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NHK Has Finally Shrunk Their 8K Resolution Camera, but How Close Are We to Shooting in 8K?

05.16.12 @ 7:09PM Tags : , , , , ,

Weren’t we just saying that this year wasn’t the year of 4K? The Japanese company NHK is plugging away with their 8K technological breakthroughs, and they’ve finally brought their 8K monster down to the size of a standard broadcast 1080p camera. That’s big news in the advancement of camera technology, and it’s only a matter of time before we’re shooting 4K on our cell phones. But what does this really mean for the world of video? How far away are we from having 8K TVs in our homes and actually shooting in 8K?

The short answer? A long time. The long answer? A long time. 4K is barely even here yet, and the data rate for shooting RAW with a 4K camera is astronomical. Hard drive prices are also not helping the situation, but the real issue with 4K, or 8K, for that matter, is not in acquisition, but in exhibition. At this time, 1080p is a rarity on satellite or digital cable, and even if you’re getting all those pixels, the data rate is often lower than a standard definition DVD (about 8mbps usually). Streaming HD is the same way, with most content on the web streaming at 720p, and if you’re getting 1080, it’s most likely only a few megabits per second.

The problem that will keep some of these standards at bay is compression and bandwidth. The compression is supposedly going to be partially solved with the new H.265 standard, which promises the same quality at half the bit rate of H.264. If you’re not paying close attention, a good H.264 encode will look very close to the original source file — but H.264 at lower bit rates tends to falls apart in darker scenes. This is acceptable for a lot of the content on television, but movies are often dark, and so we need better quality encoding options if we want larger frame sizes at similar bit rates. Bandwidth is also a huge problem, as there is only so much data you can put through the pipe until it gets clogged.

But what about for filmmakers? Once the standard for film is worked out, it’s certainly possible that sometime in the future we could be shooting movies at 8K, or even 16K downsampled to a full quality 8K.

Here are the types of data rates we are dealing with. First, the 4K RAW (cinema aspect ratio of 1.89) data rates, taken from my other post:

  • 4K RAW (4096 x 2160), 24fps, 10-bit: 253.125 Megabytes per second – 15.2 Gigabytes per minute911.3 Gigabytes per hour
  • 4K RAW (4096 x 2160), 24fps, 12-bit: 303.75 Megabytes per second – 18.2 Gigabytes per minute – 1.093 Terabytes per hour
  • 4K RAW (4096 x 2160), 24fps, 16-bit: 405.00 Megabytes per second – 24.3 Gigabytes per minute – 1.46 Terabytes per hour

Next, we look at 8K RAW data rates, using a similar 1.89 aspect ratio for comparison (even though the NHK camera is 1.78 at 7680 x 4320):

  • 8K RAW (8192 x 4320), 24fps, 10-bit: 1.012 Gigabytes per second60.75 Gigabytes per minute3.645 Terabytes per hour
  • 8K RAW (8192 x 4320), 24fps, 12-bit: 1.215 Gigabytes per second – 72.9 Gigabytes per minute – 4.374 Terabytes per hour
  • 8K RAW (8192 x 4320), 24fps, 16-bit: 1.620 Gigabytes per second – 97.2 Gigabytes per minute – 5.832 Terabytes per hour

The Ultra High Definition standard for 8K is 7680 x 4320 at 12 bits. If that’s what ends up being used when part of the 2012 London Olympics is filmed in 8K, what are those data rates going to look like. Let’s figure they shoot at 30fps – what does that equal in RAW data per second? 1,423.82813 megabytes per second, or 1.423 gigabytes per second. The actual numbers will probably be different depending on the exact configuration of the camera and the frame rate, but I know that NHK has developed their own compression system, so it’s certainly possible that the data rates will be much more acceptable when they actually shoot the Olympics. Trying to deal with data at 1.5 gigabytes a second is ludicrous.

So by taking a look at these numbers, you should get an idea how far off 8K really is. My bet is that you won’t see an 8K TV set until WalMart is selling a 60 inch 4K TV for $500. Thankfully, for most of us, 1080p is all we have to worry about. I don’t envy those who will one day have to back up all of this data, possibly in triplicate. If 48fps does become the 3D standard as Peter Jackson would like, just imagine the data rates shooting at 8K. Compression is going to be a big factor in actually shooting at these large frame sizes – which is why RED and Sony have both developed compressed RAW formats.

The real reason that 8K matters, is that a perfect 4K image can be derived from it. The color fidelity and resolution of a full 8K image downsampled to 4K would be phenomenal. RED is slowly pushing their cameras to record higher resolutions partially for that reason, and Sony downsamples their almost 8K sensor in-camera to 4K (since the resolution is 8768 x 2324, it could never record 8K in-camera).

But in the end, does the audience really care? Many are content to watch a poorly compressed 480p film streaming on their computers or their TV screens. As content creators, this is the type of behavior we are up against. The only way we will get proper exhibition for our work is by fighting for it. I always strive to provide the absolute highest quality when uploading work, and by making that the norm, hopefully we can convince regular consumers to demand more from their image quality.

Check out the new NHK camera below on the left.

[via Engadget]



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Description image 47 COMMENTS

  • 8k exhibition… uh-huh?

    I simply don’t envision a need for 8k in the average home until such time as Apple market the iWall.

    • The Apple iWall would be the shit.

    • iWall, lol

    • The iWall would make perfect sense. Imagine your average LCD computer display clarity except 84 inches of it. Nine 27 inch iMacs (3×3 arrangement) would be exactly 7680×4320 pixels and would be 81 inches.

      The point is, even at 84 inches, an 8K display would be just over 100 ppi (pixels per inch, as in the average LCD computer display). The average vision would begin to see the pixels at 2-3 feet from the display. Sitting 3 feet from a 7 foot display would be uncomfortable and would cover much more than your field of vision.

      A 8K display (7680×4320 pixels) on a wall 16 feet wide by 9 feet tall (a fairly large wall for the common house), would have a pixels density of 40 ppi, about the same as todays 55 inch 1080p television. A 55 inch TV looks pretty good at 6 feet away. A very large iWall (16×9 feet) would look the same at 6 feet. You would just have to turn your head both directions to see everything.

      I think 8K would be useful at around 40 inches (220 ppi) to display engineering or medical data.

  • 8k is absolutely pointless, as the human eye cannot even resolve detail past 4k. 8k only ever comes in handy if you’re planning to project on the side of a building. Completely trivial arms race if you ask me. Why not focus on the safe and durable archiving of this data rather than throwing out more of it?

    • having actually seen 8K, its incredible. yes you can see the difference. wides shots are just amazing, almost negating the need for close ups.

      having also seen simply stunning 4K too, they both leave 1080 looking like VHS. however, even when you down scale to 1080, its pristine 1080. you can see samples on vimeo and youtube and even with their compression the sharpness is still there…. unlike a lot of current dslr stuff which has sharpness dialed down.

      I just saw some F3 material and it too was amazing – mostly because of its sharpness. would if of made a difference if it had been 4K->1080 ? probably not. the one place 4K does make a difference is in compositing work where more native pixels are better.

      • How could the resolution of a camera ever negate the use of a close up? Unless your views on camera placement and composition are purely technical or and you completely ignore any psychological emphasis that can exist when cutting different shots together. Funny how people can be so knowledgeable when it comes to the tools of filmmaking while giving zero thought as to what actually makes a film work.

        • Thank you. Exactly what I mean.

        • I realize this is a side conversation,but it is interesting. The size of the screen and detail does start to change the way you cut and present your images. I saw Dark Knight in full glory 4:3 IMAX and during the full IMAX bits, iit is all about medium shots. I think Michael Bay discussed this a little bit when he was shooting full IMAX of Transformers 2, how with massive screens you begin looking at the middle of the screen as the main point of focus. So while your mind is reading the shot as a close up, you really have to shoot a medium with alot of headroom. It is a different way of shooting.

        • john jeffreys on 05.17.12 @ 11:43AM

          typical technical skill > creativity mindset that is plaguing the film community

        • One advantage of shooting at super high resolutions like 4K and higher, is that in post you’re allowed a huge ray of flexibility with digital re-framing. You can “zoom in” in post by stretching the image to an incredible amount while still retaining critical focus and sharp detail.

          Of course this doesn’t replace the need for tight close ups as its always better, imo, to get a shallow DOF and closeup in camera rather than creating the aesthetic in post. It does however add a little flexibility to the shooter in that you can save yourself some unnecessary camera setups if your simply trying to punch in. This will obviously add time to your shooting schedule and that is always a good thing! :)

      • Read recently on dvxuser forum:

        A friend of mine is a projectionist in a 4k equipped theater.
        He said that a lot of visitors always say what difference 4k makes.
        Actually they only showed one 4k film, when they opened the new theater, everything else was 2k.

        Believing is seeing

    • Excellent point. I wish that some of that energetic effort went into saving the films that we make alongside the advances that attaching to making those films. After all one of you people may make the next masterpiece — it’d be a shame if the next generation(s) could not see them because no one considered projection/exhibition as a correllary to production.

  • “Hopefully we can convince regular consumers to demand more from their image quality.”… Better compression, fine. 8k at home?… Even 4k… Just silly. Nobody is crying out for this – apart from the tech companies who make a killing from new kit, hard drive sales, etc. etc.

    • That had nothing to do with 8k or 4k. It’s simply about demanding better quality from our current exhibition formats, like streaming HD, or even many cable HD services, which frequently have sub-par compression.

      • They are sub par because no one cares. N-o o-n-e c-a-r-e-s. They buy 720 TVs because no one cares, except about price. 720 is cheaper than 1080, so they opt for 720. A lot of people watch movies on iPhones and iPads, so my guess is they don’t care either.

        Yes, it annoys me that YouTube uses 420. But for Joe Average it is fine, ’cause he just doesn’t care.

        When HDTV was first shown in the late 1980s, civilians were not interested. What they wanted was Wide Screen Standard Definition TV.

        • So true, I couldn’t get my dad to spend an extra $50 on a TV that was 1080p compared to the one that was 720. Consumers don’t care about the picture quality, they only care about price. To the average viewer 720 looks dang good. I can’t tell you how often I hear people say that there really isn’t a difference between 720 and 1080, I just want to slap them in the face.

          • Stu Mannion on 05.17.12 @ 6:50PM

            Yes maybe all the viewers are idiots because they can tell the difference between 720p and 1080p… Or maybe the people the content is actually made for are right and there isn’t that much difference. I think 720p is all most people want for the home and 1080p is plenty for most cinemas. In my opinion resolution wars are a dumb thing for independent filmmakers to get into.

            That said being able to get two close ups out of a 4k 2 shot is the best argument for shooting 4k to finish 1080p.

          • Stu Mannion on 05.17.12 @ 6:51PM

            I meant can’t tell the difference.

  • I hope hard drives get a lot faster and a lot cheaper. With USB 3.0 it makes handling 1080p footage a breeze (the reason why I switched from Mac to PC, but that is another story!) I can do online editing of hours of HD footage off of consumer grade external USB 3.0 drives, and the price is quite reasonable per TB.

    But we’d need faster data transfer rates to handle this explosion of 4k or 8k data.

    • I feel you. Thunderbolt drives are $$$$.

    • The new line of Mac’s being released this year will have usb 3.0. Apple has been developing this for a while. I am using the Western Digital Thunderbolt drive and the thing is Smoking fast. I can transfer 300MB/s real world speeds.

  • Someone tell Janard that Zacuto will have one of these, and will be doing their tests in 8K finish! :P

  • Lliam Worthington on 05.17.12 @ 12:06AM

    Talking 48fps data rates Joe, I believe 48 was the “compromise” rate and that 60 is where they really see it going. So add another 5th on to those data extrapolations! :)

    It’s funny how it seems to annoy quite a few people though. I’m happy and excited people are pushing the tech, (feel privileged actually) you can’t be sure just what might end up being achieved. Maybe 16K will end up being the platform required for shooting some kind of Lytro style edit and light in 3D in post. Which in turn paves the way for holographic cinemas. Who knows.

    There’s no need to try and measure or judge future tech by what we think will do based on what we already use now. Historically this kind of view point would leave us all with a hell of a lot of egg on our faces. Just sit back, enjoy the ride and buy in when you are sure it’s valid and worthwhile to you.

    And even right now, as Joe says, it’s very easy to imagine PJ shooting features in a few years with 8K and downsampling. Certainly at least he’s bound to be shooting 6k with RED’s Dragon.

    • “add another 5th on to those data extrapolations!”

      60 = 48 x 1.25

      It’s a quarter, not a fifth – so it’s even worse!

  • I gotta ask… does 4K or 8K look like film? Isn’t the film look the holy grail of digital cinema and haven’t we been trying to get video to look like film since video was invented? Why are we now obsessed with higher-than-film resolutions? As it was stated earlier, we don’t even get 1080P in our homes. And people watch movies on their cell phones. I’d like to see a better image streaming into my 60 inch but, seems to me, we’re barking up the wrong tree on the resolution thing. We should be demanding better quality in what we have now. An affordable super 35 1080P camera that shoots something like 12-16bit compressed raw to a removable internal SSD would be a good start.

  • I live in Melbourne a city of 4 million people. As far as I know there is only one cinema in Melbourne that displays 4k digital cinema which they do on an irregular basis.

    2k digital seems to be getting more common and looks fine. Most theaters are still projecting film.

    • Sorry but 2k cinema is poor. I often find the picture soft and inferior even to my blu-ray at home. I live in Edinburgh, Scotland and we have at least two cinema chains here that have all their cinemas kitted out with Sony 4k projectors. The image looks stunning and the upscailing also improves a 2k master – GWTDT 4k master being even better. Personally I’m all for better image quality and don’t really care if ‘Joe Public’ can’t tell the difference, there are plenty of people who can. Applies to many things in life…

  • No hard drives at this point can handle the data rate transfer of those speeds. Even solid state drives using Thunderbolt, That is just crazy.

  • ByAnAmateur on 05.17.12 @ 2:00PM

    reminds me that 1080 mode in youtube is really crummy.

  • In the end I feel that HD, 2k or 4k give the film technician
    a slight edge, but can never compete with the REAL thing: content!

  • G.F.U.R.S.L.F on 05.18.12 @ 12:20AM

    Gah, i dont want to contribute to this money grubbing corporate psuedo-indi frontend, but i just have to tell you how worthless the content on this site is. Have any of you ever watched a bluray? Absolutely disgusting. Pores should not be visible and mosquito noise should be something emitted by an insect, not my tv.

    Face it, you gear junkies are quickly hitting the brick wall that audiophiles hit five decades ago, there IS no better or faster or finer. 4K raw for the current 50′ rectangle theatre screen is as much information as you can pack without going 3d and 48+ (the latter you junkies are going to ruin the cinema with). Films from the 80′s look impeccably better than any of this HD crap coming out now. And you know why? Aside from film’s incredible and unmatched dynamic range and palette, there is this thing that digital cameras will never ever ever be able to do, called GRAIN. The square matrix of a sensor can never capture in the raw organic way that the randomness of grains on a piece of celluloid can, and with the onslaught of digital projection this artificiality is only amplified as evident by the screen door effect.


    Seriously, stop attacking art, your fancy numbers are not what makes a great film.

    • you’re such a fool man. So david fincher, martin scorsese, and peter jackson to name a few arnt artists? Filmmakers? Theaters are still getting packed what people like you dont realize is that your argument: “people cant tell the difference between 720,1080, 4k etc” goes both ways. Everyday people cant tell the difference between film and digital. Sorry they cant.
      When you project movies at high resolutions you see pores regardless of it being shot on film or digital. People are slow to embrace technology. HD and above is the future and film will hang around as long as it can. But if you want to make it in this industry with this mentality you already failed. So dont hate onn this site and complain about things that are simply beyond you.

    • I’m not sure why I’m even responding to this, but firstly, the resolution race is not necessarily about projected resolution. In order to resolve actual 4K, you need a lot more than 4,000 pixels on the sensor thanks to the Bayer Pattern filter. So a full 8K sensor will essentially yield a “perfect” 4K image. Why would we need any more than 8K if it gets us a nice 4K image? Well if we’ve got more resolution above 8K, we can always crop where we want for flexibility and for things like image stabilization. It’s not necessarily about increasing the projected resolution, there are many uses for having more captured resolution.

      As for dynamic range, digital is now surpassing film when it comes to latitude. Both the Alexa and the F65 are rated at 14 stops, another stop more than the best motion picture film. There is also no film stock that can do 14 stops of dynamic range at a clean ISO 800. If you like your grain, add it back in post. That sounds ridiculous, but I’ve seen plenty of examples of faked grain and scanned grain plates, and some of them are so real I’d never be able to tell the difference.

      The beautiful thing about digital is that you can make it look like whatever you want. The color reproduction in film still has an indescribable texture, but that too is being rivaled by the highest end digital cinema cameras. I love film, but digital has so much more flexibility. Think it’s too sharp? Blur it a little in post, or use softer lenses or a softening filter. Want that grainy look? Dial it up when you want it and dial it down when you don’t.

      • Daniel Mimura on 05.20.12 @ 4:37AM

        I think a good comparison of where digital cinema is now is to look at where digital audio was in the ’80′s. Early CD’s sound really cold and empty. The tape hiss actually made it feel more organic, and suddenly it was gone with the new digital technology. The problem wasn’t so much the technology (more dynamic range, no generation loss, cheaper media costs [eventually], better signal to noise ratio), but how that technology was used. The engineers had to record differently. … I get that comment about grain compared to regular fixed array of pixels…but I think it’s just because we’re still in the moving picture equivalent of early ’80′s CD’s…it is gonna take awhile. It’s already improving…because people are learning to work with it better.

        • I think part of that is the need for the human element. People love live music because there’s something different about seeing musicians live and in their element, and above all not being concerned about playing perfectly, but playing to the crowd. Since earlier music was recorded as bands played together, and different takes weren’t spliced in, there was a richer quality about the music that felt more alive. The ability to record each member separately and record vocals and instrumentals separately takes away some of the human element. Add to that the fact that you now have an infinite amount of time to perfect each and every little sound, and you can get to a point where the music is too perfect.

          So to bring that around full circle, I think people might feel the same about films, since they started off in much the same way, organic and full of mistakes, and through each generation, it’s been cleaner and more “perfect.” Digital is certainly the next evolution in that process, and it is up to the individual artists to choose how they want to get across that human element. The camera is less of a character in the movie now that the image is relatively sterile. I understand the other point of view, that digital can be like being there, rather than appreciating the art for what it is, but I think that all comes down to the individual filmmakers. To me, a sterile picture is simply a cleaner canvas to work from. I can choose to make it as clean or as dirty as I want, and give it as much, or as little character as I want. There’s something to be said about the loss of analog and how that pertains to filmmaking being perceived as more or less of an art, but it’s up to us as filmmakers to embrace the positive aspects of new technologies and exploit them to our advantage.

      • John Q. Galt on 06.21.12 @ 2:52PM

        Joe Marine,

        You wouldn’t happen to have a handy list of all the various options that more resolution, as well as other technical factors like bit depth, frame rate etc., these more advanced systems can provide for post production? I’ve been making my own Christmas list of desired specs for nearly 15 years now, yet I haven’t actually seen a complete and authoritive guide to the benefits of oversampling. And that’s what this is all really about. Not just “Res” but more image information to work with. Oversampling, downsampling, image stabilization, cropping, compositing, composition, green screen, tilt/shift, noise reduction, real-time image analysis and pattern tracking, lens aberration correction, temporal processing, slow motion, …. etc.

        Maybe the ignorant haters need to be educated because to read some of the comments here, and it seems everywhere these issues come up (remember the VHS vs DVD “debates” lol?), these people think the state of the art was surpassed with 16mm.

        • I don’t have a handy list but that might be a good post down the road. There are many benefits to higher resolutions, but the biggest downside is when the image is uncompressed you’ve got some seriously high data rates.

          I’ll consider doing one though.

          • John Q. Galt on 06.21.12 @ 4:57PM

            5 years from now will be as different technology wise as 15 years was from today. I’m not too concerned with handling lots of data. ;-)

            • Of course – but many people think in the here and now, and right now many don’t have the technology to handle the data rates.

  • shakezoolah on 05.18.12 @ 12:25AM

    maybe they should make a good 1080p cheap camera first….

  • I think if your going to look into the very far future… I think we’re going to shooting in a totally different way. Maybe some 3d space light field capture which would capture the whole space so we could compose shots later. Or even screen films in this kind of real 3d (no glasses). I don’t know, but it won’t be this mindless pursuit of resolution.

  • John Q. Galt on 06.21.12 @ 2:09PM

    lol at all the haters in this thread.

    Any professional in this industry that doesn’t salivate at the idea of exponentially growing degrees of freedom should be immediately blackballed like a Commie in 1950s Hollywood. If you can not appreciate the value of 4K, 8K, whatever, let alone visually recognize the difference, then you are not a real a/v club nerd, but a Hollywood wannabe bimbo.

  • Paul Simmons on 02.20.13 @ 11:48PM

    To put it in prospective; while all the fab new HD formats comes on the market. The general (mums and dads) cant really tell the difference between DVD and Blu-Ra, where it is a lack of interest or education.
    Questions have to be asked to Hollywood how many times do you have to buy Star Wars before they get the technology right, 4k, 8k, 16k or 32k, pick a horse run the race get it right?