Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Video8, Hi8 and Digital8 FAQ

The below is provided as a guide only and includes information which is the opinion of the author.

If you're looking to use orbuy an 8mm camera to convert your tapes to a digital format, it can be daunting trying to work out what to look for and what you'll need to get the job done.

Here's the answers to the most common questions I receive about Video8, Hi8 and Digital8 cameras and how to use them to convert your old analog 8mm tapes to a digital file or DVD.

The questions we cover are:
  • I have some 8mm tapes that I want to import in to my PC or burn to DVD – how do I do it?
  • What is the difference between Video8, Hi8 and Digital8?
  • Are all cameras capable of playing Video8, Hi8 and Digital8?
  • How do I know what format my tapes were recorded in?
  • I’m looking to buy a Video8/Hi8/Digital8 camera – what should I look for?
  • How is the video and audio output from the camera?
  • Are there any cameras which will do the conversion from analog to digital for me?
  • What does SP and LP mean?

I have some 8mm tapes that I want to import in to my PC or burn to DVD - how do I do it?

 

You will need:
  • A camera or player compatible with the tapes you would like to capture to a digital file or DVD
  • A capture device connected to a PC, or a stand-alone device such as a DVD recorder or Hard Drive recorder
  • Video Capture/Editing software (if using a PC)

How?:

Connect the output from the camera to the input of the capture device or recorder.

If using a recorder
  • Ensure the correct input is set
  • Press record on the recorder and play on the camera
  • Press stop on both when finished

If using a PC capture device
  • Connect the capture device to the PC
  • Open your video capture/editing software and enter “capture” mode
  • Start the capture on the PC and press play on the camera
  • Press stop on both when finished


What is the difference between Video8, Hi8 and Digital8?

 

Detailed information is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8_mm_video_format

Video8 is a video format first used in the 1980s. It is quite low resolution by today’s standards (about 240 lines) and supports mono audio (one channel, not stereo)

Hi8 is an improved version of the 8mm format released in the 1990s with slightly higher resolution video, and capable of stereo audio.

Digital8 uses the same 8mm tapes, but records video and audio in a digital format, as opposed to the analog formats used by Video8 and Hi8.


Are all cameras capable of playing Video8, Hi8 and Digital8?

 

No.

Tapes recorded in the Video8 format can be played on all Video8 and Hi8 cameras and some Digital8 cameras.

Tapes recorded in the Hi8 format can be played on all Hi8 and some Digital8 cameras.

Tapes recorded in the Digital8 format can only be played on Digital8 cameras.


How do I know what format my tapes were recorded in?

 

If you know the model of the original camera used for the recordings, you can determine the format used, as it will be the format of the camera (Video8, Hi8 or Digital8)

If you don’t know the format the original camera used, you will need to test the tapes by playing them in the different camera types.
  • If the tapes were recorded in the 80s or early 90s, chances are they are Video8
  • If the tapes were recorded in the 90s or early 00s, they are likely Hi8
  • If the tapes were recorded in the from the early 00s on, they are potentially Digital8
Unfortunately, you can’t use the type of tape as an indicator, as all formats use the same tape, therefore Video8 tapes may actually have Hi8 or even Digital8 recordings on them.


I’m looking to buy a Video8/Hi8/Digital8 camera – what should I look for?

 

If you want to ensure you can capture your tapes, you can look for a Digital8 camera which supports both digital and analog (Video8/Hi8) format.

A comprehensive list of camera which can play all formats in available here:
Sony Digital8 Cameras Which Are Compatible With Video8 and Hi8 Playback

These models also include an IE1394 (FireWire) connection which allows analog tapes to be converted to digital files and sent to a PC using just the camera.

If you know your tapes aren’t digital but are not sure whether they are Video8 or Hi8, look for a Hi8 camera.

Hi8 cameras will play both types of tapes and often have more advanced features, such as S-Video output (a higher quality analog output connection) and stereo audio.

If you know your tapes are Video8, then any Video8 or Hi8 camera will work.

When buying a camera, ensure that the audio/video cables are supplied and the connection types are compatible with the equipment you will be using to capture the video. (See below for video and audio output options)

Battery life is not particularly important, but ensure that the camera includes an AC Adaptor for use with continuous A/C power. Older models often had a battery charger with a separate cable that includes a “dummy” battery which attaches to the camera when using A/C power.

Many cameras support both Long Play (LP) and Short Play (SP) modes. If you have tapes recorded using LP mode, you need a camera capable of LP playback. Almost all Sony Handycams support LP and SP. Samsung cameras are a good option and less expensive than Sony cameras, however many support only SP mode, so take care when choosing your camera.


How is the video and audio output from the camera?

 

There are several options for how analog (not digital) video and audio is output from a camera.

Many older models output using 2 x RCA plugs (usually yellow and black). These are good because almost all DVD/Hard Drive Recorders and capture devices use this standard.

Some models also have S-Video (SVHS) outputs. These provide higher quality video and can be used in conjunction with the audio from the RCA output. Almost all equipment will also support S-Video.

Newer models use a “Mini-jack” output. This is usually a 3.5mm (or sometimes a 2.5mm) connection which outputs the same information as an RCA output, but using a single smaller plug for both audio and video. To connect these to standard capture equipment, you will need a Mini-jack to RCA cable (readily available at electronics stores, department stores, etc)

Finally, there are some models which use what are called “proprietary” connectors. This means they are not a standard connection type and therefore may be difficult to obtain. If you are buying a camera with this sort of connection, ensure it includes the cable!


Are there any cameras which will do the conversion from analog to digital for me?

 

Yes!

Some Sony Digital8 cameras have the ability to connect to your PC using an IE1394 (FireWire) connection to create digital video files from analog tapes.

The Sony Digital8 models in our compatibility list support digital conversion via FireWire:
Sony Digital8 Cameras Which Are Compatible With Video8 and Hi8 Playback


What does SP and LP mean?

 

SP stands for “Short/Standard Play” and LP for “Long Play”.

Many cameras support both these formats. Essentially, recording in LP mode will spin the tape at half the speed, allowing for twice as much recording time. (eg. a 90 minute tape will allow 180 minutes of video).

There is a trade-off in the quality of the audio and video when using LP. Cameras which only support SP mode will not play back LP recordings correctly.

Sony Handycams will almost always support both LP and SP, while most other brands (such as Samsung and Sharp) often only support SP.

10 comments:

  1. I have been going through my 40 + Video8 and Video8 digital tapes. With my cameras, and EV-C500E I can replay ALL of my SP tapes.
    But i can't replay ANY LP tapes, of either format, on any machine,,HELP. Do i have to buy an ancient camera ? As some are digital 8

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there. I haven't used an EV-C500E personally, however they are definitely not compatible with Digital8 recorded tapes, as they only support Video8/Hi8. I am surprised it won't play back LP recorded tapes however, unless these are also in digital? Check out my list of Sony Handycams which support all formats here:
      http://v8mm.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/sony-digital8-cameras-which-are.html

      Delete
  2. I have the same issue as my Cannon Hi8 camera will not play Video tapes in LP at correct speed?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have the same issue as my Cannon Hi8 camera will not play Video tapes in LP at correct speed?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Colin.

      Yes, Canon cameras often only support SP recorded tapes and to play back LP tapes at the correct speed, you'll need a camera which supports this.

      Almost all Sony models and a few Samsungs and other brands support LP - just check the specifications before you buy. Reiable old Sony 8mm cameras can be found on eBay for about $50-150 depending on your region. Also, check local pawn shops as they often sell these cheap.

      Delete
  4. I'm having a weird problem that audio on all of my old hi8 recordings are not working with any newer used camera. The picture is perfect, but totally silent. I tried with two different cameras and the same thing happened. Can't quite figure this out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What kind of cable do you use ? the S-VIDEO cable does not carry any audio, only video ! You need a separate cable four audio (usually RCA).

      Delete
    2. I am having a similar problem too. I am trying to play back an 8mm video tape, there's sound on the camera but no AV coming through the TV? My camera takes video 8/Hi8 cassettes and I'm confused as to why it's not playing back as it should

      Delete
  5. Do you know if a Digital8 camera can play LP Hi8 videos?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have a bunch of old hi8 and digital8 tapes. I got an old hi8 camcorder and none of them are playing... there is just a blue screen. Even the hi8 tapes. If I record something and try to play it back, it works. But anything I recorded 10+ years ago does not play. Here is a strange question... At one point after my hi8 camcorder broke years ago, I got a digital8 camcorder. I've heard that if a tape is played on a certain camera it will only work on that camera. It's extremely confusing and I don't want to buy a digital8 and have the same thing happen.

    ReplyDelete