Film and Video Production in 8K
Video production has come a long way in the last 10 years. I remember at the start of my TV career using the legendary Sony VX1000 to shoot (what seemed at the time) stunning Standard Definition. Then a few years later celebs and make-up artists were all a fluster at the thought of High Definition images… …no longer could they rely on that slightly blurry picture to protect their dignity and hide those baggy eyes.
Nowadays, we’re all just about catching up with the 4K trend (new camera kit, new editing kit, new monitors, loads and loads of hard drive storage- sigh) when Producer Nik Korda announces that the feature film Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is going to be shot on the Red Weapon in a whopping 8K… What?!?
So, is this the beginning of a new era? Will 8K filter down into the TV and corporate video world, and when will we see business films and online videos shot at this resolution?
First of all what does 8K mean?
8K refers to the horizontal resolution of the video image- i.e. there are in the region of 8,000 pixels in each horizontal line of the picture (actually it can be 7,680 or 8,192 pixels and 4,320 pixels vertically). This is twice as many horizontal pixels as in a 4K video image and four times as many as in High Definition (1080 pixels). So 8K has sixteen times as many pixels overall as HD- and that is a hell of a difference in resolution and image quality. Clear as mud?
In terms of image evolution, there is a natural plateau point for picture size from the audience’s point of view – this is when individual pixels are no longer visible to the naked eye. Apple calls displays that deliver this “Retina Displays” and for their laptop and desktop computers this is achieved with 4K and 5K. However, if you look closely at your 4K monitor (or particularly your 4K TV), when there are diagonal images on the screen, you are quite likely to see jagged edges. By quadrupling the number of pixels you will vastly reduce this aliasing.
From a film or video producer’s point of view, there are even more advantages (and also disadvantages) to filming in 8K. The higher the resolution of the image, the more you can crop into it in post-production- to change the size of your shot or add stabilisation. So, for example, if you are delivering a corporate video in 4K and you shoot it in 8K, you can digitally enlarge a quarter of the picture to full screen size- without the audience noticing at all. This gives amazing flexibility to, for example, mix the shot size up during an interview- using just one camera. Digitally zooming like this has other benefits too- for example shooting a wildlife film or videoing in a war zone and in both situations being able to film from much further away.
(Above: Shooting a TV advert in 4K using the Red Epic on Western Road in Brighton, Sussex).
It’s also common practice to shoot in the highest resolution possible and down sample the footage afterwards- for example shooting 4K for video to be shown in HD. Down sampled 4K footage is much crisper and tends to show a lot more detail. This process can also help with reducing noise and grain- resulting in a cleaner image.
One of the major downsides of higher resolution video footage is the amount of space it takes up on hard drives. For your average video production company we are talking thousands of pounds a year. Then there’s the cost of the brand spanking new cameras to shoot them on and also having to make sure that all your editing equipment, monitors etc can handle the new resolution.
This factor alone means that we are unlikely to see 8K equipment or footage in anything but the highest budget productions for a looooong time. 4K is going to be the new benchmark in the corporate world for the foreseeable future.
But, say I do have a £200,000 budget for my new online corporate video, and want to shoot in 8K. Where can I get an 8K camera from?
(Above: the Red Weapon)
As mentioned earlier, Red have released the Weapon, which can shoot 8K up to 60 frames per second and 4k at 120 frames per second.
Panavision have announced the launch of their Millennium DXL camera- another 8K beast. However, as you can’t buy, but only hire, Panavision cameras, don’t expect to see one anywhere apart from film sets anytime soon!
Hitachi, Canon and Ikegami have all either released or are developing 8K cameras- but none of these are mainstream yet.
The other aspect of 8K is how on earth are you going to watch it? Here in Europe, the Television industry is still pushing 4K as the next step and reason to upgrade your HD setup. However, in Japan, Sharp has been promoting it’s new 8K TVs since 2015. But they’re currently pretty redundant as 4K Blu Ray discs and players are only just hitting the shelves. No streaming service or broadcaster worldwide yet delivers in 8K either…
(Above: Sharp's 8K TV - only £12,000...!)
Youtube can already play 8K video content, but as most computer monitors max out at 4K or 5K then you’ll have no luck there either…! If you fancy giving it a go then check this video out:
So, 8K resolution is still very much in the future, but it is coming. It will, however, have to be a far more established technology and have been around long enough for associated camera and post-production costs to of dropped before we will see it filter into the mainstream business and corporate video world. Sadly our production team won’t be shooting any adverts on the sunny streets of Brighton or London in 8K just yet…