InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 6
www.incinematographer.com | Issue 3
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 stabilizing footage is too
powerful to ignore on a pure image quality level,"
says Phil Holland, a DIT (X-Men: First Class) turned
DP. "When filming in 2K there's literally detail and
color 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
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
Sony UHC 8300
8K camera system
RED Monstro imagery
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 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 look at.
"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
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
"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 stabilization, getting all the
image degrading work done in the 'big space' of
8K means a 4K output (or lower) will still be super
"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 resolutions. Technicolor
recently delivered its first 8K rendered visual
effects piece. The Marvel Studios' blockbuster
feature Guardians 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 images.