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  #1  
04-27-2022, 10:02 AM
tmaximus tmaximus is offline
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Hi folks,

Please excuse my ignorance in advance.

Archiving old tapes. Got through about 20 and now they all just show a blue screen. I know they're not blank and I've tried a few from only a decade ago where there should be no chance of data loss (as they've been stored correctly)

So I have seen horror stories about camcorder head cleaning tapes ruining camcorders and have also been advised by a few professionals to go that route as opposed to trying to clean the head myself. Online videos only seem to talk about cleaning the big wheel at the bottom but I have been advised that that's not actually the head that is clogged.

1. Does anyone have a good link for actually cleaning the head?
2. Thoughts on cleaning it myself or what head cleaner tape to get if not.

Thanks!
Tom
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  #2  
04-27-2022, 11:00 AM
RobustReviews RobustReviews is offline
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Ah, start with a tricky one.

The video head (proper) is usually the most exquisitely manufactured item found in the domestic situation, as one who spent decades working with engineering tolerances, and, qualifying the domestic aspect, the video head chip is a marvel.

It's the priciest on the BOM for most machines too, a complicated little bugger.

'Proper' cleaning means manifold things and everybody has their own take on it from using fingernails (a trick often adopted by seasoned pros) to manifold solutions and solvents and a tranche of substates.

The most agreed upon aspect is that cotton buds (Q-tips to the septics) are no good. Anything that can slough material to get stuck in the head gap is a surefire way to damage a head, or at least render it a microscope recovery. I'm looking at you Techmoan


For a camcorder, any cleaning tape of provenance is a great first pass as access is poor and it's easier to damage the heads or mechacism in an ill-judged rummage in the machine's innerds given the awkward access and ultra delicate mechanisms.

You're starting with a 'dead' machine, it's the most plausible place to start in my opinion.

Dry tapes don't 'destroy' heads despite some hysterical nonsense online, they're often not the best method to use but they're cheap and broadly effective if used judiciously.

Recreational cleaning should be avoided, but this sounds precisely like a head clog and a reasonable blast with a dry tape will have a high chance of resolving your issue.
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  #3  
04-27-2022, 01:11 PM
tmaximus tmaximus is offline
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Understood, and wow, thanks for the quick response!

A couple additional questions for clarification sake...

1. When you say "dry tape", do you mean a head cleaner tape or just any tape that has never been recorded on?
2. I was going to try to clean manually, I would get some chamoiseseseses instead of using q-tips. The internet seems to be in agreement with you on not using swabs. But where exactly is the oh-so-delicate head? I can be super careful and I have another machine (unfortunately in the same boat currently) in case things go bunk with this one...
3. Assuming the answer to #1 is the former and not the latter...I see a huge variance in price. My machines are both Sony's, so should I resort to paying $50 for a Sony head cleaner tape, you think?

Thanks again!
Tom
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04-27-2022, 04:03 PM
BW37 BW37 is offline
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Since RR is likely asleep right now, I'll try to answer your questions as best a I can.

1. "Dry type" is a kind of tape cleaning cassette. They come in both wet and dry types.

The "wet types" are/were a kit that includes a solvent that is applied to the cleaning cassette before each use. The "tape is fibrous to absorb the solvent and the dirt. In theory that sounds good, but the fibrous tape can snag on the heads and ruin them so they are not recommended today.

The "dry type" cleaners do not use any solvent but are somewhat abrasive and thus remove the dirt mechanically. Most of the cleaning tapes available today are dry type. They do appear a bit spendy, but eBay has quite a few listings of what appear to be sealed new ones.

2. Cleaning an 8mm camcorder's heads manually can be quite difficult due to the inaccessibility of the head drum (and heads) and the delicacy of the heads and the entire tape transport mechanism. This is a skill that will take some learning and maybe some hard knocks before it is perfected.

Here's a discussion of an 8mm head cleaning attempt. There are some great pictures of the heads and head drums. In the thread there is also a link to a tgrantphoto web page that discusses video heads and how to clean them. Of course they are discussing full size VCRs with much easier access and larger more robust components though the heads themselves are still very delicate.

I would recommend purchasing a dry type head cleaner and trying that before I'd venture into trying to clean them manually.

Note also that there are some tapes (Hi8 especially) that are particularly bad a spalling off their magnetic coatings and clogging the heads very quickly. If you have those kind of tapes, you may have to learn to clean the heads manually. Here's a discussion on dealing with those problem tapes.

I did once find a decent YouTube video of a guy cleaning the heads on an 8mm camcorder. I can't find it now but haven't looked very hard. Just be sure to fully understand the process and the issues before you attempt it for yourself.

Good Luck!

BW37
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  #5  
05-02-2022, 03:30 PM
tmaximus tmaximus is offline
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Thanks, BW. I ordered a head cleaner tape and some shammies so I can see which works better, since I know I have so many tapes ahead of me.

Thanks to the link to the other thread. Still unclear where exactly the heads are, but it looks like from the pics on that thread that they're IN the big wheel (is that called the head drum?)? If not....where exactly are they?

Apologies again for my lack of knowledge of the proper terminology...
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  #6  
05-02-2022, 09:01 PM
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Head cleaner tape? Nay. Those tend to just push dirt around, not remove.

But a tiny camera is PITA to clean, so if you're willing to gamble it not getting damaged worse, then yay. It will be easier, though not better, if it even works well (or at all).

The Hi8 tape issue is common. Sometimes just playing a "good" tape for 5-10 minute restores the picture. Somewhat the same as the head cleaner tape. But it's always temporary. If you only got through 20 tapes, it'll last for another 20 tapes before time to repeat. Most of us have been there many times before.

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05-03-2022, 05:59 AM
RobustReviews RobustReviews is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
Head cleaner tape? Nay. Those tend to just push dirt around, not remove.

But a tiny camera is PITA to clean, so if you're willing to gamble it not getting damaged worse, then yay. It will be easier, though not better, if it even works well (or at all).

The Hi8 tape issue is common. Sometimes just playing a "good" tape for 5-10 minute restores the picture. Somewhat the same as the head cleaner tape. But it's always temporary. If you only got through 20 tapes, it'll last for another 20 tapes before time to repeat. Most of us have been there many times before.
With 8mm formats the head spins considerably faster than the later tapes and the headgap is considerably narrower which no doubt promotes head-clogging. They do just seem to suffer more with dirty heads in my experience.

I don't fully agree with dry tapes, I'm not sure where this they just move the dirt around comes from but I've never seen any evidence of this and we do analyse our videoheads under a microscope to determine wear and deal with extreme clogging. They don't damage video heads if used judiciously, that's for certain. I'm sure continuous 'recreational' cleaning can, but not occasional use. They're not the best method but they're worth a try for the DIYer with a camcorder.

As you know from 'studio days', usually the first pass for a head-clog on a cassette machine is to play a 'virgin' blank tape though to dislodge any debris in the head-gap as this is deemed the most sympathetic method in respect of the video head and works more often than not. We do this with Betacam/UMatic as part of routine maintenance, every few weeks the machines get to play back a brand new blank tape to give the heads of a bit of reprieve - it cuts down on the number of operations to remove them from racks and manually clean the heads. For some formats we cover blank media is no longer available (or very aged) so we don't use this trick.

Not always successful but sometimes you need a microscope for really nasty clogging.

8mm/DV just seem to suffer with clogging though, like I said I expect it's something to do with the tremendous head speed and comparatively tiny head gap.
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  #8  
05-03-2022, 03:35 PM
tmaximus tmaximus is offline
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So this is the typical video I've found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KCz59TCy8E

So I ask again....is this actually cleaning the head? Some are saying the head is tiny and fragile but that's not what this looks like.

Sorry if it seems like beating a dead horse, but I just want to know what exactly to clean if I do this myself.

Did get the HC tape today, so we'll see how that works.
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  #9  
05-03-2022, 03:39 PM
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lordsmurf lordsmurf is offline
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Well, what'd'ya'know. A good Youtube video. He's a member here on this site.

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05-03-2022, 04:43 PM
RobustReviews RobustReviews is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tmaximus View Post
So this is the typical video I've found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KCz59TCy8E

So I ask again....is this actually cleaning the head? Some are saying the head is tiny and fragile but that's not what this looks like.

Sorry if it seems like beating a dead horse, but I just want to know what exactly to clean if I do this myself.

Did get the HC tape today, so we'll see how that works.
If you look at the image here (this looks like a VHS head drum) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5d/VHS_head_drum_1.jpg

You'll see the head drum (the cylindrical body assembly) and the heads which are the small parts notched out around the head drum upper assembly. The drum is often mistakenly referred to as the 'head', but the actual video heads are those small parts that spin around on the upper drum. There can be anywhere from 2 to 8 of these depending on the format, features and configuration. It's rare, but some very lowly 8mm machines only used a single head and span the drum twice as fast.

These 'heads' are actually very tiny electromagnets with precise gaps, if 'crap' lodges in these gaps it creates issues.

The video looks perfectly good, you 'should' try and turn the head drum in it's usual rotation direction, you 'must' make sure you hold the cleaning pad stationary.
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  #11  
05-03-2022, 04:47 PM
BW37 BW37 is offline
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That's the YouTube video I was mentioning earlier. I'd describe it as "decent" in the it doesn't show the wrong way, but I feel it is a bit too short and sweet with no background on what is actually being cleaned. No disrespect intended. It's the best I've found on 8MM camcorder video head cleaning. Many are very poor.

To understand what the video drum and video heads are will take a bit more research.

I suggest checking out these:

TGP information on VHS video heads and drums.

After digesting the above, I'd go back to the video I linked earlier about a Hi8 camcorder head cleaning attempt the didn't end well.

12voltvids video 1 showing repair of a D8 camcorder including a discussion and demonstration of using a head cleaning tape and a discussion of why he feels it is the right way to clean Hi8 and D8 heads. I'm not sure I completely agree in that I think any solvent would be working on the binders in the tape coating, not the oxides or metal particles to help remove the clogs. But maybe the metal particles get more physically packed into the head gap than oxides would and dissolving the the binders doesn't help. Interesting discussion anyway...

It is also useful in showing the removal of a different style cover to expose the tape transport and video head drum.

12voltvids video 2
At about 3 minutes he starts another tape cover removal.

BW
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  #12  
05-03-2022, 10:32 PM
nicholasserra nicholasserra is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BW37 View Post
That's the YouTube video I was mentioning earlier. I'd describe it as "decent" in the it doesn't show the wrong way, but I feel it is a bit too short and sweet with no background on what is actually being cleaned. No disrespect intended.

Yup no disrespect felt, my video was meant to just show people a better way to clean those heads without shoving a q-tip down in there. Most of the youtube videos were bad enough that I figured i'd toss one up. It has a decent amount of views, so hopefully people see it more than the bad ones.

That being said i'm no expert on it, so the additional info in this thread is nice.

I use this method on most of my gear and after several batches of tapes big black streaks of crap come off the heads of my 8mm camcorders and VCRs. So far it does the trick.
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  #13  
05-04-2022, 08:03 AM
tmaximus tmaximus is offline
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OK, thanks again, all. I'll let you know how it goes (I'm sure you're all waiting with baited breath).

So glad I found this forum.
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