Convert lots of Hi8 tapes to DVD?

Discussion in 'Amateur Video Production' started by fsda, Jul 13, 2005.

  1. fsda

    fsda Guest

    OK, I am extremely familiar with computers, DV ,etc. However, my
    parents are complete newbies to DV, and only one of them uses a PC
    regularly (although still not a power user).

    My parents have a large library (~20?) of Hi8 video tapes, taken over
    the last 5-16 years on an old Sony Hi8 camcorder. Some of the tapes are
    60 minutes, but a lot of them are 120 minutes. The video shot is of
    family events, etc. Much used a tripod, appropriately lighting, etc.,
    but this is not professional footage by any means.

    We would like to transfer all of this footage to a more permanent
    format. After much discussion, we decided that DVD-Video is probably
    the best format right now. Of course, we will keep the original Hi8
    tapes. But the DVD's will serve as a long-term backup. The tapes might
    be used in the far future to have a professional make a compilation.
    The DVD's would serve as an easy way to index and scan what is on each
    tape. (i.e. make it much easier to use in concert with the tapes to
    search and specify which footage to use.) In addition, should any of
    the Hi8 tapes fail due to age, the DVD's would serve as a backup media.

    I want to set my parents up with a combination of software and hardware
    that will allow easy transfer from Hi8 to DVD, with minimal fuss. (I
    know that I could do this myself, but given the large quantity of media
    to backup, I don't want to do this for them on my own computer.)

    My plan is to buy a Digital8 camcorder for the transfer, using a model
    that is backward compatible with Hi8 (such as the Sony TRV-480). Note
    that they already have a miniDV camcorder (TRV22), but no longer seem to
    have the Hi8 camcorder. I.e. the purchase of a Digital8 camcorder is
    solely to allow playback of the previous Hi8 tapes, and by buying a
    Digital8 camcorder allow conversion and transfer of these tapes (through
    Firewire) to a PC.

    Their PC is up to the job, with the following key specs: P4 3.2GHz
    (Hyperthreading enabled), 1GB RAM, 229GB hard drive space free (single
    drive system), Philips DVD+-RW DVD8631.

    In an ideal world, here's how I'd like this setup to work:

    1) Load a Hi8 tape into the Digital8 camcorder, connect via Firewire to
    the PC.

    2) Use PC software to drive the camcorder and capture the entire Hi8
    tape (either 60 minutes or 120 minutes) to the PC hard drive in DV AVI

    3) Software then converts the entire DV AVI file and burns a DVD+R disc.
    The DVD+R disc should be in standard DVD video format, and should have
    full menus with scene previews (motion previews preferred over

    Ideally, all of the above would be performed in some sort of a batch
    mode, minimizing user intervention. I.e. you could start the process at
    night, and the DVD would be burned and ready in the morning. This would
    allow using the computer for other purposes during the day. If this had
    to be performed in two steps (i.e. Step 1: capture, Step 2: compile
    transcode and burn DVD), that would be acceptable, as just the capturing
    could be performed overnight.

    Due to the expense of DVD+R/Dual Layer discs, the fact that their
    current drive supports only single-layer discs, as well as my own
    concerns about the longevity of these new dual-layer discs, I'd like to
    stick with single-layer DVD+R discs.

    Key Requirements:

    A) I want this to be easy, but not at the expense of quality. I want
    to have the _best quality transfers possible_. The DVD's may end up
    being the masters in the long run, used to make further compilations.
    So, easy-to-use software is important, but I don't want this to also
    mean that poor quality MPEG transcoding then results. Ideally, the
    software would perform two-pass variable bitrate encoding.

    B) Dropped frames should be detected by the capture software.

    C) I only want to put an hour of video on each DVD+R disc, to avoid
    reducing quality. Obviously, this will complicate things when working
    with 120 minute Hi8 tapes. I'm sure it's unlikely that something fully
    automatic and hands-off is available to deal with this. Therefore, it
    should at least be relatively easy for the user to split a 120 minute
    capture and feed to two separate DVDs.

    D) The produced DVD needs to have chapters, with a thumbnail (or video
    preview) index. Therefore, the software needs to assign chapters.
    Preferably this would be through scene detection (looking at the actual
    video - not through timecode change detection). In lieu of this, being
    able to specify a set interval (e.g. new chapter every 3 minutes) would
    be workable.

    Can anyone please recommend to me a software package that will allow to
    easily doing the above?

    As an example, I have considered Adobe Premiere Elements.
    The "pros":
    -It will capture from a Hi8 tape from a Digital8 camcorder, controlling
    the device as if it were a miniDV capture (a user has verified that it
    works this way with a Sony TRV-480 with Hi8 format tapes).
    - It can capture directly to the timeline, avoiding making the user have
    manually do this step.
    - It can convert to a DVD, with full menus and thumbnail previews and
    - It can assign chapters to a DVD based on a specified, fixed time
    interval (e.g. every 3 minutes).
    The "cons" (some speculative):
    - The scene detection is based on timecode only. Therefore, it won't
    break a Hi8 tape by scene.
    - As far as I can tell, the DVD menus do not use motion previews
    - I'm not sure how sophisticated the quality of the MPEG rendering is in
    this product. I am assuming that it is only a subset of the quality of
    other decoders (e.g. Cinema Craft, or even the MPEG encoder in Adobe
    Premiere Pro 1.5).
    - How to handle 120 minute tapes?

    So, Adobe Premiere Elements seems like it might be workable, although I
    do not own the product. The "cons" are definitely a concern, although
    some might be easy to work around. I.e., if it's easy to convert only
    half of the timeline to DVD, that could be used (with user interaction)
    to split the 120 minutes onto two separate DVDs.

    Does anybody here have any better suggestions?

    Thanks in advance very much for any help and advice.
    fsda, Jul 13, 2005
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  2. fsda

    Mux Guest


    Why don't save your parents all that trouble and buy a standalone DVD
    Recorder ? Some models like the Sony RDR-HX900 come with an hard disk and
    have excelent editing features, the MPEG-2 encoding is done in real time.
    You can either burn directly from camcorder to DVD or capture to hard disk,
    do some edit and the burn to DVD. Pioneer and Toshiba also make very good
    DVD/HDD recorders and all of them come with analog and Firewire inputs.
    Mux, Jul 13, 2005
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  3. "fsda" wrote ...
    I guess "large" is relative. 2000 would be "large" in my book.
    20 is several evenings diversion.
    It is quite possible that the tapes will outlive the optical
    discs. The MPEG lossy compression of DVD will reduce
    the resolution of the Hi8 video, but maybe not enough to
    matter with amateur footage.
    Sounds good to me.

    I'd agree with the others that it would be significantly simpler
    (and quite possibly cheaper also) to equip your parents with
    a standalone DVD recorder. If they can run a VCR, they can
    burn DVDs with these things. They go for as little as $150
    at Costco (at least in my neighborhood). Besides, it is a good,
    modern replacement for a VCR for recording off the air/
    satellite/cable, etc.
    Richard Crowley, Jul 13, 2005
  4. fsda

    RS Guest

    You stole my answer!

    Seriously, I sometimes get criticized for suggesting the easy beginner
    route early and often, but when I see letters that suggest that people
    want to do it quickly, once and without having to take a class to figure
    it out, I go for the DVD recorder where hooking up the cables is the
    biggest hurdle. And on the plus side, they get to replace their old VCR
    with a DVD recorder in the bargain.
    RS, Jul 13, 2005
  5. Hi,
    I am curently doing the same with 205 8 mm and Hi8 tapes.
    I decided to make single Mpeg out of the DV AVI as an Mpeg is easier to work
    with than a VOB from a DVD due to the file splitting.
    Currently I am planning to use Womble to edit the video as it can do a smart
    render so there is no further quality loss after the first encoding.
    I find that I can put 90 minutes of video on one single layer DVD at 6500
    variable bitrate.
    Womble can scroll very quickly through the timeline so it is quite easy to
    find that "special bit" of video.


    Martin van derPoel, Jul 13, 2005
  6. fsda

    David Chien Guest

    A) I want this to be easy, but not at the expense of quality. I want
    Here, you may want to wait until next year until the HD DVD/BluRay
    DVDs are out. DVDs simply do not have sufficient bandwidth to archive
    videos at a 'master' quality level (broadcast/commerical master), IMO.

    The MPEG-2 artifacts are simply to easy to spot and editing the
    videos off a DVD merely makes the resulting video look worse.

    If you really want to 'archive', dump a copy of that Hi8 tape to DV
    tape while you're at it. At least you'll have a high-quality digital
    copy of the original that has error correction (to last through time)
    and has a decent amount of the original quality to be edited a few times
    w/o severe degredation (yes, there's D1-D5 tapes as well for even better
    archving, but for a consumer, DVs pretty much it....).
    Cinema Craft Encoder
    Vegas Video does it well. But any 2+Ghz PC nowadays will capture for
    hours w/o any problems at all.
    Here, you may want to simply dump to DVD+R Dual Layer discs, which
    will retain the highest quality for 2 hours of video.
    Pretty much any basic DVD making software does this - eg. Ulead DVD
    Workshop 2.0.
    Ulead DVD software.
    Vegas video + DVD.



    Here, there's something to keep in mind - with the number of tapes
    you have, and the limited 'knowhow' of the people involved, you may wish
    to consider buying a TV-top DVD recorder+HDD unit instead.

    I would look at the Pioneer or Panasonic models as they're of the
    highest quality.

    Also, you may wish to wait until the DL DVD decks come out in the USA
    (out in Japan already) - these will let you store 2 hours of highest
    quality (XP/FIne mode) video onto a DL DVD.

    The HDD models allow you to insert chapter marks, edit, and menu
    before burning to disc.

    The decks can do pretty much everything you want with minimal fuss
    and at a high enough quality (off a hi8 source) that you'll have a DVD
    disc that'll look 99% like the original w/o much trouble. (Naturally,
    never 100% because MPEG-2 compresses the video quite heavily, more so
    than even DV tape video.)

    The built-in video cleanup/stabilization/noise reduction features
    that these decks also have can help provide a clean transfer w/o much
    work at all.

    Naturally, with HD DVD/BluRay coming out in a year or so, you may
    wish to wait - these discs will hold hours of your video at the highest
    quality w/o noticable degredation at all.


    In the meantime, pre-conversion to digital by dumping a copy onto DV
    tapes may be worthwhile if you think you'll be keeping copies on tape
    around for decade+. It'll be in a format that has error correction,
    already in the DV format for easy editing, and easy to work with.
    David Chien, Jul 13, 2005
  7. fsda

    Alpha Guest

    "> Here, there's something to keep in mind - with the number of tapes

    I join the chorus in favor of this solution.

    They are out in Europe and in Australia. The problem is, many of these have
    bi-directional firewire (data can be transfered to computer) and this has
    been vehemently opposed by the motion picture people (MPAA via the DMCA).
    We may not see them here.
    Alpha, Jul 13, 2005
  8. fsda

    fsda Guest

    OK, a few months has gone by while I have been investigating options.

    In summary,

    1) I want to set up parents up with a system that will allow them to backup
    their 60min and 120min Hi-8 camcorder tapes to DVD. It needs to be really
    easy to use.

    2) Previous responses to my inquiry recommended that I buy a combo DVD-
    recorder/HDD home player for dubbing from a camcorder. I found these to be
    too expensive in the US.

    3) The easiest software that I found to fill this need is the Sony "Click
    to DVD" software that is bundled with new VAIO units. My parents are open
    to buying a new laptop, but at $2000, seems a little overkill. Plus, the
    quality of transfer using this software is a question mark - I can find no
    info on this software on-line, in terms of reviews or user comments.

    My decision:

    Sony has just released what they call their second-generation "DVDirect"
    unit - model number VRD-VC20. At $350, and made for exactly my
    requirements, it seems like the perfect solution. It avoids the
    "complexity" of needing to use a computer, and with a hardware MPEG
    converter, the concern about dropped frames completely goes away. I will
    go with one of these units.

    My parents have ~30 Hi-8 tapes, but can no longer find their ~15 year old
    Sony Hi-8 camcorder. So, I'll need to get them a new camcorder, capable of
    playing Hi-8 tapes, to feed into the VRD-VC20.

    My question:

    What is the best camcorder to get for playing Hi-8 tapes into the DVD
    recorder (VRD-VC20)?

    Important: My parents already have a miniDV camcorder. Therefore, playback
    and output quality is the _only_ consideration for the Hi-8 playback unit.
    I don't care about the quality of the recording or other features of the
    Hi-8 unit - only good quality playback.

    My original assumption was that a Digital8 camcorder that had Hi-8 playback
    compatibility would be ideal. On Hi-8 playback, the camcorder would
    convert to DV internally, and I could feed through i.Link to the VRD-VC20
    for good quality. I also assume that the DVD-recoder and camcoder might
    work better together through an i.Link connection, in terms of synchronized
    starts and stops, although I can't be sure. After thinking about it,
    though, it did occur to me that this would result in TWO format
    conversions: first, analog-to-DV within the camcorder, and second, DV-to-
    MPEG2/DVD within the DVD-recorder.

    Would it be better to feed an analog Hi8 signal directly into the DVD-
    recorder, and letting the DVD-recorder do the analog-to-MPEG2/DVD
    conversion directly? This would avoid one digital conversion step, and I
    assume that the DVD-recoder might do a better job of conversion from
    analog, although I can't be sure...

    I have looked at current Sony camcoders, both Hi8 and Digital8, and one
    think I noticed is that NONE of them have a S-video output anymore. This
    means that Hi-8 signals would be transfered through composite video cables.
    In this case, it might be better to go with a Digital8 - I'm not sure.

    So, please, I need some advice - what is the best way to feed Hi-8 tapes to
    the VRD-VC20?

    (The VRD-VC20 has inputs for i.Link, S-video, and composite video and
    stereo audio.)

    Thanks in advance for the help.
    fsda, Oct 11, 2005
  9. fsda

    sandyprice Guest

    Before purchasing the VAIO with "C2DVD" as the users have renamed it, I
    suggest that you go to: and
    read through some of the comments, kudos and criticisms about this
    software, and the marketing strategy of Sony VAIO. Do a search on
    "Click to DVD" and/or "C2DVD" and you may have some second thoughts
    about how easy and fool-proof it is, as well as how tightly bound to
    Sony you become when you buy a VAIO.
    sandyprice, Oct 11, 2005
  10. 3) The easiest software that I found to fill this need is the Sony "Click

    sandyprice wrote ...
    Buying a $2000 for users who are not already computer-savvy
    for use as a DVD recorder seems like a really unfortunate decision
    particularly when you can buy a standalone DVD recorder for $149
    that is as simple to use as a VCR.

    I am a big Sony fan. Most of my video and a large part of my audio
    equipment is Sony. I had a VAIO laptop for a couple years (before
    it died) and I would not likely buy one again.
    Richard Crowley, Oct 11, 2005
  11. fsda

    fsda Guest

    Guys, I agree with both of you. My point regarding the "Click to DVD" was
    that I decided against it.

    See my original post - right below my brief mention of considering VAIO, I
    explain that I instead decided to go with a standalone DVD recorder. My
    question is what is the best way to feed Hi8 tapes to it.

    Sorry if my question was not clear.
    fsda, Oct 12, 2005
  12. "fsda" wrote ...
    If they have only 20 tapes (IIRC?), they could borrow a camcorder
    from one of their friends or neighbors. Or take/send them to a local
    vendor who could dub them. Not worth buying something unless you
    can find a Hi8 camcorder for cheap with a non-functioning camera
    Richard Crowley, Oct 12, 2005
  13. fsda

    AnthonyR Guest

    Well, I have to agree with Richard on this point, since just transfering 20
    hi8 tapes to dvd isn't worth
    investing in a hi8 camcorder, and the sony dvd burner unit also at ~$350
    might not justify it when you
    can pay a transfer house to make the dvd's for a LOT less and save your
    parents all the work.

    Unless you want them to continue to have the ability to make dvd's but in
    that case, does this Sony unit
    also have a built in tuner? So they can at least use it as a vcr
    replacement? I don't know about the second generation but
    the one I had seen didn't it was stricly a device to transfer home video to
    dvd easily with or without a PC.
    No real use for them afterwards except maybe if they continue to use it to
    make dvd's from their current miniDV tapes.
    Just something else to consider,

    AnthonyR, Oct 12, 2005
  14. fsda

    fsda Guest

    Yes, we need to own something to play back the Hi8 tapes. These will be
    transferred to DVD now, but who knows where in the future. Plus, with Hi8
    going away soon, want own something that can play the tapes...
    fsda, Oct 13, 2005
  15. fsda

    fsda Guest

    I want to be able to do this again, in the future, etc.

    My parents have high def cable boxes with internal hard disk recorders.
    We have no interest in a DVD recorder with a tuner - these are so much
    of a pain to try to use with cable boxes that it's not worth it...
    fsda, Oct 13, 2005
  16. Not clear why you think you need to own something?
    Hi8 going away soon would be a good reason to archive
    them to a digital format like DV. But acquiring and then
    maintaining a Hi8 player (especially after they are end-
    of-life) for archival use at some point in the future seems
    like a losing proposition for amateurs. YMMV
    Richard Crowley, Oct 13, 2005
  17. fsda

    AnthonyR Guest

    I have a cable box DVR also and a dvd standalone with HD and built in tuner,
    not to mention every other form of PC burner, convertor and capture cards,
    but I don't see how why a dvd stansalone with and extra feature as a tuner
    would change or complicate hooking it up to record directly from a dv
    camcorder in 1394 input or composite or rf for that matter?

    In fact, one side benefit of having this tuner for me, is when my cable dvr
    is recording 2 simultaneous programs, I can swith over to the standalone and
    using an existing roof antenna either record or watch yet a third program
    stream. :)

    But maybe removing this feature will make things less complicated for folks,
    I can see that.
    It is difficult to understand all the different input options at some point.

    AnthonyR, Oct 13, 2005
  18. fsda

    fsda Guest

    Yes, it's an issue of less complicated being way more important than
    features/$. BUT, I appreciate the advice, and likely will go now with a
    DVD-recorder that does have a built-in tuner...
    fsda, Oct 16, 2005
  19. fsda

    fsda Guest

    Having an old library of media with family videos, with are important to
    us, with no way to re-transfer to a new format in the future from the
    original tapes, makes me very nervous. Given the low cost of Digital8
    camcorders right now, I'd much prefer to get one, use it now to transfer to
    DVD, then store for future use down the line. E.g. in the future I may
    want to do transfers to Blue-Ray, etc...

    (I just can't stand the idea of having media with no way to play it. I've
    got a small library of DAT tapes which I have no way to play or transfer
    now since my DAT Walkman jammed up, for example. This I can tolerate, but
    wouldn't be able to with the Hi-8 tapes...)
    fsda, Oct 16, 2005
  20. Hi fsda

    Have you considered outsourcing the video conversion? There are many
    companies that will do this for you. Considering the hassle of
    converting those Hi8 tapes, you may save time and even overall cost by
    outsourcing it.

    Just my opinion.

    Best Regards,
    Gary Hendricks
    Gary Hendricks, Oct 17, 2005
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