DV : MiniDV / HDV

Digital Video cassette (DV): MiniDV (S-size) and HDV (High Definition Video)
black and red rectangular plastic miniDV cassette

Sony MiniDV 60 minute (LP: 90 min) cassette

introduction to MiniDV & HDV cassette transfer

At Greatbear, we transfer all variations of the DV born-digital video tape format, from MiniDV / HDV in PAL and NTSC.

We offer a range of delivery formats for our video transfers. Following International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives TC-06 guidelines in digitising to uncompressed or lossless formats, we also recognise that for some born-digital recordings like DV, DVCAM and HDV it can be more appropriate to capture and preserve the direct DV stream with its associated metadata and this is our preferred workflow with DV and HDV recordings.

We can provide the appropriately-sized USB delivery 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).

MiniDV / HDV video cassette recordings can vary both in duration and in the extent of physical tape degradation, so we always assess tapes before confirming the price of a transfer.

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

For an introduction to our assessment and treatment processes, please see our guide to "what happens to your video tape".

MiniDV & HDV playback machines

DV VTRs are in some ways a rare transition between older analogue formats and a digital format used domestically and professionally.

Most of the Sony range of DV / DVCAM / HDV machines will replay tapes made on small, cheap, domestic MiniDV camcorders in addition to DVCAM tapes and the later High Definition, HDV recordings. This flexibilty can also be confusing and a range of machines are necessary for all format and standard variations.

The mechanical tape transports used in DV cameras and decks are also not all made equal and the cheapest are usually the least reliable long term, while being the most difficult to service. Some HDV decks also have tape burnishing and cleaning systems that can help to reduce the error rate on some tapes.
We have a range of professional and domestic DV video decks to reliably cater for the full range of transfer needs for this born-digital format.

  • Sony DSR 20 (PAL)
  • Sony DSR 25 (PAL / NTSC)
  • Sony DSR 1500 AP (PAL), Sony DSR 1500A (NTSC)
  • Sony DSR 2000P  x 2 (PAL, LP capable)
  • Sony HVR M15E x 2 (PAL / NTSC, DV / HDV)
  • Sony HVR M35E (PAL / NTSC, DV / HDV)
  • Sony HVR-1500 (PAL / NTSC, DV / HDV)
  • JVC BR-DV600E x 2 (PAL)
  • JVC SR-VS20  x 2 (PAL, LP capable)

MiniDV & HDV format variation

DV recording typeDirect digital transfer to equivalent digital video file supportedSDI / HDSDI digital transfer of audio & video2 / 4 channels of audio supportedPreservation of timecode supportedPreservation of DV stream metadata to logfile
DV SP 576i
DV LP 576i
DV SP 480i
DV LP 480i
HDV 1080/50i
HDV 1080/25p
HDV 1080/60i
HDV 1080/30p
HDV 1080/24p
large ivory-coloured, black and silever machine with multiple buttons, knobs and led displays

Sony DSR-2000AP Digital Videocassette Recorder

silver and black digital HD recorder with inbuilt screen showing video of man seated in front of window

Sony HVR-1500 digital HD Videocassette Recorder

black and red rectangular plastic miniDV cassette with rulers indicating width 6.5cm and height 4.8cm

MiniDV S-size cassette dimensions: 6.5 x 4.8 x 1.2 cm

MiniDV & HDV tape risks & vulnerabilities

The main problems with MiniDV arise from the size of the tape. The tape is very thin and fragile, and there is little margin for error if things go wrong. MiniDV tapes were commonly used in domestic camcorders, which had less well-built tape transports that made tape damage more likely. The machines were also prone to make unaligned recordings, leading to interchange problems - the ability to record on one machine, and play back successfully on another.

MiniDV used metal evaporated tape formulation which had a problem with excessive drop outs (on DV recordings this means the image becomes pixelated). If you have a glitch on digital tape it is likely that when repaired, parts of the recording will be lost. Compare this with analogue tape which degrades more gracefully, and can be spliced together so that the majority of the recording can be saved.

Dramatic degradation can affect all digital tape, even when there are no visible defects, leading to tapes becoming unplayable. We therefore recommend that you migrate your digital tape to files as soon as possible.

MiniDV & HDV history

MiniDV was introduced in 1998 and is the consumer version of DVCAM.

HDV, developed in 2003, used the same tape format as MiniDV with a different video codec, allowing high-definition video to be recorded in camera.

MiniDV and HDV capture video and audio on to S-size high-density cassette tapes. The format delivered sound and video that is sharper and higher-quality than earlier analogue recordings. Another benefit was its flexibility and ease of transfer to devices such as laptops, where material could be easily edited.

It is still possible to buy MiniDV tapes today, and relatively easy to acquire the camcorders second hand, but they have largely been superseded by tapeless digital camcorders that record to memory cards and solid-state drives.