Nikon's D800 Can Shoot 8K RAW Video (With a Little Help in Post)
While you might be lusting after the latest high-end gear to get 4K resolutions and beyond, it turns out your lowly Nikon D800 (superseded by the 810) is capable of seriously high-resolution RAW video — close to true 8K. Miguel de Olaso (AKA Macgregor) and Art Sanchez teamed up to capture some stunning architectural cinematography, but instead of using RED or Sony to get 4K+ RAW video, they turned to Nikon's 36 Megapixel DSLR and Nikon and Hasselblad lenses.
Using a technique they are calling Quicklapse — which isn't necessarily new, but it's a unique workflow to them — along with some motion control sliders (Stage One slider with Emotimo TB3 head with 3 axis and 2 axis Mslider system) and time remapping in After Effects, they were able to take 8K 12-bit RAW images and get smooth video out of them. It's also worth it to point out that they have been developing the technique since 2012, before some of the newer camera options — though they may still have chosen this technique and the D800 over something like the Panasonic GH4 or Sony a7S due to not just the 4K resolution, but the RAW portion of their workflow.
Here is the first major video they used for this technique, which is for the Son Brull Hotel & Spa:
First of all, why would anyone need such high resolution, and secondly, why not just use a camera that's made to shoot high-resolution RAW video? They explain in their blog post that the higher resolution files are better for stabilization and perspective control, and allow you to finish at 4K or 8K, depending on your ultimate goal. The other big plus to this workflow, even though it was very post-heavy, is that it significantly lightens what they are bringing to the location, and a few batteries and a few cards means they can shoot everything they need to with minimal effort on site — just the setup of the motion control slider.
As they explain in the blog post, the idea started in 2012 when Macgregor was in Iceland with a broken cable, and was unable to shoot on his F35:
Since he didn't want to come back home without quality footage of the wonderful Nordic landscapes he decided to use his Nikon D800 as a backup camera. But instead of shooting regular HD video with it, Miguel took advantage of the camera’s burst mode to take continuous still photographs with the idea of turning them into real time video.
He noticed that he could manage a constant 5 fps burst (in JPEG mode) up to 100 images (Nikon’s weird limit), which was far from the standard 24/25 fps of conventional video but definitely faster than any standard timelapse technique. Since he wanted to capture real time video the idea of interpolating in post the missing frames to achieve those 25fps was a bit crazy but an interesting challenge.
Here's the footage Macgregor shot in Iceland:
They then tested a number of different models in order to decide which was the best camera for the job, settling on the D800 and its 36MP sensor. While the video was ultimately finished at 4K, their process could have also made this into an 8K video, since the resolution of the D800 at 7360 x 4912 is very close to 8K UHD at 7680 × 4320.
By the end of the project, they had taken 50,000 photos using a custom intervalometer from Mslider to get around the Nikon image limit:
Since the whole project was shot in raw format, the processing and conversion of the stills had to be done before the editing could start. We used Lightroom for the raw conversion. It took more than two weeks to export the 36mpx color corrected raw material to 4K. And we are not counting the time we spent dialing the right settings in Lightroom. Two straight weeks where our main computer was just exporting image files, 24/7.
Once we had image sequences we imported those into After effects, where we performed tasks such as stabilization, perspective control and of course time remapping. This process took about two more weeks. We exported the clips on either uncompressed or cineform codec video files.
So if you're wondering what the true downside of this process is, it's converting all of these files in post, and then time remapping them. Spending weeks just converting files isn't time most people have, but the results are truly spectacular, and as computers get faster and faster and software is better able to take advantage of GPU power, this workflow would likely get faster — even if it is impractical for lots of folks.
Before you go crazy about how insane the workflow is, the guys definitely understand it's not made to be a consumer 8K RAW solution and it's not going to work for the vast majority of people. There are positives and negatives for how they accomplished the final result, but by shooting RAW stills, they were able to push and pull the image quite a bit in post. This sort of project also isn't going to be very friendly on the shutter of your camera, but again it's a specialized workflow for a specific purpose, and it's more a proof-of-concept for anyone else who might want to experiment with super high resolution video but doesn't have the budget for a RED.
The main takeaway for me is that if you want 8K RAW video for one reason or another (future-proofing or post manipulation), and the subject isn't moving too much, you can do it with technology that's available right now.
For more on their work, check out the website here.