolytics changed….. some on boards like this

Oh ok uh wait uhhhhh no no no no what the no the whole thing is just aaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAA

I’m gonna go hide now ok

*possum noises*

Finally… After hours of work I got three decks up and running and they all read the tapes from the other bureau fine! I did wind up having to revise the cabinet using brute force and power tools though because the Evertz Video Passport turns out to double as a nice space heater and almost roasted itself once I started rolling video from the 3/4″ deck through it. It needed lots and lots of ventilation. The DVCPRO decks aren’t much better about that but at least they have forced front to back airflow.

The most perplexing moment of all this was when I had one deck working great then I ejected the tape and looked back inside and found the pinch roller lying in the bottom! What the heck? I just replaced it. I don’t know.

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