Playback and Transfer of Old 8mm and Hi8 Tapes

A quick tip on what to do with your old 8mm and Hi8 camcorder video tapes

VHS, Hi8 Video Cassettes, Rcordable DVDs
VHS, Hi8 Video Cassettes, Rcordable DVDs. Robert Silva for Lifewire
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Even though most people record home videos using smartphones and digital cameras, there are still those that use old camcorders, and many have a lot of old 8mm and Hi8 video tapes hiding in drawers and closets.

As a result, the question is: "How do I play and transfer my old 8mm or Hi8 video tapes to VHS or DVD if I don't have the camcorder anymore?" Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as buying an adapter to play your 8mm or Hi8 tapes in a VCR.

The 8mm/Hi8 Dilemma

Once the most popular formats for recording home videos in the 80's and into the mid-90's 8mm and Hi8 have since given way to smartphones, or camcorders that use hard drives and memory cards.

As a result, many consumers have a few dozen or a few hundred 8mm/Hi8 tapes that need to be played back for continued enjoyment, or transferred to more current video formats.

Unfortunately, the solution is not as simple as buying an adapter to play 8mm or Hi8 tapes in a standard VCR, as there is no such thing as an 8mm/VHS adapter.

How To Watch 8mm/Hi8 Tapes or Copy them to VHS or DVD

Since there are no 8mm/VHS adapters, to watch 8mm/Hi8 tapes, if you still have a working camcorder, you have to plug its AV output connections to the corresponding inputs on your TV. You can then select the correct input on the TV, then press play on your camcorder to view your tapes.

However, even if your camcorder is still working now, no new 8mm/Hi8 units are being made, so it is a good idea to make copies of your tapes for future preservation.

Here are some steps for copying camcorder tapes to VHS or DVD:

  • Plug the camcorder directly into the VCR or DVD recorder and NOT the TV. In addition, you have to make sure that your switch your VCR or DVD recorder from its tuner to its AV inputs (usually colored yellow for video, and red/white for audio) in order get the signal from those inputs to record on tape.
  • Use the input select button on the VCR or DVD recorder remote or front of the VCR or DVD recorder. Also, some VCRs allow access to the AV inputs by changing the channel selection up or down until you reach AV, line, or video in. If your VCR or DVD recorder has video inputs on the front and back of the VCR, the back inputs would be line one, AV1, Aux1, or video 1 and the front inputs would be line 2, AV2, Aux2, or video 2.
  • Plug the Audio/Video cables supplied with the camcorder to the AV outputs of the Camcorder to the AV inputs on either front or back of the VCR or DVD recorder, switch the VCR or DV recorder to AV-in, Line-in, or Aux in (depends on of brand).
  • Put the tape to be copied to VHS or DVD in the Camcorder, and also put a blank tape in the VCR or a blank DVD in the DVD recorder.
  • First, press record on the VCR or DVD recorder then press play on the Camcorder. This will enable you to copy your tape. The reason you need to press record on the VCR or DVD recorder first is that it may take a few seconds for the VCR or DVD recorder to start the recording process.
  • You can watch your tape on TV at the same time it is being copied, just leave the TV set on the channel or input that you normally do when watching a videotape or DVD.
  • When your recording is done, stop the VCR or DVD recorder and the camcorder.
  • After you have performed the above steps successfully and are able to play back the recording, (make sure your TV is set to the channel or input you normally watch your VCR on) change your VCR back to its tuner so you can record regular TV shows later.

For additional tips, consult your Camcorder, VCR, or DVD recorder user guide. There should be a page on how copying tapes from a camcorder, copying from one VCR to another, or from a VCR to a DVD recorder.

Copy Tapes To DVD Using a PC or Laptop

In 2016, production of new VCRs was officially discontinued.

Following that, DVD Recorders became very rare.

Check out some DVD Recorders and DVD Recorder/VHS VCR Combinations that may still be available (new or used).

However, another alternative is to make copies of your tapes on DVD using a PC or Laptop. This is done by connecting the camcorder to an analog-to-digital video converter, which, in turn, connects to a PC (usually via USB).

What To Do If You No Longer Have An 8mm or Hi8 Camcorder

If you no longer have an 8mm/HI8 camcorder to play your tapes or make copies onto VHS or DVD, you may still have the following options:

  • Option 1 - Borrow a Hi8/8mm camcorder from a friend or relative for temporary use (Free - if you have access to one).
  • Option 2 - Buy an inexpensive HI8 (or a Digital8 camcorder that has the ability to also playback analog Hi8 and 8mm) camcorder or miniDV camcorder to play your tapes back. Check Amazon or eBay for used units.
  • Option 3 - Take your tapes to a video duplicator and have them transferred to DVD professionally (can be expensive - depending on how many tapes are involved). To start, have the service make a DVD copy of one or two of your tapes, if the DVD is playable on your DVD or Blu-ray Disc player (you might try it on several to make sure), then it might be worth having the service make copies of all the tapes you wish to preserve.

Options 1 or 2 are the most practical and cost-effective. Also, at this point, transfer tapes to DVD and not VHS. You could do both if needed. If you have them transferred to DVD by a service - have them do one -- and then test it to make sure it plays on your DVD player - if all goes well, you can then decide whether to have your remaining tapes transferred using this option.

The Bottom Line

Even if you have a camcorder that can still play 8mm/Hi8 tapes, if it stops working, it will be hard to find devices to play to those tapes. The solution, copy your tapes to another storage option so that they can be enjoyed for years to come.

Also, copying or dubbing your camcorder tapes to a more current format also gives you the chance to cut out those boring parts and mistakes, especially when using the PC method. You can send the polished copy to a friend or relative or just keep it for your own viewing.