If you have some Hi8 or 8mm tapes that you’re interested in playing but you can’t find your old camcorder you’re probably wondering if there is some sort of cassette tape adapter that would allow you to play your Hi8 or 8mm tapes in a VCR.
In fact, you’re probably sure you’ve seen some sort of gizmo for videotapes like that before. Right?
Unfortunately, there is no Hi8 or 8mm adapter to VHS that will allow you to play your tapes in a VCR / VHS player. The main reason for this is the width of a VHS tape material that contains the video is a different width than an 8mm or Hi8 tape. This means the VHS tape heads would have no idea how to read this media.
I’ll explain in more detail why there are no 8mm tape adapters, and explain what your options are for playing back your 8mm and Hi8 tapes.
3 Reasons Why There Is No 8mm Adapter to VHS Tape
Question: What do the 8mm adapter to VHS and unicorns have in common?
Answer: They don’t exist…..
Why? Several Reasons.
Hi8 / 8mm Tape Width Is Different Than VHS Tape Width
Both Hi8 and 8mm videotapes are built differently than a VHS tape, not just the cassette that holds the tape but the tape media itself that the video is recorded onto. VHS videotape is 1/2 inches wide (or 12.7 mm), while both Hi8 and 8mm are 0.314 inches- and you guessed it – 8mm wide.
|Hi8 and 8mm||0.314 inches / 8 millimeters|
|VHS||0.5 inches / 12.7 mm|
The play heads inside the VCR/VHS player only understand and expect a 1/2 inch wide tape, and have no idea what to do with a Hi8 or 8mm tape simply because its dimensions are different.
This makes any sort of Hi8/8mm tape converter near impossible. Yet there are more reasons.
Hi8 / 8mm Tapes Store Audio Differently Than VHS Tapes
According to Wikipedia’s article on the Video 8 tape format, VHS tapes store their audio on a narrow track towards the bottom of the tape, which makes it vulnerable to damage. When the Video 8 format was developed it uses a technique called audio frequency modulation (AFM) that stores the audio on the same portion of the tape as the video at a far higher quality than VHS audio.
Hi8 / 8mm Tape Speed Is Different Than VHS
The tape speed, meaning how fast the tape moves across the play heads, is different when comparing Hi8/8mm to VHS.
According to Camcorderpedia for NTSC (North America) a VHS Tape will move at 33.35mm/sec across the tape heads while a Hi8/8mm tape moves at 14.345mm/sec.
This means if there was ever some sort of adapter the VCR would need to know to change playback speeds to adjust for a Video 8 or Hi8 tape.
Why Does a VHS-C Tape Adapter Work?
At this point you’re like “I get it – there’s no Hi8 or 8mm Adapter to VHS”.
But you know you’ve seen some sort of adapter where you stick a smaller video tape into the adapter and then it plays on a VCR.
In this case, you’re correct – that is the VHS-C videotape. The “C” in VHS-C stands for “compact”
The VHS-C videotape was a popular video format at one time, using a smaller cassette when compared to a full-sized VHS tape, but the tape medium / magnetic material inside that it plays and records on is identical to that found in a standard VHS tape.
This allowed for a simple tape adapter that is the size of a full-size VHS tape that you’d insert the VHS-C tape into. Internally the VHS-C tape would get wound out in a manner that it 100% resembled a standard VHS tape, thus the VCR / VHS play could not tell any difference.
In fact, if you unwound the tape onto the floor of a VHS tape and a VHS-C you could not tell the difference because the tape media is identical and the camcorders recorded in the same manner as a full-sized VHS camcorder.
How to Play Hi8 and 8mm Tapes Without a Camcorder
Since there’s no such thing as a Hi8 videotape adapter for VCRs you’re probably wondering how to play your tapes.
Here are a few options:
- Video Transfer Service: By far the simplest way to watch your videotapes again is to pay a professional video transfer service to convert your videos to a digital format such as DVDs, or video files, or online videos that you can download and share. The cost can be anywhere from $10 to $25 a tape which is fine for anyone that only has a few tapes, but expensive if you have several.
- Borrow a Camcorder: reach out on social media to your friends and family and see if anyone can find their old Hi8 or 8mm camcorder. The good news is if you do find someone that has a Hi8 camcorder these can playback both Hi8 and 8mm tapes. If someone has a Digital8 camcorder most but not all camcorders
- Buy a Used Camcorder: you can still find used camcorders online, eBay has the most options for used camcorders but you can find them on Amazon as well as other online retailers. And used camcorders are the most common, available, and affordable devices that play back Hi8 and 8mm videotapes.
- Buy a Used Hi8 or Video 8 Tape Deck: there are decks that playback Hi8 and 8mm tapes back just like a VCR, but instead of it using a VHS tape it takes 8mm and Hi8 tapes. These are harder to find and generally more expensive but do exist in places like eBay and Amazon.
What to look for when buying used equipment:
- Tape Playback: If you’re like me and started with Video8 / 8mm and continued to record on Hi8 and Digital 8 tapes then your best bet is to find a Digital8 camcorder that can playback all 3 formats so you can play all your tapes with 1 device.
- Returns: sellers of used equipment should allow for returns if the item is DOA, but generally won’t offer a warranty.
- Conversion: The best thing you can do once you have a device that can playback your tapes is to convert them to a digital format onto your computer as the tapes are degrading daily, as well as your chances to find something that will play your tapes back. This can be as simple as buying a USB video converter device on Amazon and connecting it to your computer.