Need advice regarding Hi-8 video camera


My brother has a Samsung SCL906 Hi-8 video camera he said he'd give me, but he reports some problems that may or may not be fixable and a feature or two that I might not like. I don't know much about video cameras.

First, it has no "audio playback" - whatever that is. Does that mean that it can only record silent videos - no sound at all? Or is that just a playback feature?

He also told me that the recording is poor/grainy. Could this be because the recording head needs to be cleaned, or does it indicate something that cannot be fixed by simple maintenance?

What about the connectivity issues of a Hi-8 camera in these days of digital cameras? Assuming I can get it working properly, what steps (or extra steps) are necessary to getting my final output fully digital?

I appreciate any comments.

Thanks, Be

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If it doesn't record/play back audio, it's pretty much useless. However, it's a freebie, you've nothing to lose!

Could be dirty heads. As the video is grainy, and it apparently has no sound at all, and given that 8mm equipment records sound solely via the drum (ie no seperate analogue sound heads) it's possible the heads are severely contaminated. A good clean with isopropyl alcohol and *proper" chamois head cleaners might restore operation.

Be careful though, if you haven't done it before, chances are you'll wreck the heads! The actual heads themselves are tiny little ferrite affairs seen in the gap between the rotating upper drum and the static lower drum and are about as delicate as the point of a sharpened pencil. The way I do ity is moisten the chamois with alcohol, place it flatly on the drum as if it were a tape, and gently rotate the drum so the heads brush against it. On removing the chamois you should see dirty black lines where the head dumped its filth. At a pinch, and this will horrify some techs- you can use a piece of smooth paper like a bank note used in the same way, but I wouldn't recommend to many cleaning sessions that way.

Don't forget to clean the other parts in the tape path with alcohol as well, ie the capstan, pinch roller and all the tape guides. You can use a cotton bud (Q tip or whatever you call it in your country) to clean these parts but never ever put a cotton bud near the drum- it will snag and break off the heads!

The obvious way is to buy a VIVO card, or a graphics card with VIVO connectivity (Video In Video Out), connect it to the camera and grab the video that way, then compress it to a mpg or divx format. However, having done this myself I have to say the results are rather disappointing. There's just not enough processing power with the cards I've used to real time capture decent quality video at TV resolutions. Maybe someone else can recommend something capable.


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Dave D

I assume that it has some way of feeding a TV or VCR.

On the UK, the lead for this often ends in a pair of 'RCA' plugs, for sound & vision, with an adaptor ('SCART') that suits European TVs, but not North American.

With different adaptors, the RCA-plugs can also feed appropriate cards in a PC, though the video-quality is significantly better if both camera and card also have S-VHS sockets, linked by a separate cable (sound still via RCA-plug)

I've used both an antique ATI 'All in Wonder' and a relatively new, and absurdly cheap (

Reply to
Peter Duck

Forgot to mention in my last post- the cleanest and most cost effective way to get an almost exact digital copy of a camcorder tape is probably to use a cheap standalone DVD recorder via its phono input or, if the camera has one (unlikely) the s-video which is better. The results should be virtually indistinguishable from the original.


Reply to
Dave D

Hi Peter,

I started out with a seperate Creative capture card, which was dire. It required the graphics card to be set to 256 colour mode for one thing, which was unacceptable to me. Next I moved onto a WinTV card, which was reasonably good. Then I bought a secondhand All In Wonder (not Pro) which I was quite happy with, though it had some annoying bugs.

Now I have a Nvidia Ti4200. It was, I feel, a backwards step from the AIW in some ways, and the buggy drivers are very sensitive to glitches when capturing from a VCR, which causes the Macrovision protection to kick in. However, it does the job, and I find the bundled Intervideo editor easy to use, though it annoyingly forgets one's preferences every time it closes.

The drawback I have with the Nvidia is that although it allows capture in resolutions up to and above TV quality, when I do so it gives very poor results including dropped frames and a 'banding' effect, especially noticeable on fast action scenes. It looks like the interlaced lines are out of sync, giving and almost zig zag effect.

My PC is no slouch, a P4 3GHz with 1GB ram and fast hard drives, so I'm at a loss as to why this happens. I planned on archiving all my camcorder stuff on DVD, but as I can only capture at lower resolutions, it's a non starter. I guess I'll wait until I get a DVD recorder!

As for digital camcorders, they are definitely the way to go IMO. The idea of dumping the data onto the hard drive, editing it then transferring to DVD with little or no loss in quality definitely appeals to me!


Reply to
Dave D

Oops: I should have said 'MPEG1' in both places.

My AIW, also second-hand, was/is probably similar, if not identical:

16MB, not the 32MB version.

- My Compro TV-card should also capture in better-than-TV MPEG2, but not in a PC powered by an 800MHz Duron: anyway, it would be 'overkill' for the output from a Hi-8 camcorder, with near-pointless increase in the resulting file-sizes.

- The 'interlace out of sync' effect should, IIRC, be avoidable. It arises, at some point, 'cos a fast-moving scene has changed by the time the second 'half-frame' is interlaced with the first. I've forgotten, and can't readily find, details of the Hi-8 format, even whether it basically *is* interlaced, but software to convert between formats with different numbers of lines usually gives options concerning interlacing/'progressive scan', 'which field first', etc.

Having chickened-out by letting the cheapo card 'do its own thing' in MPEG1/VCD, I'm now rather vague about all this ...

I hope you're not eventually disappointed, either by non-improvement in basic output quality (the source is still distinctly 'old hat') or, specifically, a recorder tailored to TV-transmissions not coping well with the different(?) input from a Hi-8 camera.

Peter Duck
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Peter Duck

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