Do I need a DV deck, or will a camcorder work okay for a capture device?

Do I need a DV deck, or will a camcorder work okay for a capture device?

DV decks are like DV VCRs, able to record and playback DV onto tapes. Some accept the normal one hour Mini-DV tapes, but others also accept the larger three hour DV tapes.

Our advice on DV decks for most people is that it should be the last thing you buy, once you have everything else you need. We find that in many cases, the money spent on a DV deck could have been better spent elsewhere, since a DV deck will not make any difference in the quality of your final project, and for most, little or no difference in the quality of their editing experience.

If you learn to log and capture your tapes efficiently using your camcorder, you won’t put any more wear on it than normal taping- which is what the camcorder transport is designed for anyway. We’ll cover secrets for minimizing wear and tear on your capture device later.

If you think you’ll often run into the situation where your camcorder is away from your system at a shoot, but you need to capture footage, consider getting a small one chip consumer camcorder instead of a small deck- it could come in handy at some time as a second camera, and since it will probably be much smaller, you’ll want to always take it with you to events like parties where you can capture footage that will come in handy later as blackmail material for extra income. If you’re really worried about putting extra wear and tear on the tape transport of your brand new DV camcorder, get the cheapest Mini-DV camcorder you can at your neighborhood consumer electronics store for capture and get the 5 year replacement warranty option.

Since you are merely moving data, a $200 DV camcorder will provide perfect quality, same as a $10,000 deck.

However, there are some situations where a DV deck is definitely called for- here they are:

    • If you work in a professional environments where you’re constantly capturing and printing to tape, and you often need to convert component or SDI sources back and forth to DV, you’ll need a high end, heavy duty, industrial strength DV, DVCAM or DVCPRO deck. (Refer to Chapter 3 for more information on the various ‘flavors’ of the DV format.)

    • If you’re always needing to print projects to tape that are over one hour in length, you’ll want a DV deck that accepts three hour DV tapes. (if you only have the occasional need to master a project longer than one hour, you might consider a rental)

    • If you need a tiny portable monitor or field playback device, there are small DV decks with LCD screens that tend to come in handy in a variety of circumstances- the LCD will not be as accurate as a CRT but it’s better than nothing- and it works fine for purposes like framing your shot when you’re using a jib arm and cannot see your viewfinder, showing footage to clients out in the field or anyplace where the flipout screen on your camcorder is just a little small.

1 Comment

  1. Jeff Weakley 11 years ago

    wow… I’m new to this and your answer nailed what I was wondering in one page. thanks for the thinking. Especially the idea of buying a cheap DV cam and getting the 5 year warranty. Brilliant.

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