In Broadcast - November 2017 - 22
www.inbroadcast.com | Vol: 7 - Issue 11 | November 2017
The Arrival Of Ultra
The number of film and TV projects acquired in part in 8K resolution
is growing, but a sharper image is not the first or only benefit to
cinematographers, writes Adrian Pennington...
ith 4K production still expensive
and bandwidth throttling the
throughput of ultra HD content into
both cinemas and the home, camera
technology continues to advance higher
resolutions. 8K cine cameras from RED,
Sony and Panavision have raised the bar
for the spatial attributes of an image at
very least. Meanwhile Japanese state
broadcaster NHK is preparing to start
domestic satellite transmissions of its
Super Hi-Vision system in December
2018 having helped fund an end to end
8K production ecosystem.
8K broadcasting is currently
considered a Japanese luxury and
unlikely to be exported to other
countries any time soon (if at all).
While the pictures are undoubtedly
pin sharp - especially when played on
smaller OLED screens - work needs to
be done in terms of editorial grammar
to make the content more compelling
than mere pretty wallpaper.
For high end recorded content,
though, the arguments for use of 8K
are more compelling, and not just in
the way you'd think.
"The flexibility of having that
extra resolution, whether you are
downsampling or reframing/cropping,
or simply stabilising footage is too
powerful to ignore on a pure image
RED Monstro imagery
quality level," says Phil Holland, a DIT
(X-Men: First Class) turned DP. "When
filming in 2K there's literally detail and
colour transitions that 'aren't there'
that you can 100% see when captured
in 8K. There's no amount of upscaling
that can create detail that's not
captured during that specific moment.
When you see upscaled content, while
the algorithms are impressive, you are
just evoking a perceptual response to
mostly edge detail."
Holland says he was handling 4K film
scans in the late 1990s and has been
finishing in 8K lately, working from
material captured on the RED Weapon
with Helium S35 sensor. "Subtleties,
like a deep red velvet pillow's texture,
is something often lost in lower
resolution capture," he says. "Beyond
that, it's again the flexibility of the
format and what you can do with
Sony UHC 8300
8K camera system
higher resolution material. Some
people punch in for digital zooms,
reframe, crop, etc... With more capture
resolution than your desired output
resolution you have the ability to do
that while the image still holds."
Timur Civan, a New York based
DP with spots for Nike, Samsung on
his CV agrees that 8K is not about a
sharper picture, but a softer, more
organic one. "Think of it like this," he
says. "The Apple Retina displays (on
iPhone, iPad, Macbook) displays more
resolution than your eye can see. The
edges of text, hard lines, and high
contrast edges are rendered sub visual
acuity thereby making it appear more
natural, lifelike and frankly easier to
"There's been a lot of argument
about 8K and what that means versus
4K or 6K or RED versus the Alexa
versus Sony. I think many people
haven't had a chance to try 8K, and see
what that actually does to your image."
He says the most fun he's had is
shooting vintage lenses on 8K and
letting the sensor soak up all the
character: "Small subtle blooms,
smeared edges, smeared highlights
are not just flaws, but now a fully
rendered part of the image."
One episode of the science-fiction
TV drama series Electric Dreams,
produced by Amazon Studios, Sony
Pictures and Channel 4, was largely
shot in 8K on a RED Epic with Helium in
order for the DP to accommodate the
look of vintage anamorphic lenses and
still deliver a 4K 16:9 master. The team
calculated that if they shot compressed
at 8.1 the total data would be little
different to shooting 4K ProRes.
"What seemed so unrealistic in
shooting 8K for a fast turnaround TV
project with lots of set-ups suddenly
became very doable," says DP Ollie
Downey. "An 8K resolution was a
creative choice since it allowed us to
take a few steps back and use older
lenses to warp and bend the image."
The chief benefit of recording
8K today is being able to perform
basic post corrections in a bigger
information space. Whether that's
grading, post zooms, crops, VFX or
stabilisation, getting all the image
degrading work done in the 'big space'
of 8K means a 4K output (or lower) will
still be super sampled.
"If your pixels are so small they can't
be 'seen' you can't see their noise
either. "The magic of downscaling
cleans up an image significantly,"
says Civan. "Even for a 1080P output,
shooting 8K means your get two
extra stops of noise protection. With
the 6400ISO noise performance of
the Monstro, I can realise a 1080P
finish for a commercial or broadcast,
shooting 25,600 safely."
Molinare's Commercial Director,
Richard Hobbs reports a rise in the
number of films acquiring and posting
in 4K as that gives producers increased
opportunities for future proofing and
sales. "In some instances, we're doing
camera tests at 8K even if delivery may
be in 2K, for productions to discuss the
possibility of archiving camera rushes
at much higher resolutions for future
use," he says.
Studios are also exploring the
prospects of producing VFX in higher
delivered its first 8K rendered visual
effects piece. The Marvel Studios'
of the Galaxy Vol 2 was shot by
cinematographer Henry Braham on
the large format Panavision Primo 70
Prime lenses with the RED Weapon
8K Dragon Vistavision as the best way
to render the complexity of the final
DPs shooting RED suggest an 8K
data footprint works well using its
compressed RED Raw format. "You
can get about an hour of 8K footage
per terabyte shot," Holland reckons.
"Most of my days on set in the last 18
months we've filmed 1-8TB, which is
very manageable. The cameras are
capable of recording scaled proxies via
intermediate codecs like Apple