Hi8, 8mm video and Digital 8 are all video camcorder tapes that are from the consumer market that date back to the 1980s and 1990s. By the year 2000 or close, most hi8 and 8mm cameras were no longer being manufactured. Newer Digital 8 cameras were being manufactured into the early 2000s but some didn’t even play the non-digital versions of the tapes.
What makes the transfer from 8mm video tapes so difficult is the limit of available ways to play them back. As previously mentioned, the newer camcorders that play digital 8 cassettes will often not play legacy versions. This is problematic. Of course a 1980’s camcorder won’t play a tape that wasn’t invented yet, but to not make play heads backwards compatible is a slap in the face to consumers.
Our most successful transfers come off of Sony TR series players. They have firewire capability, S-video and component RCA connectors. For the most part, sync and frame compatibility with computers, DVD recorders and MPEG recorders has been successful with these play heads.
Degradation over time is the straw that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to transfer. Unlike traditional VHS tapes where the tracking adjustment can help deal with degradation or loss of tracking, the heads on the 8mm tapes are not adjustable. Often times the audio suffers the most with misalignment of the heads or degradation and will become static or muffled.
Often times we will also run into complete misalignment of tape heads. Where we know the tape will play back perfectly on the camcorder that was used to record it, but will not on ours. This happens when the alignment of the heads is off or completely different. Unfortunately, many people’s camcorders no longer work.
The best solution for transfer is the sooner the better. They have tended to outlast the shelf life of VHS tapes, but not so much the test of bad storage conditions. Best practice for storage is normal living conditions. No basements, not attics and only closets that will maintain normal temperatures and moisture levels.