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Sony Handycam DCR-HC30 with professional quality Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens.

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Sony DCR-HC18E MiniDV Tapes Not Playing Properly

I've recently encountered a minor issue with my Sony DCR-HC18E camcorder, which I purchased on eBay to digitize my old MiniDV tapes. Initially, when I tried playing back my tapes, they didn't work properly. Instead of displaying the recorded footage, the screen showed a blue screen. However, after a few minutes, I tried playing the tapes again, and they all worked flawlessly for about 11 tapes without any problems.

Now, a day later, I'm trying to play some of the tapes again, but I'm encountering the same blue screen issue as before. The time frame counter also resets to -:—:—:—, as if the tapes are empty. I'm certain that the tapes aren't empty as they played back earlier today. I've tried fast-forwarding and rewinding the tapes, but the problem persists.

I'm wondering if this issue could be due to the camcorder overheating or the age of the tapes.

I've heard that cleaning the tape head might resolve the problem. If so, could you please guide me on how to locate and clean the tape head safely? Can I use isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs for cleaning? Should I use a circular or back-and-forth motion?

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Cleaning the heads is easy with a DV tape head cleaner, it runs through the system and cleans it correctly without damaging the unit.

You can run it through again to make sure, but these can be purchased from online (MINI DV tape head cleaner).Now the reset reverting back to :-:—:—:— , this seems to have lost its parameters, so the internal cmos battery or capacitor that keeps the settings and date and time, usually when you are able to put a new camera battery you can set the date and time this should then be ok.

But I have experience many years ago with MINI DV, and converting them over to digital strorage , the heads would only need cleaning for the amount of time and tape ran through the system, the environment dirt the unit picks up also, so you would see your video but would play with instability and lines across the screen, or moving rapidly and giving a poor picture on display.

11 tapes to run through either 90 mins , 60 mins each is a long time so it could be heat related (possibly) as it’s an old machine but that really shouldn’t make a major difference, as these either work or not the unit would have in the settings log details to how many tapes or minutes has run through its life.

I would use a fully charged camcorder battery and clean the heads using a MiniDV tape head cleaner and run it through 2x.

At least you get to keep the head cleaner

I wouldn’t use IPO (alcohol) as it’s abrasive on plastics and can damage the unit.

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Thanks for your helpful advice on how to fix the issue. I've had some success by playing this one specific tape first, and then fast-forwarding and rewinding it before switching to the other tapes. This has allowed me to play some of the tapes that I've tested so far.

I'm currently waiting for a video capture device to arrive from Amazon so that I can transfer my tapes to digital. In the meantime, I'll try to avoid using the camcorder and tapes too much to prevent any further damage.

I did experience some lines across the screen on a few of the tapes I tried playing.

If the problem persists, I'll try cleaning the tape heads with a DV tape head cleaner as you suggested.

Thanks again for your help!


Hi , glad to assist you , I hope you manage to get them transferred over, maybe you can work on 1 tape at a time. It’s a long process with data transfer , I remember that 10 minutes = 1gb of data storage uncompressed. As this is what you want to start with is raw data for video editing , trimming in your program. I usually had about 60-90 min of tape but edited down to about 20min on a DVD-R when my projects was finished , also I kept the original tapes as backup (‘just in case) I put the digital transfer on a few HDD drives , and I wouldn’t use SSD “‘yes they are quick” but the SSD drives have a usage limit and not ideal for long term storage. If they are critical memories , then HDD , and put DV tapes in a fire proof safe. And if you can do a iCloud online back up of the digital transfer then even better. Having multiple back ups is better, than loosing all or having none. Thanks good luck


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