Hi8 is an 8mm video format introduced by Sony in 1989.
Hi stands for High-Band.
Although it was a camcorder format, it rivaled the quality of S-VHS, which is an improvement of the VHS format.
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 not only features improved resolution but also upped the signal-to-noise ratio and colour 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 and 7.7MHz.
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 first Hi8 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.
Last Hi8 Camcorder
Hi8’s reign as King of Camcorders lasted until the introduction of Digital8 and MiniDV.
Both of these formats offered a resolution of over 500 lines. Also, lossless footage transfer through a Firewire connection was a main selling point.
Hi8 soon fell out of popularity.
The last Hi8 camcorder released was the Sony CCD-TRV238 in 2007.
Check out the top Hi8 camcorder models still available for sale.
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 size of the Hi-8 tape makes it impossible to be played on a mini-DV camcorder. Furthermore, the mini-DV format is different from the 8mm video format.
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.
Also, read How to Connect a Sony Hi8 Camcorder to a TV.
Fundamentals of Digital Audio, New Edition. By Alan P. Kefauver, David Patschke
Popular Mechanics September 1989