Hi8 is an 8mm video format introduced by Sony in 1989.
Hi stands for High-Band.
S-VHS, among the consumer formats, had the highest resolution at 400 lines. The exception was Laserdisc which also boasted 400 lines.
Hi8 matched S-VHS with an equal resolution.
On the camcorder front, it was an improvement on the Video8 format, which supported a resolution of 240 lines.
Hi8 does not only feature improved resolution but also upped the signal-to-noise ratio and color rendition.
Technology Behind Higher Resolution
How is the improvement in a resolution made possible? It was done by increasing the frequency of the luminance signal.
Let’s do a comparison between the luminance frequency of Video8 and Hi8 to understand this better.
Video8 has a luminance frequency ranging from 4.2MHz and 5.4MHz.
With Hi8 the frequency is increased to between 5.7MHz and7.7MHz.
This allows for higher-density video data to be stored. For the record, Hi8 records at 3.6 times the density of VHS.
The luminance frequency of VHS is between 3.4MHz and 4.4MHz.
For S-VHS it is upped to between 5.4MHz and 7.0MHz.
Hi8’s reign lasted for about 10 years before Digital8 emerged with a resolution of 500 lines.
When it was first introduced in 1989, Hi8 stood apart from its cousin Video8 when it came to tape type.
Hi8 supported two types of tapes –
Hi8 Metal Evaporated (ME) and Hi8 Metal Particle (MP).
These two tape formulations support the storage of high-density video.
First Hi8 Camcorders
Sony and Canon released their firstHi8 camcorders a few days apart in February 1989, with Sony leading the way.
Sony’s CCD-V99 was priced at $2,200.
Canon’s A1 was priced at $2300.
It was reported that video produced by both these cameras exceeded the quality of the Super 8 mm home movie format.
Professional Use of Hi8
Although Hi8 was largely meant for the consumer market, it was used for professional purposes as well.
Hi8 was no match for professional video cameras which cost in the region of $30,000 to $40,000 back in the day.
Paul Lundahl’s Hi8 documentary “Anatomy of a Spring Roll” was televised nationally on PBS back in the late 1990s.
The found footage section of The Blair Witch Project was shot with a Hi8 camera.
Hi8 camcorders, owing to their portability, were also popular in the electronic newsgathering (ENG) field.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a Video8 Camcorder Play a Hi8 Tape?
No, a Video8 camcorder can’t play a Hi8 tape recorded with a Hi8 or Digital8 camcorder.
You can load a Hi8 tape into a Video8 camcorder and the tape will play. However, you’ll not get a picture.
Simply because Video8 doesn’t support the high luminance frequency of the Hi8 tape.
Can a mini-DV Camcorder Play a Hi-8 Tape?
The tape width of a mini-DV is 0.25 inches. Whereas the tape width of Hi8, Video8, and Digital8 is 0.31 inches.
That would make it impossible for a mini-DV camcorder or player to play Hi8 tapes. There are also no Hi8 to mini-DV adapters.
Fundamentals of Digital Audio, New Edition. By Alan P. Kefauver, David Patschke
Popular Mechanics September 1989