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Hi8 Recorded Film Issue


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Apologies if this is not the appropriate sub-category.  The others did not seem to fit exactly what I am seeking help with other than maybe "editing."

I have taken on the task of archiving (digitizing) a significant amount of family video from 8mm stemming from the 50s to VHS-Cs filmed in the 80s and 90s.  Everything has gone smooth for the most part after about a year of doing this, however, I came across some Hi8 camcorder tapes that have a weird effect.  I apologize for any lack of technical terms as I have no background in any of this stuff.  

The problem that has appeared regarding a few Hi8 tapes is that three horizontal fuzzy lines (they look just like the typical tracking lines seen on VHS tapes occasionally) that stay stay in place (they don't move up or down for the most part other than maybe by a very small amount) appear on the screen.  When I watch the video using the camcorder as well as the digitized version, the movements of people is possibly slightly faster (maybe 1.2x) than what I believe it should be as well and the audio is long and drawn out as if it is in slow motion to the point where I am unable to make out the majority of what is being said. 

I used the original camcorder that the tapes were recorded on as well as another camcorder to ensure that it is not the camcorder.  Within the same Hi8 tape, there are sections that work fine (for instance a recording that took place on one date) but then the next recording on the same tape that took place on a different date is dysfunctional.  I attempted to Google the problem, and thought I found a solution in that the tape could be fast forwarded while in the camcorder and it would appear normal on the screen and thus while I was digitizing it, however, this was not the case.  Fast forwarding it on the camcorder simply made everything fast forward as it was supposed to.

I hope this all is somewhat clear.  I tried to upload a screenshot of the problem but it is more than .29mb and I can't seem to compress it smaller.  If anyone has any suggestions on how I might be able to fix this issue with the tapes, it would be greatly appreciated.

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I am awaiting the make/model of the camcorder from my family member (I gave it back to them once I had digitized all of their tapes).  I do not know whether it was recorded on LP, SLP, or SP and I am not sure which modes the camcorder supports.  I know for sure though that the camcorder I had was the one that was used to record the video in the first palce and that some of the clips on the same tape work fine and other clips exhibit the problem.  I sadly do not have a digital still camera aside from my Pixel 3 phone which was creating images that were well over 1mb when I took pictures of the image on the computer screen.  I shrunk the picture down, screen shot it, and used a website to compress it further, so it is attached.  I hope it captures what I am talking about.  Thank you for the quick replies.

 

Example of Static Line Issue.png

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The idea behind fast forwarding the tape in search mode is to see if the image clears up or not. If the image clears up then it possibly means there is a clogged head when playing in real time but for some reason does not clog the image when it is searched at a faster speed.

I am not sure how you can have the tape play back at a slightly faster speed but the sound is in slow motion. If other tapes have worked fine AFTER this tape has been taken out of the machine, then your next alternative is to try a third and fourth Hi-8 machine and note if there are anomalies, if they happen in exactly the same way.

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37 minutes ago, Erik Whitlock said:

I am awaiting the make/model of the camcorder from my family member (I gave it back to them once I had digitized all of their tapes).  I do not know whether it was recorded on LP, SLP, or SP and I am not sure which modes the camcorder supports.  I know for sure though that the camcorder I had was the one that was used to record the video in the first palce and that some of the clips on the same tape work fine and other clips exhibit the problem.  I sadly do not have a digital still camera aside from my Pixel 3 phone which was creating images that were well over 1mb when I took pictures of the image on the computer screen.  I shrunk the picture down, screen shot it, and used a website to compress it further, so it is attached.  I hope it captures what I am talking about.  Thank you for the quick replies.

 

Example of Static Line Issue.png

 

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This definitely looks like a sync issue probably caused because the device is not able to playback the tape at the same speed the video was recorded at. If this was a VHS recording it might have been recorded at the four hour speed and some VCR's may have trouble playing back that speed. If it was a HI-8 recording then I would still suspect the playback device cannot playback the tape at the same speed it was recorded at. Are you sure this is a Hi-8 tape and not an VHS-c tape? This looks like a VHS-c tape recorded in the four hour mode and the playback machine is not able to play back the 4 hour speed.

Another thing to check is the Hi-8 tape formulation. Hi-8 came up with something like four different emulsions and each had a different strength and a different weakness. As the recording ability of the newer formulations of Hi-8 tape was improved, the tape was more susceptible to microscopically falling apart with each playback. The highest quality Hi-8 tape was made to immediately bump to betacam sp for hidden camera shows back in the 90's. They were not meant to be shuttled back and forth. 

Edited by Alessandro Machi
removed a period in middle of a sentence.
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Thank you much for the information.  I will seek a 3rd and 4th camcorder to try, but the 1st and 2nd one played the tapes exactly the same with the same segments exhibiting the errors.  They are definitely Hi8 tapes as the VHS-C tapes were ones I had to put into an adapter and then put those into a VCR whereas the Hi8s I digitized straight from the camcorder to the digitizer.  I used the ClearClick to digitize both the Hi8 and VHS-Cs.  I am going to have my family member also tell me what brand the tapes are in case that would shed some light on the tape formulation you mentioned.  These Hi8 tapes that are dysfunctional are definitely from the early 90s.  I really appreciate the help with this.  I will get the camera/tape info and post it here as well as doing some research to see what I can find out.

  

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First thing to note, these are all old pieces of equipment. Nobody has made any hi-8 products for nearly 20 years. So things like the pinch roller are totally dried out and probably cracking. This is what keeps the speed of the tape consistent. 

Another thing that happens a lot, is that the control track which defines tracking AND speed, is one of the easiest things to damage. It resides at the very edge of the tape (I believe bottom but don't quote me on that). If this portion of the tape has any damage, (generally caused by a bad pinch roller) then you will have a damaged tape. 

My suggestion this matter is to acquire a commercial Hi-8 VCR like a EVO-9500 which is a very robust and simple machine. They aren't expensive on Ebay and you'll probably get pretty good results because they generally hold up better than cameras do. 

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An issue of tape formulation or damage to the tape, especially on old tapes, might cause dropouts and, in extremis, desynchronisation, but I very much doubt it would cause this exact behaviour with the two static noise bars.

The symptoms point quite strongly toward a long-play/single-play interaction or, plausibly, some kind of standards issue; is there any chance this is a PAL tape being played back in an NTSC deck, or vice versa?

I'm going out on a limb and speculating wildly but I think the mathematics here suggests it's a long-play tape that isn't being recognised as such, even if the deck in question can play LP. This would not be that unusual; 8mm and Hi8 long-play modes only really work well in the deck they were recorded in.

Here's why I suspect this. In Hi8, long play recordings last 50% longer than conventional recordings. The reason that it looks like the video is going faster while somehow paradoxically the audio is going slower is that we're actually seeing each video field three times, in the top, middle, then bottom of frame. I suspect that the audio slowdown of about 1.2 that Erik detects is more accurately one and a third. The servo electronics in the VCR are seeking the best overall signal level and targeting the lowest common multiple of two numbers which results in an integer.

I found this diagram that talks about more conventional trick play situations, such as reverse and fast play, which shows how the head scan skips across tracks in various situations. It doesn't discuss single- versus long-play issues, but it may help make things clearer in general. If you look at the "-1x reverse" drawing with the light pink bar on the bottom row, you'll notice it slides across three fields, which is a variation on what I suspect is happening here.

slomo.jpg

Some of this depends to an extent on how this particular deck was engineered, but I'd bet a cheeseburger that's what's going on.

The solution is to keep trying Hi8 decks until you find one that can handle this particular tape. If the deck that recorded it was out of alignment, this may be difficult.

P

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13 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

First thing to note, these are all old pieces of equipment. Nobody has made any hi-8 products for nearly 20 years. So things like the pinch roller are totally dried out and probably cracking. This is what keeps the speed of the tape consistent. 

Another thing that happens a lot, is that the control track which defines tracking AND speed, is one of the easiest things to damage. It resides at the very edge of the tape (I believe bottom but don't quote me on that). If this portion of the tape has any damage, (generally caused by a bad pinch roller) then you will have a damaged tape. 

My suggestion this matter is to acquire a commercial Hi-8 VCR like a EVO-9500 which is a very robust and simple machine. They aren't expensive on Ebay and you'll probably get pretty good results because they generally hold up better than cameras do. 

Video8 , Hi-8 did not have.a control track as such ; they employed dynamic tracking by reference to a sine wave that was part of the helical scan , there was also a segment of each track used for PCM digital audio , and on some decks the video segment could be replaced by PCM multi-audio . 

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Thank you all for all of the information.  The camcorder that was originally used to record the tapes was a Sony Video Hi8 CCD-TRV68.  The second Hi8 Camera that I tried with the same effect was the Sony Video Hi8 CCD-TRV65.  The Hi8 tapes are Panasonic SP120s.  I am not sure if this helps determine whether it is the long play/single play issue or not.

So essentially I need to buy a device that will eventually (hopefully) play the tapes properly?  I will start with the EVO-9500 or something similar and if that doesn't work, keep getting something until I either run out of funds or find a working deck.  Is this the best course of action if I want to get these tapes working properly?  There are only two Hi8 tapes out of about 30 that have this static line issue (and again, the two tapes that have the issue also have video on the same tape that works just fine).  Thank you again for the help with this.

 

Edited by Erik Whitlock
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1 hour ago, Erik Whitlock said:

There are only two Hi8 tapes out of about 30 that have this static line issue (and again, the two tapes that have the issue also have video on the same tape that works just fine).  Thank you again for the help with this.

Maybe it's just the tapes then. I thought this was a systemic issue. 

I never liked the Panasonic tapes. They were mostly metal particle and it was unstable. Metal evaporated were much better and didn't clog the heads like the MP's did. 

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1 hour ago, Derek Heeps said:

Video8 , Hi-8 did not have.a control track as such ; they employed dynamic tracking by reference to a sine wave that was part of the helical scan , there was also a segment of each track used for PCM digital audio , and on some decks the video segment could be replaced by PCM multi-audio . 

Got ya, so edge damage was just disrupting the helical scan data since it went closer to the edge. Good to note. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I got a 4th camera to try and the same problem exists.  In addition, my family found 4 more Hi8 Tapes (TDK MP 120s) that have the same issue so it is now up to 6 tapes and two different brands in total that have this same problem.  I haven't found an Evo 9500 yet that I can afford, but I wanted to post a clip of the problem I am describing so that maybe that will help you all diagnose what the actual problem is and any potential solutions.  This clip that I have linked is one of the worst as it cuts off and on to the blue screen, but it is representative of the other clips that play without any blue screen yet still have the horizontal lines and the sound that is off.  If you need more clips or more information please let me know.  Thanks again for all of the help.

 

https://youtu.be/Z6JYEyEgzPE

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Weird. It's possible the original recording camera was out of alignment, which might cause various issues. If no other camera will play it, you may be in trouble. These were all shot on the same camera, I assume?

Also, this is a left field idea and I can't really justify it on any technical basis but is there any chance this was shot on a PAL camera and is being played back in an NTSC one? Different devices might react to that differently and this isn't what I'd expect it to look like, but I'm clutching at straws here.

P

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Thank you for the reply.  I have the original camera (Sony NTSC) still which was used to record the tapes and is also what I am using to play them back.  I was told that the tapes did not have this issue when they were watched many years ago.

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I have not opened the door to check and see if there is physical damage to the film.  I will find a video on that and do it tonight.  All but one of the tapes have the issue in part.  The video I posted is the only tape that has the issue throughout the whole tape.  The ones where the issue is only in part have segments of a recording (for instance one entire sequence or scene) that is fine and then the entire sequence of another scene is messed up throughout the whole scene but still on the same tape.

Edited by Erik Whitlock
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  • 2 weeks later...

There may have been a climatic reason for the random faulty recordings if the tapes were rested partially wound in the camera and stretched slightly in the heat of a car's cabin. With the old reel-to-reel Sony EIAJ half-inch tapes, there was an issue where they would deteriorate, bind to the drum and leave a coffeestain deposit over the transport, clogging the heads. When that happened the friction and the power of the capstan and roller would cause the tape to be stretched and it would no longer play back cleanly. As a desperation measure you could manually ease the tension bar when you could see a tracking error developing as the tape began to bog. The transport of the reel-to-reel machines was exposed which made this hack possible. With cassette systems it is fully concealed and not an option. I made a home-made tape washer which cleaned the gum off the tapes but by then the stretches had occurred on the tapes and the stretched areas were permanently out of pitch. When you have recovered all your archive with redundant spare copies and there remains no risk of loss, you could try rewiinding the troubles tapes, then playing them through at normal speed to the very end but do not rewind them. Rest the camera on its side with the tape door upwards when you play the tapes through. This will ensure the that wind of the tapes onto the take-up spool is mechanically accurate. Why?? Fast rewinding tends to be less mechanically accurate. Remove the tape cassette. Place it in a freezer bag with a dried dessicant sachet. Thermally cycle the cassette several times by placing the bag in the freezer overnight, then bringing it into a warm environment for 24 hours. After about two week's worth of this process, hopefully the shape of the tape may have stabilised closer to what it was when first used out of the box. If the recording was onto a re-used tape, then all bets will be off but it may be worth trying anyway.

Edited by Robert Hart
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Further to above. On viewing the youtube clip, it does seem to be a wavy tape issue as the artifact and the blue dropout are cyclic at about the same rate as the take-up spool rotation partially through a tape roll. Some VHS rental tapes were straight after being put through the slitter but shape memory made the tapes wavy after a few plays. Rolling the tape through the camera at playback speed with the cassette door facing upwards will wind the tape accurately as best as can be achieved. Thermal cycles may help stabilise the shape long enough for a better playback.

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