As Camera Resolution Goes Up, So Too Does Its Value In Post
With today’s digital cinema cameras offering more and more resolution, it has proven to be a huge benefit not only for acquisition but postproduction as well. A total of five camera manufacturers now offer 8K UHD camera systems – with both Super 35mm and 1.25 inch sensors – and one, Blackmagic Design, recently announced a 12 K model.
And there appears to be little end in sight. Jan Weigner, co-Founder and CTO of a postproduction software company called Cinegy, recently said: “The moment when the resolution ceases to matter and we can cover 12K or 16K resolution per eye for VR (virtual reality) – which requires 36K or 48K respectively – we are getting somewhere. Then there is volumetric video. 12K just gets us warmed up.”
Many of these camera companies – which include Astro Design, Blackmagic Design, Canon, FOR-A, Hitachi, Ikegami, Panavision, Red Digital Cinema, Sharp and Sony – had planned to showcase their products at this year’s cancelled Tokyo Olympics, but the desire to acquire more remains unabated.
The reason for this continuing advancement in optical sensor capability has to do with the desire to acquire as much picture information during production as possible and then worry about how to handle it in post. Most of these new cameras are targeted at high-end filmmakers looking for pristine RAW recording in multiple resolutions. From a 12K image you can extract HD, 2K, 4K, 5K, 6K and 8K elements and distribute them to specific clients as required. The additional data also helps with tasks including object and rig removal, clean-up and rotoscoping.
Canon says the extraordinary resolution in its 8K systems (native camera and lens) supports a vast range of imaging. At its highest level—the full 8K—it can acquire framed wide angle panoramic scenes containing a great deal of detail. At another extreme of imagery, there might be close ups where specific lenses are deployed to soften the image to achieve different artistic looks. Between these extremes are a wide array of image possibilities.
Many people are now using 8K imagery to create projects that are finished at 4K, giving them the benefits of oversampling or re-framing options. Others are using the full 8K resolution on high DPI displays. There is also application for 360 video for viewing with VR headsets.
High-resolution technology can also allow reduced resolution extraction in real time to track an object or person in a dedicated 1080p window from an 8K master shot, whether that is a race car or a basketball player. The benefit compared to tracking them with a camera is that these extractions can be generated for multiple objects simultaneously, allowing viewers to select their preferred perspective on the fly.
Moving 8K content around a facility in real time is a challenge. One approach is to shoot at 30p, with dual cables being used for 60p. With HDMI 2.1, 8K video can be sent over a single cable. Another approach is to use multiple parallel channels for 12G SDI, similar to how quad 3G SDI can be used to transmit 4K data. Post facilities are doing this over an IP backbone are compressing it and then streaming on 10 GbE networks or moving uncompressed 8K content on 40 Gb or 100 Gb networks.
For those that say there isn’t enough ancillary equipment to post in these higher resolutions, Blackmagic has shown that it can edit footage on a laptop. However, storage and native monitoring displays remain a costly issue when dealing with RAW files or when light compression is employed.Increases in resolution not only demand more storage, they call for more computing power too. To produce work in more detail, as you would if you were transitioning from 2K to 4K, you either need faster computers or more time. Often you need both. Post facilities always have to decide whether to spend money on upgrading to accommodate new standards or stay with the current tech and charge less for their services. A large part of the business skill in running a successful post house is managing this balance.
It might seem too risky to think about 8K and 12K, but equipment is now becoming available to filmmakers with a “normal” budget. It’s not experimental any more. There are real products that will be arriving in the next few years that will be sold just like any other camera. It’s not especially difficult to use because – just as with 4K – computers and storage quickly caught up with the quadrupling of data rates and file sizes that were associated with the previous “maximum” resolution.