© by Glenn Koenig, April 2003
For all practical purposes, 8mm and Hi8 are now (as of 2003) dead formats for video recording for anything but home or casual use. Documentary, industrial, corporate, broadcast, educational, public access, or creative film style projects now typically use a digital format, with mini DV being the most popular as of this writing. However, many "reels" of 8mm and Hi8 have been recorded in the past and producers with extensive tape libraries of this format now face recopying those recordings to newer formats. We at Open Eyes Video have in excess of 100 cassettes with recordings dating back to the mid 1980s.
There are four major issues:
- preserving the tapes until they can be copied
- deciding which recordings to copy (if your library is too large to copy all recordings)
- keeping the playback machine working long enough to complete the copying process
- deciding on which newer format to record
There are many articles available on preserving or recovering videotape itself. However, information on the other three topics, especially preserving the machines, is much more scarce. A tape library with carefully preserved tapes is useless if a machine cannot be found on which to play them.
We have no image of this machine yet to post on this site, but suffice to say that this machine was the largest, most full featured machine made by Sony for Hi8. It's an "industrial" (as opposed to broadcast or consumer) model, with playback, record, assemble and insert edit capabilities. It offers S-Video in and out, 3-pin audio (4 channels, 2 AFM and 2 PCM), time code, an integral time base corrector, and 9-pin remote control. It has an adjustable beige front panel and is rack mountable.
After having repeated trouble with our EVO-9850 recently, we learned the following things:
1. Not everyone is willing to service Hi8 machines or equipment not sold by them in the first place. Check around if you are considering purchasing Hi8 equipment.
2. If you contact Sony about machine problems with the 9850, typically you will be told to ship the machine to them for repair, unless they have ceased repairing them by the time you read this. Often, you will be told that the entire scanner assembly (tape path components and head drum) will have to be replaced for the better part of $2000. Sometimes this is true, but sometimes other problems are the cause.
3. The machine has no ventilation fan. From what we hear from a repair center, the machine was designed to radiate heat from its external surfaces and through natural convection through the vents in the top and bottom panels. However, without a fan, the temperature within the machine can rise considerably during use. To help remedy this problem, we have designed a "fan box" to fit under the machine to force air up through the vents. We hope to have images of this device available on this site shortly.
4. Many of the circuit boards contain components known as "surface mount electrolytic capacitors." These capacitors are designed to work with a moist "electrolyte" within. Because of their small size and the heat build up within the machine, they often fail because the small amount of moisture within dries out. When this happens, a chemical reaction occurs, causing an unpleasant odor. If that were all, then one could live with it. However, once the moisture is gone or almost gone, the capacitor no longer retains its original electrical properties and the circuit in which it is connected no longer functions properly or perhaps at all. Each failed capacitor must be unsoldered from its place on its respective circuit board and replaced by a technician.
5. On some machines, certain screws used for grounding the various circuts become loose. This can also adversely affect the performance of the machine. Have a technician check for this when having the machine serviced.
At this time, Sony manufactures Digital-8 Camcorders for the consumer market. Many of these models have the ability to play Hi8 and 8mm tapes in them. Many also have an "i Link" or "Firewire" (IEEE-1394) connector. This is one way to play back Hi8 tapes and copy them to newer media if your EVO-9850 cannot be repaired. The conversion process from analog to digital involves a time base correcting step within the camcorder, so an external time base corrector is not needed. However, any Hi8 tapes with PCM soundtracks recorded on them may not play the sound back from those tracks. We have not tested such a camcorder in this capacity, so we cannot comment on the quality of the copy or other issues at this time.
As we learn more, we will update this site. If you have anything to add, please contact us (see about us page).