Article by N. Oden
You may not know it but there’s a digital video revolution going on right now. And as a result you may find that your local post house is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
What I’m talking about is a more and more commonly practiced “switch-a-roo” performed by local post houses. You may think you’re getting professional beta quality master tapes….but what you may be getting instead are consumer quality mini DV tape dubs.
What am I talking about you ask? Stick with me….
Let’s say you’ve hired XYZ Video Production Company to shoot your infomercial, promotional tape, webmercial, or whatevermercial. XYZ has based their bid on and is charging you for superior Beta SP or even Digital Beta quality video image resolution. That’s great you say!–I want the best!
But what you don’t know is XYZ is really shooting your costly video production on cheaper and lower quality consumer mini DV tapes!
What’s that, you say? You’d know the difference if you saw it? First, let me say this….
I will back up and explain that mini DV tapes are the highest quality tape we consumers have to get our hands on. In fact, many broadcast TV and cable shows shoot on mini DV tapes. The vast majority of videographers cannot tell Beta quality video taped images from mini DV quality without technical scopes. But there is a quality difference as any technical engineer and any experienced videographer will tell you.
I won’t tell you that you need to shoot on beta in this report, because shooting on mini DV is just grand. So stay with me.
So you ask, “What is wrong about XYZ PRoduction Company shooting on mini DV?” It’s this — MONEY. You could be paying yesterday’s high production prices for today’s cheaper prosumer equipment. DV cameras cost one fraction of the cost of Beta cameras.
As you can see, some production houses are taking one last “hoorah” before they’re forced to lower their prices because of this new cheaper technology. And I think it’s wrong and it stinks!
Here’s what you can do to prevent this from happening to you:
1–Get a visual of the camera being quoted in the bid.
This is especially helpful if you’re going to be on set during production. Get the model number of the camera the production company will be using. Go to the manufacturers web site (ie: Sony). Find your model using “search”. A picture of each camera is usually posted by its name.
2–View your master beta tapes.
Your beta masters could be mere copies of the mini DV tapes. This is easier to get away with today especially when your production and post production all occur under one roof. Once your project is completed, no one else is likely to go back and ever view your beta tapes again.
When viewing your master beta tapes, watch for recorded images resembling a fast forward, rewind, or a paused tape. When a post house dupes (lingo for “duplicate”) it’s mini DV tapes to Beta tape, you can often times identify this by watching the beta tapes. You can catch “on tape” such actions because duplicating tapes is often a chore that is left unattended leaving the mini DV masters to play out and start rewinding automatically.
Do this: At the head and tail of each beta tape press “play.” Because you are in play mode, you should never see any recorded image on your tape resembling a paused tape, a tape rewinding, or fast forwarding. If you see such images and your beta is in play mode, then you’re watching a dupe of a tape, probably mini DV.
3–Watch your time code.
You can watch your beta masters or your vhs dupes for this. Most houses provide a VHS dupe of each master tape on a daily basis to the producer on request. These tapes have a time code display box called a “burn in” that display the time code which was recorded onto each master tape. Beta cameras automatically produce seqential time code numbers ranging from 00:00:00:00 increasing to 24:59:59:29 with the next frame of video flipping back to 00:00:00:00.
When a new tape is inserted into the Beta camera, the time code continues from where it stopped on the last tape. But mini DV cameras produce time code numbers that always starts on “00:00:00:00” when a new tape is inserted into the MINI DV camera.
In short, stay alert! Most production houses wouldn’t treat you or anyone else this way. But you’re paying a lot of money. So check what people tell you and be sure to get what you are paying for. After all, you deserve it, right?
Creative Editor N. Oden is available to critique your video, or to help you create a new one. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org