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How to Deal With "Dropped Frames"

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/10/2010

Dropped Frames are one of the most common errors in digital video editing, and one of the easiest to prevent and repair. Here's how.

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    Very Common

    One of the most common errors that occurs when you are capturing video from your digital video tapes to your computer for editing is the dreaded phrase, “dropped frames.” Often when this appears all the footage that has been supposedly captured and saved is suddenly gone and you are stuck with a bunch of wasted time. There are a number of precautions the home digital video producer can take to help prevent this common problem.

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    What is It?

    Dropped frames occur when there is missing data from your DV tape. What happens is there are usually tiny gaps, maybe only one or two frames, where there is missing footage on the tape. This can happen when recording often, as the camera does not always print footage to tape efficiently. In the editing program in which you are capturing, the video will give you the option to either abort dropped frames or allow them in the capture. If you are set to abort then the second that dropped frames are detected then the capture will be canceled and all footage will be lost. If you allow the dropped frames to be ignored then you will have choppy or stalling footage for your editing.

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    Avoid It When Recording

    There are a number of ways to avoid this from occurring, both on the recording and editing side of things. If you are using a higher end digital video camera switch it from “DV Mode” to “DV Cam Mode.” This is a higher quality recording mode, but will only give you forty minutes on a standard sixty minute DV tape. Also, make sure to always use new tapes that have not been recorded over because the transfer will be much smoother. If you absolutely have to tape over a tape that has already been used then make sure to use DV Cam Mode.

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    Avoid It When Editing

    The best way to avoid dropped frames from being a problem in the editing process is to use less of the computer’s resources while editing. Though you can usually run other programs while you are capturing footage from DV tapes, you may opt not to use any program that will have to save or reference information from the hard drive. Browsing the internet, or comparable activities, should be the extent of your activity on the computer you are capturing on. If you are still having problems you can reduce the taxation on your computer's resources by turning off the video preview in your capture menu. Likewise you can also close any open Timeline sequences that you are not using immediately. Often times simply deleting some things off your hard drive or “defragging” your computer can help.

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    Kind Of Frustrating

    Digital video production can be littered with problems that need troubleshooting. When dropping frames during digital video capture you simply have to apply a little trial and error. You can try and avoid it by using DV Cam Mode and clean tapes, and during post-production try and free up resources on your computer. Dropping frames can be a frustrating problem, but it will never stop you from being able to get the footage off of the tapes.