Greetings from Roger Macie,
As many of you probably know, I have been writing "Maintenance Tips" for Prosource’s "PROfiles"
newsletter. These have included such topics as "Avoiding Head Clogs", "The Ultimate Standard", and
"The Next Step". All of these have been geared to the broadcast professional who makes his or her
living off their Betacamcorders. Prosource is a national video production equipment dealer based in
Connecticut. Please review these articles, especially those that refer to The Macie Uniform
Standard. Its conception was discussed in "The Call for Uniformity" and is written about in two
The "The Next Step" discusses specialty set ups that are currently available for
Sony and Ikegami digital cameras. The "Macie Uniform Standard", also known as "The Dateline
Look", has been used and recommended by some of the top network magazine shows. It has had an
absolute success. When you look good, we look good.
If you have not visited us lately, you may be surprised to find how comprehensive our Freelance
Listing Guide is. Over 40 countries and all 50 states are listed. We recently got feedback from a
freelancer in Oklahoma who got hired for a CBS morning show by the booking guy who uses only
broadcastvideo.com's "Freelance Listing Guide" because of the great crews he gets. Check it
Now for maintenance tips
The best way to deal with audio problems is to be on the look out for them.
There are literally hundreds of things that can fail, from microphone, cables, batteries,
audio head clogs from bad tape, to PC board level component failures. Audio should be
monitored through the camcorder monitor system because that is the end link in the audio
path. EE is best used to judge the audio quality. Usually cable and mike problems are caught
because of the higher quality monitor circuits. This EE audio is processed and passed to the
linear audio record heads, and/or to the AFM (CH3 &4) audio tracks which are recorded
along with the video signal.
On the BVW, HL-V Betacam camcorders and the dockable BVV-5s, there is a separate
audio playback head and circuits, which are used to play the audio. Thus the audio being
recorded is what you hear in the EE mode, and the confidence playback is what you hear while
recording in the PB mode. That is why when you listen to the audio, you hear an echo which is
due to the time delay it takes for the recorded audio to reach the playback heads. You will
also note the poor sound quality audio playback. In order to keep these decks small,
compromises had to be made somewhere.
You judge the quality in the EE mode and use the PB or confidence mode just to see if the audio
made it to tape. That’s why it is important to record zero level tone while in EE mode, then either
check the PB (confidence mode) while recording, or just rewind tape and playback the tape. By the
way, in the "PB" mode it is actually in the EE mode until you hit record at which time it switches
to the confidence playback heads.
The playback level on the meter should be within 2 DB of the EE or record level. A drop of 3 db or
more usually means that there is a partial or complete head clog. This is a material build up on
either the record or playback heads. Because of the two heads used, either the recording is OK and
the playback is bad, or the recording is bad and the playback is OK. In a pinch, you can playback a
known good tape and see if the playback is good. If it is bad, then the recording you made is
Of course if you have access to a playback deck or a VA-500 playback checker, that will verify the
audio recording is OK. The playback checker takes the audio signal from the record head, not the
playback head. That's why the quality is so much better.
To clean the heads, it's a simple matter of removing the VTR door and wet cleaning the heads. A
lint free cloth, or chamois (shammy) tip swab and 99 % isopropyl alcohol is usually the best way to
clean the head surface. Note that the recording surface of the head is at the extreme ends, or top
and bottom of heads surface. The audio record head stack also records the time code signal. (Our
Camcorder Survival Kit has everything you need to maintain your camcorders. It also includes a
training video showing the proper way to clean the deck.) If cleaning doesn't seem to work, try
another tape. If the tape you're using has edge damage, you could have poor head to tape contact
and have what looks like a head clog.
Don't bother with a cleaning tape. This tape was designed to clean primarily the video head tips
not the stationary audio heads. What often works in a pinch is to take a tape and fast forward it
to the end then rewind it. This has helped me in the field when I didn’t' have any cleaning
materials with me. Running thousands of feet of tape across the heads has a tendency to remove any
I will be picking up from this point on the next newsletter. Good luck and happy