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 standards of MiniDV / HDV from the US (NTSC) and UK (PAL). We provide motion-compensated standards conversion, so if the video tape you have is in NTSC format we can deliver your digital file in PAL (and vice versa).

We are equipped for video noise reduction and overscan removal.

We offer a range of delivery formats for our video transfers. Following International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives TC-06 guidelines, we deliver FFV1 lossless files or 10-bit uncompressed video files in .mkv or .mov containers for archives. We can also produce Apple ProRes mezzanine files for ease of editing. We provide smaller viewing files as H.264 encoded .mp4 files or on DVD. We're happy to create any other digital video files, according to your needs.

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

  • Sony DSR 20 PAL, Sony DSR 25 PAL / NTSC, Sony DSR 1500 AP PAL, Sony DSR 1500A NTSC, Sony DSR 2000P PAL
  • Sony HVR M15E, Sony HVR-1500
  • JVC BR-DV600E, JVC SR-VS20 x 2

MiniDV & HDV format variation

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 digital camcorders that record to disc.