I have a significant amount of old tapes that never get played and read that the Hi8 tape format is prone to degradation after about 15 years.
I have viewed some of my tapes and some do show some form of playback artefacts. As you can see in this picture below the bottom half is affected by distortion and horizontal sparkle effects and runs throughout the entire tape. Visually there is nothing visible on the physical tape itself.
Transferring to PC
This part should have been the simplest, but in reality it was not but in a way it helped the process in a funny way.
After the DVD is written and finalised i can take the DVD and read off the files on my PC. All DVDs are readable this way with the exception of copyright protected disks that have their files encrypted. Because this is an original recording from my DVR there is no encryption so the files can be copied without any issue.
The files that contain the actual content are the VTS_01_[X].VOB located in the VIDEO_TS folder. Copy and rename these on the PC to .MPG and they will play in most media players.
This is where i hit my first problem, for some reason the first VOB file wont play in VLC or load into Movie Studio. It's corrupt or badly formed in some way. It plays fine on the DVR and in Windows Media Player. Thankfully it does load into Handbrake. I have transferred recordings using this method before without issue so i may look into this further to see which bit i'm doing is causing the problem.
I wanted to edit and make the final videos from this original MPEG2 source in Movie Studio but there was a lot of noise in the encoding, small MPEG blocking artefacts and high frequency noise from the original tape and i had this issue with the corrupt file. Movie Studio has little or no options for removing blocking artefacts or noise too so i needed another solution...
After some experimenting i found i could encode these MPEG2 streams into MPEG4 using Handbrake which can read the corrupt file and apply some additional processing to reduce some of the artefacts so in a way it helps even though it adds an additional encoding step and more time to the process. So my handbrake settings were as follows:
Cropping: custom, set to zero. Handbrake does a poor job of cropping and i prefer to use the pan/scan options in Movie Studio. So i disable this option, annoyingly it will always revert back on any new video.
Deinterlace: Fast, being an original PAL source the picture is interlaced so this should be removed prior to encoding into the final video.
H.264 Profile: High
Alternative Method, less filtering, lower compression.
This method i disable the deblock and denoise functions and increase the compression Quality enough so the inherent grain is retained. This actually looks more natural. There is a balance though, you need enough quality to resolve the noise. Not enough and the noise will turn into very obvious blocking itself. In my tests a Quality setting of 12 and disabling the deblock and denoise functions.
I was going to include some half and half images between the MPEG2 and MP4 versions but the differences are so subtle i doubt you would be able to see them. It really is just some high frequency noise.
The original MPEG2 .VOB files are around 1Gb in size, after conversion to MP4 they do increase to more than 2.5Gb, i found this was inevitable to retain the grain, this is only an intermediate format for editing though. Once the videos have been rejoined, edited, cropped and some basic level and gamma correction they are exported from Sony Movie Studio as a 5mbps MP4.