Remember back to the days when the “I Love Lucy” was in its first run and we were all so excited about the brave new video format Hi-8? Well, maybe it wasn’t way back in the Lucy days, but it was an exciting format and great buzzword at video cocktail parties. Yeah, it had the word “Hi” in it so it must be some AMAZING quality and resolution. Cut to today, some 15 years later, and Hi-8 really looks like crap when compared to modern video formats.
Anyway, if you ended up shooting all of your home movies on that tape, or worse yet… recording a professional project on that tape, then you need to back it up right away! Because the tape itself is quite thin and delicate, the cameras and decks had a history of eating tapes. It’s even worse these days since the cameras are so old and deteriorating. They love to eat tapes.
Shortly after Hi-8 was invented, we dove headlong into the digital age!! Hi-8 was only on the market a couple of years before it was eaten alive by its offspring, Digital 8 (sometimes called Digital High 8).
Digital 8 delivered so much more quality and it was actually DIGITAL! This paved the way for the world famous MiniDV format which quickly overtook Digital 8 like jet airplanes did to propeller planes. There was no turning back.
Here’s the rub, now it’s all these years later and your original camcorder, which busted five years ago, was unceremoniously pitched out. You have all these tapes in a shoe box but don’t know if they are Hi-8 or Digital-8. So you don’t know which camera to buy on ebay in order to transfer the footage to a contemporary format.
Since the tapes look identical, here’s a couple hints to help you:
1) Hi-8 tapes will NEVER have the word “digital” written on the cassette labeling.
2) If the tape labeling says, for “Hi-8 or digital recording”, trust me, it’s going to be a digital signal on that tape. Nobody would every consider spending the extra dough on a digitally capable tape unless they meant to use it for digital.
3) Hi-8 will play on a Digital 8 camcorder, but Digital 8 will not play on a Hi-8 camcorder. So go with buying the Digital 8 camcorder and then you’re covered both ways.
And one last thought… If you see video “snow” on your tapes, do NOT throw them in the trash thinking all your memories are lost forever. You are most likely looking at a DIGITAL-8 tape on a Hi-8 Machine the you purchased by mistake.