7 Things You Need to Know
About The Hi8 Digital Camcorder

The term Hi8 refers to a videocassette format used by NTSC TV system and PAL/SECAM TV system. A Hi8 videocassette provides analog audio and video but also comes with provision for digital audio.

There are two forms of Hi8 camcorders - analog and digital. If you are moving up to a Hi8 digital camcorder, there are a few specific features you must be aware of before recording your digital content.

Make sure you only purchase only 8mm video tapes that say "Digital 8mm" on the wrapping. Although analog 8mm tapes can be used, the content is recorded as analog, completely voiding the digital aspect of the Hi8 digital camcorder.

There are also 7 important things which the users of Hi8 digital camcorders must know. They are discussed below.

1. What is Hi8?

Hi8 was introduced to compete with the VHS-equivalent S-VHS. Both formats boasted 400 lines of horizontal resolution, which put them in the (lower) range of broadcast quality.

A Hi8 video cassette

Hi8 digital camcorders are popular with amateur enthusiasts and were also used in television productions which required lightweight portable equipment. Hi8, like S-VHS, used a combination of higher-grade tape and improved recording mechanisms to increase bandwidth. Recording lengths were 30, 60 and 120 minutes.

2. Video Quality of Hi8

Hi8 cassettes are known to the highest video quality in the analog world. The media formulation and the electronics for the recorder were improved in Hi8 digital camcorder to increase the luminance signal and recorded bandwidth. The luminance resolution of the video cassette was 420 horizontal TV/lines (in digital terms, the resolution was 560x480). The overall quality of a Hi8 video is almost same as the quality of a laserdisc.

3. Audio Quality of Hi8

For the recording system, the Hi8 camcorder worked with the base format but during the late 80s there was an upgrade in the audio recording format and digital audio (PCM) was introduced.

Hi8 is able to provide for digital audio. The sampling rate for Hi8 PCM audio was 32 kHz, which came with samples of 8-bit. The Hi8 recorders, which were PCM-capable, were capable of recording digital PCM stereo along with analog AFM audio tracks.

4. PCM Multi Audio Support for Hi8

Hi8 digital camcorders have a PCM Multi Audio Support mode, which allowed 5 additional PCM stereo tracks recording in the signal's video area. So, 6 parallel audio tracks could be held, each having a length of 4 hours in the long play mode.

5. Protection for Recording and Tape

In a Hi8 digital camcorder, the mechanism for protecting the tape is built into the shell of the cassette and has two plastic pieces placed at the top of the shell to protect the tape from both sides.

A Hi8 digital camcorder

The casing is prevented from opening because of a latch and this prevents the tape from getting exposed. The latch can be depressed by the recording unit to open the case and the access to the tape is gained by the unit.

In order to stop the recording from getting erased, a write-protect tab is present, which is capable of moving in two different positions marked as "SAVE" and "REC". When the tab is on "REC" position, the tape can be recorded over.

6. Tape Dropouts

In a typical Hi8 digital camcorder, the video and the audio are stored in very small area because of small size of the tape and the head drum. So, when erosion of magnetic particles takes place from the surface of the tape, huge damage is caused to the tapes. Hence, the Hi8 dropout compensation is far more advanced compared to the Betamax and VHS formats.

7. Shelf Life

A Hi8 tape needs to stored away from direct sunlight in a dust-free, cool and dry environment and also it needs to be kept in a vertical position. Over time dropouts and image noise will be created just like any other media. For tapes which are older than 15 years, slow degradation is inevitable. However, to increase the longevity of the tapes, Hi8 tapes are now metal evaporated or produced with metal particle formulation.


When it comes to analog video recording, a Hi8 digital camcorder does a pretty good job but digitization is required while transferring them to a computer. However, it terms of usage, the Hi8 cassette tape still enjoys high popularity among amateur and home videographers. It is especially important for folks who have old videos on those Hi8 cassette tapes and need to convert them into digital videos.

If you have more questions about digital camcorders, check out my article on how to buy one or drop me a question here.

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If you've been looking for a good video editing program, you may want to check out Corel VideoStudio Pro. This software allows you to quickly create and share a movie using built-in templates, special effects, titles and transitions. You can apply unique effects such as stop-motion animation, time-lapse and chroma key to create brilliant digital videos.

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