The best way to erase mini DV camcorder tapes

Updated July 20, 2017

Tape degaussing and recording are the two methods used to erase MiniDV camcorder tapes. Rerecording a tape erases old footage but adds recording hours to your camcorder video heads. A tape degausser bulk erases the videotape but can be costly. The best way for you will depend on how many tapes you have, how quickly you need them erased and how much you want to spend.


The consensus among most video professionals is that erasing a MiniDV videotape is not a necessary process unless special circumstances require it. Simply reusing the tape will erase existing video and audio. However, there may be times during retaping when clips of the old footage briefly appear if you stop and start the camcorder recording. If you have to make sure that all old footage is erased, using a process called blacking will get rid of it. Blacking means you record no audio or video for the entire length of the tape.

Rerecording or Blacking

To black a MiniDV videotape, load it into a camcorder, make sure the lens cap is on, put it in a quiet location and press record. If you have 60 minutes of footage to be erased, it will take 60 minutes to record new, black footage. Remember to check the tape you are blacking to make sure you do not need any of the footage because everything will be erased. When the tape reaches the end and the recording stops, rewind the tape to the beginning to realign the tape position and tension. Blacking a MiniDV tape is time-consuming, and many video professionals keep an additional, cheaper camcorder for blacking and playback to save wear and tear on their main video camcorders.


If you need to erase a large quantity of MiniDV videotapes, investing in a tape degausser might be the best solution. Degaussing removes the media quickly using a powerful magnet. There are many types of degaussing machines, from inexpensive handheld models to large degaussers with a conveyor belt that can bulk-erase large numbers of videotapes. To erase a MiniDV tape with a handheld degaussing machine, place the degausser on the tape, press the power button and slowly rub it over the tape in a spiral motion for approximately one minute (check manufacturer instructions). To stop degaussing, pull it away from the tape and then release the power button to prevent any degaussing noise from recording on the tape. Costs range from £52 for handheld degaussers to thousands of dollars for heavy-duty machines. Great care must be taken with a degausser so that the footage you want to keep does not accidentally get erased. Most video companies store the degausser in a room away from archive tapes and editing rooms.

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About the Author

Nancy Sutton Smith has a master's degree in education and more than three decades of experience as a broadcast producer, writer and video editor. A six-time regional Emmy winner, she is currently a media educator. Specializing in consumer-electronics articles and tutorials, her video production expertise includes Final Cut Pro, AVID, Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop and Encore.