What is the Difference Between Video 8 and Hi8 Tapes and Camcorders?


Difference Between Video 8 and Hi8 Tapes

If you’ve ever shot in video on one of Sony’s 8mm formats its easy to get confused about what the difference between the Video 8 and Hi8 Tapes. The tapes themselves, like the video formats, are similar but there are important differences to note.

The difference between Video 8 and Hi8 tapes is that Hi8 tapes contain more magnetic material for storing more information. A Hi8 Camcorder has more advanced recording technology vs Video 8 and will result in a 400 lines of resolution when recording on a Hi8 tape vs 240 lines of resolution on a Video 8 tape.

In order to understand why these formats are different is important to understand how the details on how video formats work.

The Difference Between Video 8 and Hi8 Tapes, Camcorders and Resolution

Video 8 was the first in the line of the 8mm video formats, the other being Hi8 and eventually Digital 8. As each new line was introduce the quality of the resolution increase as well.

Video 8 was the first 8mm video initially developed in 1984 by Kodak and made popular by Sony as a rival to the VHS-C format. Video 8 recorded at the same resolution as VHS, which is 240 horizontal lines .

The Hi8 format was developed later to compete with the S-VHS format (Super-VHS) format, and recorded at an improved 400 lines of resolution.

Both Video 8 and Hi 8 are analog video formats, which means for each frame of video they are recording luminance (brightness) and chrominance (color) onto the video tape.

The physical Video8 and Hi8 tapes themselves consist of magnetic material where the particles on the tape are re-arranged by the recording heads of the camcorders to represent the luminance and chrominance values.

With Hi8 needed to record at a higher quality similar to your old standard definition TV to your HDTV, more information needs to be output by the recording heads of a High8 camcorder and captured onto the Hi8 cassette tapes.

This means the magnetic material on a Hi8 tape is manufactured to be able to store more information per frame of video, the Video8 tape although still 8mm wide captures less information per frame.

The length of Video 8 and Hi8 tapes is the same, both record at 120 mins in SP mode (NTSC/US) and 240 minutes in LP mode, the speed the tapes run through the camcorders is the same.

The difference Video8 and Hi8 camcorders and tapes is in the amount of information per frame that can be written and stored on the tape.

Hi8 and 8mm Tape and Camcorder Compatibility Questions Answered:

It can definitely get confusing remember what camcorders and tapes are compatible with each other. Below are the most frequently asked questions about Hi8 and 8mm video tape compatibility:

Can a Video 8 Tape Be Used in a Hi8 Camcorder?

Playback: Can A Hi8 Camcorder Play 8mm tapes?

8mm tapes were the original 8mm format recorded on Video 8 camcorders, which were the predecessor of Hi8 format.

In order to not alienate previous Video8 Camcorder users, a Hi8 camcorder is backwards compatible and can play back Video 8 / 8mm tapes originally recorded on a Video 8 camcorder.

Recording: Can A Hi8 Camcorder Record on 8mm tapes?

A Video 8 / 8mm tape can also be used for recording on a Hi8 Camcorder, but due to the tapes physical limitations of not being able to hold as much information as a Hi8 tape, the recording will tape place at a Video 8 resolution of 240 lines.

Can a Hi 8 Tape Be Used in a Video 8 Camcorder?

Playback: Can A Video 8 / 8mm Camcorder Play Hi 8 tapes?

That depends…..

  • If the Hi8 tape was recorded on a Hi8 Camcorder then it cannot be played back in a Video 8 Camcorder. This is because the Video8 camcorder was designed to play back at the 240 lines of resolution that Video8 records at.
  • If the Hi8 tape was recorded on by a Video 8 Camcorder then it can be played back on a Video 8 camcorder because despite the Hi 8 tape being able to record at a higher resolution it will still only be recorded at Video8 resolution when used in a Video8 camcorder.

If you tried playing a tape recorded on a Hi8 Camcorder on a Video8 tape it would suffer from a case of information overload and not understand how to play it back.

The Video 8 camcorder is expecting the information on the tape to correspond to 240 lines of resolution, but its getting 400 lines of resolution and won’t know how to play it.

A Video 8 camcorder can record onto a Hi8 tape, but it will still only be recording 240 lines of resolution.

Recording: Can A Video 8 / 8mm Camcorder Record on a Hi 8 tapes?

A Video 8 / 8mm Camcorder can record on a Hi8 tape, it will just recorder at the lower Video 8 resolution of 240 lines of resolution despite the tape being able to store at Hi8 resolution of 400 lines of resolution.

This is because the recording heads and electronics inside a Video 8 camcorder were only built to record and play at 240 lines of resolution, which can be stored on a Hi 8 tape.

Is Video 8 The Same As 8mm?

Video 8 and 8mm are the same thing when talking about video tapes. The term “Video 8” came about so people would not get confused between 8mm film camera and 8mm video cameras.

Prior to video, which records on magnetic tape, film was used in cameras and was very expensive to shoot with.

The most popular home film camera was a 8mm film camera.

The width of the film, just like the video tapes, are 8mm wide, hence the “8mm” terminology.

How Long is a Video 8 or Hi8 tape?

For NTSC (US) format which records at 29.97 frames per second in SP mode (standard play) a Video 8 tapes is 120 minutes, and in LP (long play mode) it offers 240 minutes of recording time at a reduced resolution.

For PAL formats which record at 24 frames per second a Video8 tapes in SP mode records 180 minutes.

The capacity of the Video 8 tape compared to its rival VHS-C was its true advantage, as VHS-C only had a capacity of 45 minutes.

What is the Difference Between Digital8 and Hi8?

Although Digital8 Camcorders record on Hi8 tapes, there is a big difference between the Digital8 and Hi8 formats.

Digital8 is a digital format, meaning it stores 1s and 0’s onto video tape. Hi8 is an analog format, meaning it stores luminance and chrominance values onto the tape, not 1’s and 0’s like a digital format. The quality of Digital 8 / DV codec is far superior to Hi8 as well.

Digital 8 records at 720×480, compared to the 400 lines of analog resolution which is nearly twice the horizontal resolution. In order to store digital information on a Hi8 tape it records at twice the speed of a Hi8 camcorder where the tape lasts 1 hour.

Each copy of an analog tape generally degrades in quality, where as a copy of a digital tape should be identical to the original as its will contain the same digital information, that is unless there is damage to the tape.

What Types of Tapes Do Digital8 Camcorders Use?

Digital 8 camcorders can record at full resolution on both Video8 and Hi8 video tape. Again this is because it when recording it speeds up the tape to twice its normal rate used by either a Hi8 or Video 8 camcorder to store the extra information needed at that resolution.

There are also tapes marketed as Digital 8 tapes for sale but these are really the same quality and build as a Hi8 tape.

Can a Digital 8 Camcorder Play Hi8 tapes or Video 8 Tapes?

Most digital 8 camcorders are backwards compatible with Hi8 and 8mm formats, but not all Digital 8 camcorder models are capable of Video8 and Hi8 tape playback.

Digital8 Camcorders was the next evolution in the 8mm tape format. These camcorders shot on Video8 and Hi8 tapes but recorded in a digital format. It did this by recording on these tapes at twice the speed of a Hi8 or Video8 camcorder, meaning a tape that would normally record 2 hours of video would only record 1 hour of video on Digital8.

We’ve compiled the complete list of Digital8 Camcorder with 8mm and Hi8 playback to simplify things for you.

Hi8, Video8 and Digital 8 Tape Compatibility Chart

The following compatibility chart should clarify the compatibility of the Video 8 and Hi 8 tapes and camcorders.

Video 8 CamcorderHi 8 CamcorderDigital8 Camcorder
Record on
Video 8 Tape
YES – 240 linesYES – 240 linesYES 720×480
Playback Video 8 Tape
Recorded on Video 8 Camcorder
YES – 240 linesYES – 240 linesDepends on the Digital 8 Camcorder
Record on Hi 8 TapeYES – 240 linesYES – 400 linesYES 720×480
Play Back Hi 8 Tape Recorded
on Video 8 Camcorder
YES – 240 linesYES – 400 linesDepends on the Digital 8 Camcorder
Play Back Hi 8 Tape Recorded
on Hi8 Camcorder
NOYES – 400 linesDepends on the Digital 8 Camcorder

Conclusion

There is a difference between Video8 and Hi 8 tapes. If you are reading this article you are probably wondering what devices you need in order to play back your tapes.

Your best bet is still to get a Digital 8 Camcorder with Hi8 Playback capability, especially if you shot in a few of these different formats.

Your 2nd best option is to find a used Hi8 camcorder as that will play back both Video 8 and Hi 8 tapes.

Bob Hennessey

Bob Hennessey has been an avid videographer for several decades. Having shot video in just about every tape-based format from Video 8 , Hi 8, Digital 8 and Mini DV I am more than familiar with how to transfer video tapes to digital formats.

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