Monday, 26 March 2012

Media Recognition: DV part 1

DV can be used to refer to both a digital tape format, and a codec for digital video. DV tape usually carries video encoded with the DV codec, although it can hold any type of data. The DV format was developed in the mid 1990s by a consortium of video manufacturers, including Sony, JVC and Panasonic, and quickly became the de facto standard for home video production after introduction in 1995. Videos are recorded in .dv or .dif formats, or wrapped in an AVI, QuickTime or MXF container. These can be easily transferred to a computer with no loss of data over an IEEE 1394 (Fire Wire) connection.

DV tape is ¼ inch (6.35mm) wide. DV cassettes come in four different sizes: Small, also known as MiniDV (66 x 48 x 12.2 mm), medium (97.5 × 64.5 × 14.6 mm), large (125.1 x 78 x 14.6 mm), and extra-large (172 x 102 x 14.6 mm). MiniDV is the most popular cassette size.

DV cassettes can be encoded with one of four formats; DV, DVCAM, DVCPRO, or HDV. DV is the original encoding, and is used in consumer devices. DVCPRO and DVCAM were developed by Panasonic and Sony respectively as an enhancement of DV, and are aimed at a professional market. The basic encoding algorithm is the same as with DV, but a higher track width (18 and 15 microns versus DV’s 10 micron track width) and faster tape speed means that these formats are more robust and better suited to professional users. HDV is a high-definition variant, aimed at professionals and consumers, which uses MPEG-2 compression rather than the DV format.

Depending on the recording device, any of the four DV encodings can be recorded on any size DV cassette. However, due to different recording speeds, the formats are not always backwards compatible. A cassette recorded in an enhanced format, such as HDV, DVCAM or DVCPRO, will not play back on a standard DV player. Also, as they are supported by different companies, there are some issues with playing back a DVCPRO cassette on DVCAM equipment, and vice versa.

Although all DV cassette sizes can record any format of DV, some are marketed specifically as being of a certain type; e.g. DVCAM. The guide below looks at some of the most common varieties of DV cassette that might be encountered, and the encodings that may be used with them. It is important to remember that any type of encoding may be found on any kind of cassette, depending on what system the video was recorded on.

MiniDV (cassette)
Digital videotape cassette
Yes, but is being replaced in popularity by hard disk and flash memory recording. At the International Consumer Electronics Show 2011 no camcorders were presented which record on tape.
Up to 80 minutes SP / 120 minutes LP, depending on the tape used; 60/90 minutes SP/LP is standard. This can also depend on the encoding used (see further entries). Files sizes can be up to 1GB per 4 minutes of recording.
DV file format is widely adopted. Requires Fire Wire (IEEE 1394) port for best transfer.
Consumer and ‘Prosumer’ film makers, some professionals.
File Systems:
Common Manufacturers:
A consortium of over 60 manufacturers including Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Canon, and Sharp

MiniDV refers to the size of the cassette; as noted above, it can come with any encoding. As a consumer format they generally use DV encoding. DVCAM and HDV cassettes also come in MiniDV size.

MiniDV is the most popular DV cassette, and is used for consumer and semi-professional (‘prosumer’) recordings due to its high quality.


These cassettes are the small cassette size, measuring 66 x 48 x 12.2mm. Tape width is ¼”. They carry the MiniDV logo, as seen below:

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