DescriptionRecording format of magnetic tape for
Time Period
DetailsSony DVM 60, with case
Dimensions5 x 7.5 x 2 cm
LocationUCL Cabinet of Obsolete Media
Inventory nºUCL201721

The MiniDV (Digital Video) emerged in 1995 amidst the proliferation of digital recording systems. Released first by Sony and Panasonic, the MiniDV is a magnetic tape housed in a videocassette that served as a video recording and subsequently non-linear video editing and playback technology, originally intended for amateur use. MiniDV’s popularity is indebted to its size – while the VHS tape offered easy distribution of previously recorded video to consumers, its size rendered it prohibitive as a means of recording video.[1] Likewise, the MiniDV’s image quality at 1070k CDD pixels and its storage capacity of 13GB meant amateurs and studio productions alike could utilize the technology for transfer onto larger screens.[2] The MiniDV achieved popularity among amateur consumers in the mid 2000s given its ease of editing and viewing, such that inexpensive camcorders, costing between $800 and $1600, could record video, upload video to a computer for editing, and play the video on any screen. Various iterations of the MiniDV, including the DVCPro and DVCAM, modified the original format to better accommodate professional-scale production and served as attempts by Sony and Panasonic to first discover the next popular media trends in video distribution and creation.[3]

The MiniDV’s ability to create, manipulate, and play video recordings was replicated and improved upon by the memory card and later by the digital video MPEG-4 file.[4] By the early 2000s, the DVD had largely surpassed the VHS as a predominant medium for the playback of video, but the MiniDV continued to dominate the recording market. The MiniDV’s capacity to connect to computers via USB or FireWire marked the last technology to mediate between computer and video recorder through something other than a microchip.

Prior to the shift to microchip technology, the MiniDV achieved success as the primary recording and editing medium in wide-release motion picture works such as the Mirimax 2002 film Tadpole and in numerous independently released documentaries, most notably Supersize Me (2004).[5] Within artistic circles, video artists like Jeffrey Perkins, who collaborated with a number of artists known for working in the spirit of Fluxus, adopted the MiniDV as an expedient and spontaneous tool for production.

The materiality of the MiniDV remains tethered to its recording device, the camcorder. Sony, Canon, and Panasonic produced universally usable MiniDV tapes at affordable prices while they competed to sell camcorders that featured new, updated technology. Given the digital nature of recordings, the video produced does not immediately point to its origin on MiniDV. While digital video contains mechanisms to correct for errors in lapses between pixels, occasional digital misreading of the tape occurs, divulging a pixilated or demagnetized section that points to the original recording format as MiniDV.


[1] . Medoff, Edward J. Fink, Tom Tanquary, Portable Video: ENG & EFP, 5th Edition (Amsterdam: Focal Press, 2007): 321.

[2] “Sony Introduces New Line of MiniDV Handcam Camcorders.” Imaging Update 13.4 (2002): N/A.

[3] Ray DiZazzo, Corporate Media Production (Amsterdam: Focal Press, 2004): 114.

[4] Medoff, Portable Video: ENG & EFP, 5th Edition, 322.

[5] Betsy A. McLane, A New History of Documentary Film: Second Edition (London: Continuum International, 2012): N/A.