In the mid-1980s, Sony introduced its first Handycam Video8 camcorder as a smaller alternative to VHS and Betamax. These camcorders used 8mm tape (e.g. Hi-8) and were considered state of the art. Of course, technology is ever-evolving, making once high-tech video tapes and gadgets irrelevant and outdated. Perhaps you have stacks of these compact tapes gathering dust in the dark corner of a closet. If so, you’re probably wondering what to do with these old tapes or if it’s even possible to watch them since your camcorder is long gone. Although watching old 8mm movie reels without a projector or VHS tapes without a VCR is easier, it’s possible to watch Hi8 videos without a camcorder.
How to Watch Hi8 Tapes on TV
If you still own a working camcorder, can borrow one from a friend, or found a compatible one on the secondary market, you’re in luck. Simply plug the camcorder’s AV output connections into the corresponding inputs on your TV. Then select the correct TV input, press play on your camcorder, and sit back and watch your long-forgotten videos.
8mm/VHS Combo VCRs
For a brief period, Goldstar (now LG) and Sony (PAL version only) manufactured decks that featured both an 8mm player and VHS VCR built into the same cabinet. This Hi8 tape player is similar to modern-day DVD/VHS combo units. Instead of having a DVD player on one side, they include an 8mm player along with a separate section for recording and playing back VHS. You may be able to find a secondhand one, but be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars and make sure the model is compatible with Hi8 cassettes. The best bet is to look for a Sony Digital8/Hi8 VCR.
Transferring Hi8 Tapes to Your Computer
While the type of camcorder and video capturing software on your PC determine the exact method for uploading, editing, and saving digital video files, these are the basic steps:
- Connect an A/V cable to the A/V output jack on the Hi8 camcorder
- Connect the other end of the A/V cable or S-Video cable to the A/V input or S-Video jack on your computer
- Cue the video in the camcorder to the beginning of the footage being transferred
- Turn the camcorder to the Playback, VCR, or VTR mode and make sure your PC is on
- Open the video capture software
- Select Import or Start Recording in the software and press PLAY on the camcorder
- After editing, save the video to your PC’s DVD drive, a memory card, or the cloud
Why Digitizing Hi8 Tapes is The Best Option
Hi8 tape is rather delicate and subject to deterioration. The tape is coated with metal-oxide particles that can become brittle and loose. Exposure to extreme temperature changes can cause the oxide and tape backing to contract and expand by differing amounts. This can damage large portions of your old-school tapes and render them unwatchable. Cassettes should be stored upright in a vertical position and completely rewound with the full reel side on the bottom. If you stored tapes properly, they may still be in good condition.
Regardless, it’s best to get these tapes converted as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration. If you have the right equipment to watch them, you can likely convert Hi8 tapes yourself. Online tutorials provide step-by-step guidance on how to do this but keep in mind this takes patience and may come with some trial and error. Amazon sells a Hi8 tape converter that plugs into a camcorder to enable converting various video tape formats into digital with the touch of a button. At ScanCafe, our technicians have vast expertise converting this obsolete format from yesteryear into digital files you can watch and share anytime, anywhere. No need to sweat the details when we can do the heavy lifting for you!