Pros & Cons Of Mini Dv Tapes

Mini DV tape records high-quality, digital video that lasts for years.

Mini DV is a compact videotape format that has been used by professionals and consumers for many years. Mini DV camcorders record high-quality, digital video using DV compression. This makes Mini DV footage excellent for editing, using machine-to-machine video editing capability or uploading the tape to a computer video editing software. The tapes can be re-used or stored for years without quality loss. However, hard drive, flash and memory card formats have surpassed Mini DV in popularity and cost.


A Mini DV tape records digital footage in any brand of Mini DV camcorder. The tapes are 60 minutes long, but can record 90 minutes of video and audio with slight quality loss. Specialty tape companies sell other lengths, including a 120 minute version, which works well for recording sporting and entertainment events. When stored carefully in a cool, dry place the footage and cassette maintain their quality, and the tape can be re-recorded.


The benefits of Mini DV tape are quality, recording time and the fact that it is an ideal and economical storage device for that footage. Also HD Mini DV camcorders record high-definition, 1080i video. Because of the DV compression, Mini DV is better quality than other consumer recording formats that use the MPEG-2 compression. Because it is an older video format, most computer video editing systems are capable of importing Mini DV footage through a firewire or A/V to USB cable.


Cassette tapes can have mechanical failures, during shooting or playback. Mini DV tape housing can get stuck in the camcorder carriage assembly, potentially ruining everything on the tape. Another negative is search-ability. Unlike hard drive clips which can be accessed separately, Mini DV tapes have to be searched in fast forward or rewind to locate footage. Uploading Mini DV tape has to be in real time, so if your videotape is 60 minutes long, it will take 60 minutes to transfer it to another format.

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Cost is a positive with Mini DV tapes because of waning popularity. Depending on quality, tape stock costs a few dollars per tape. Mini DV camcorders have plunged in price, allowing you to purchase an excellent model well below the cost of newer formats. Camcorder manufacturers are offering fewer Mini DV options and some video professionals warn that the format is on the way out.