Hi8 to VHS

I want to create a VHS master tape by copying Hi8 to VHS. Will this produce a higher-quality VHS copy
than regular 8mm? If not, how can I take advantage of Hi8’s superior image quality when copying to
VHS? Is it possible to produce a VHS copy from Hi8 that is equal to a first-generation VHS camcorder
recording?

Robert Smith
Atlanta, Georgia

The answer to your first question is yes–the quality of second-generation Hi8 looks considerably better
than second-generation 8mm, even if you’re using standard VHS as your record format. To elaborate:
whenever you copy an analog video signal, you lose quality. This is partly due to the weakening of the
video signal in relation to the electronic noise that accompanies it (the signal-to-noise ratio). Because 8mm
video has a theoretical signal-to-noise ratio (44dB) that’s similar to VHS (43dB), copying this signal will
bring the quality down below that of first-generation VHS. The Hi8 signal, however, is more robust (46dB), and will retain more of the original sharpness and clarity when you copy it to your VHS deck.

As to your final question: theoretically, the quality of first-generation VHS would slightly surpass that of Hi8 footage copied to a VHS deck. In practice, however, you’ll find that most VHS camcorders won’t record at anything near the theoretical limits of the VHS format. For this reason, the copied Hi8 footage would probably equal or exceed that of first-generation VHS shot on a consumer-grade camcorder.

35mm Equivalencies

I have just bought a new JVC GR-AX910 VHS-C camcorder, and I’d like to know what precise angles of
view the zoom lens offers. I’m familiar with 35mm photography terms, but they don’t apply to the
camcorder I just purchased. Specifically, my camcorder’s zoom lens has a focal length range of 4.1-
57.4mm. What would be the equivalent in 35mm photography?

Robert Harshaw
Carnegie, Pennsylvania

Just as the size of the image in still photography determines the angle of view, the size of the CCD in a
video camera will affect any focal-length calculations you must make. Most consumer camcorders
(including yours) have 1/4-inch CCDs; on these models, the focal length that best approximates the human
eye is 7.5mm (equivalent to roughly 50mm in 35mm photography). Therefore, dividing by eight should give you an approximate relationship to 35mm-format lenses (52.5mm/8 = 7.5mm).

I have a problem that I hope you can help me solve. I would like to get started in desktop nonlinear editing,
but I have never used or owned a computer. I would like a system that yields a product of at least Hi8
quality, and can afford to spend up to $7000. Besides a full-featured Pentium multimedia system, what else
should I consider purchasing?

Martin Kleinman
Calabassas, California

To get Hi8-quality video out of your system, you’re going to have to move data on and off the hard
drive at about two or more megabytes per second. For starters, then, you’ll need to add a SCSI-2 hard
drive and controller, as most full-featured Pentium multimedia systems don’t include them. Also, you’ll
want a decent PCI video capture card in the $1000-$3000 range to record you analog video on the hard
drive in digital form. And since you’re a first-time computer purchaser who has never installed hardware
before, we’d also suggest that you get someone to help you put it all together; installing video capture
hardware can be an ordeal, even for experienced computer users.

One promising development that’s just beginning to see the light of day is the complete turnkey
nonlinear system. Products like Draco Systems’ Casablanca offer nonlinear power and convenience
without all of the hassle of setting up a standard PC to do the job. Also promising is the growing tendency
of PC manufacturers to include video capture and editing capabilities pre-configured in the machine. The
Macintosh Performa 6400, for example, comes complete with Avid’s Cinema beginning nonlinear
hardware/software bundle. Either of these systems would offer a pre-configured solution to the problem of
setting up a nonlinear system for the first time.

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