D-3 / D-5 / D-5 HD

Composite digital D-3 and uncompressed component digital D-5 and D-5HD (Panasonic)
dark grey rectangular D-3 video cassette, with notched lower corners

Fuji D-3 digital video cassette

introduction to D-3 & D-5 video cassette transfer

At Greatbear we transfer D-3, D-5 and D-5HD digital video tape. D-3 is an uncompressed composite digital videocassette format introduced commercially by Panasonic in 1991 to compete with Ampex's D-2. The D-3 format uses ½" metal particle tape for recording PAL or NTSC signals sampled at 8 bits. The D-5 format (Panasonic 1994) used the same cassette as D-3 but recorded component signals sampled to CCIR 601 recommendations at 10-bit resolution (a development of Sony's D-1 format). D-5HD is the compressed HD-compatible version of D-5.

We offer a range of delivery formats for our video transfers. We use the International Association of Sound & Audiovisual Archives Guidelines for the Preservation of Video Recordings, delivering FFV1 lossless files or 10-bit uncompressed video files in .mkv or .mov containers. We create viewing files as H264 encoded .mp4 files or DVD. We can deliver any other digital video files,  according to your needs. 

We can provide the appropriately-sized usb media for your files, or use media supplied by you, or deliver your files online. Files delivered on hard drive can be for any operating system MacOS, Windows or GNU/Linux and filesystems (HFS+, NTFS or EXT3).

Due to varying tape durations and their gradual physical degradation, it’s not always appropriate to create fixed prices for our services. We’ve found that assessing tapes prior to confirming costs a more accurate and fair method.

We offer free assessments please contact us to discuss your project.

D-3 & D-5 video machines

The D3 lossless composite digital video tape recorders made by Panasonic in the early '90s are rare now in the UK and have very little spares backup for key parts such as head drums. This rarity is in part due to the BBC's past heavy use of them and need for machines for their D3 preservation project shown in the video below.

We have 4 working D3 machines all with low head hours, so are in an excellent position long-term for preserving collections on this format.
Pansonic D5 and D5-HD are developments using the same 1/2" tape format of D3 but recording a 10-bit uncompressed component digital video signal, and in its final incarnation component HD, in multiple standards.

Our machines include:

  • Panasonic AJ-D350E / JVC PR-D1000E
  • Panasonic AJ-HD3700B

D-3 & D-5 format variation

video standardD3 capture supportedD5 capture supportedD5 HD capture supportedpreservation of LTC & VITC timecode supported
light grey and yellow rectangular D-5 video cassette D5C33M, with notched lower corners

Panasonic D-5 video cassette size M

large free-standing cream-coloured D-3 video recorder with multiple buttons and electroluminescent display

JVC PR-D1000E aka Panasonic AJ-D350 D-3 machine with electroluminescent display

dark grey rectangular video cassette with rulers indicating width 21.2 cm by height 12.4 cm

D-3 cassette size M: 21.2 x 12.4 x 2.5 cm. We also transfer size L: 29.6 x 16.7 x 2.5 cm cassettes

D-3 & D-5 video tape risks & vulnerabilities

In 2013 the BBC had thousands of D3 recordings in its archive and had a large scale but difficult preservation project due to the fragility of the D3 tapes and the obsolescence of the VTRs. Richard Wright from http://preservationguide.co.uk has commented earlier in 2019 on this site that:

The 100k D3 tapes were all that were necessary to transfer. One large chunk of D3s were copies (two or more D3s of the same programme), and another large chunk were redundant, from the years when digitisation of analogue formats had a mixed economy, and produced one D3 and one digibeta. A third small chunk were D3s that were deselected: they didn't belong in the permanent archive (2nd versions of programmes cut for US sales, for example).

The BBC even made a short video about this project that can be viewed below:

D-3 & D-5 video recording history

The ½ inch cassette size of D-3 allowed a full family of VTR equipment to be realised in one format, including a camcorder. In addition to the D-3 format's popularity with the BBC, Panasonic equipped more than 20 rights-holding broadcast organisations from around the world with D-3 and D-5 digital broadcast video equipment for the 1996 Olympic Games.

Read our blog article: D-1, D-2 & D-3: histories of digital video tape