What is MiniDV?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

MiniDV is one of three common digital formats used in sound and picture recording. Using digital technology, it captures video and audio on high-density cassette tapes. The format is very popular, as it delivers sound and video that is sharp and high quality.

front and back views of mini DV video cassettes.
front and back views of mini DV video cassettes.

One of the most commonly used formats in camcorders, MiniDV devices are available from many manufacturers. They deliver video that is much clearer than analog camcorders and also offer stronger color reproduction. Camcorders that record in this format are typically lightweight and compact, many featuring extras like MPEG and night recording.

Mini DV camcorder.
Mini DV camcorder.

This type of camcorder makes shooting video and importing video content to a PC easy. Once on the PC, the video can be edited, converted for Internet use, or even burned to a DVD. Transferring video to a PC can usually be accomplished using an IEEE-1394 interface, commonly known as FireWire or I.Link, USB cable, or with a memory card, depending on the model.

There are many MiniDV camcorders from which to choose, from those designed for the budget-conscious to professional-quality models. Camcorders using this format are widely supported by video-editing software applications. Usually, they can be connected to a television or VCR for display or copying purposes.

The tapes use by this type of camera are tiny, only a fraction of the size of other digital video (DV) cassettes. They are commonly used for both personal and semiprofessional-quality video. The tapes are available in recording lengths of 30, 60, and 80 minutes.

Among digitally recorded cassette tapes, MiniDV tapes are the most widely used. They offer easy compatibility for playback on almost any type of DV-compatible device, and in fact, they can even be used for playback on devices intended for DVCAM and DVPRO tapes. This is because the tapes are identical to DVCAM and DVPRO tapes, with the exception of the recording format.

Despite the fact that this format is highly compatible with a full range of devices, sometime a user will need to convert the video to DVD or other formats. Conversion can be accomplished inexpensively using automated software, hardware, or manual procedures. MiniDVs can be converted fairly easily, even by those with little experience.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a EasyTechJunkie writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


I have this kind of cassette at home too.


What piece of apparatus other than a camcorder can I purchase to play the mini DV tapes so as to transfer on to a disc?


This article seems really dated. It is almost impossible to find mini dv cameras that are not high end professional models.


To transfer mini DV tapes to a computer you need a playback device (miniDV camcorder or tapeline). And a Firewire input on the computer.

There is a tab on the mini DV to to disable recording. Also if you leave the tape at the end after you record you can prevent over writing the tape. Also mini DV is not better than HD and only a little better than DVD. Spec wise that is. In real use your mileage may vary.

Mini DV has slightly better specs than DVD based camcorders. That being said the quality of the camera's optics and electronics are the real deciding factor. Most people could not tell the difference between the same thing shot to mini DV or DVD. Yes, minDs are re-writable, they are tape.


is there a way to take the data from a miniDv tape and download it to a computer without the camcorder? I lost my camcorder and have tapes I want to download?


Can a mini-dv tape recorded by a Sony camcorder be played back on a JVC camcorder? Both camcorders are older than 10 years.


I need to make a small home movie using my HDD (Hybrid hard disk drive) Video recorder. How can I get it to mini DV format or is it the same thing?


I have used a miniDV camera before, yes you can download the video to the computer and then burn it to a DVD. All you need is the video suite and DVD burning software and hardware.

I enjoyed miniDV. Also just don't ever record over your tapes. Put them in a drawer, your desk, a file or whatever. Always keep the raw video....computers crash, drives get damaged....tapes aren't that expensive. Always keep the raw video.


One of the problems is that you may accidentally record over something you've not yet transferred to your computer. Its said to have better quality that DVD and HD camcorders though.


Can you download your recording to your computer and then burn it onto a dvd?


I would like to know what are differences between miniDV and DVD in picture and movie quality. Also when we write a dv tape on a dvd disc does it have the same quality if we take a shot by a dvd camcorder at the same location and same quality of camcorder?


Can MiniDV things be rewritten over?

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