March 12, 2015

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might be lusting after the latest high-end gear to get 4K resolutions and beyond, it turns out your lowly Nikon D800 (superseded by the 810) is capable of seriously high-resolution RAW video — close to true 8K.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:

https://vimeo.com/120909442

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQQM5HFhVL4

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:

Here's more on the post-process, which was done in Adobe Lightroom for stills conversion (because it was faster), Adobe After Effects, and Sony Vegas (Cineform was used for the 4K video):

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    

Your Comment

21 Comments

Imagine what they could do with a 5DS and Magic Lantern...

March 12, 2015 at 6:08PM

3
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Yash Lucid
Filmmaker
81

You mean shoot with a much smaller resolution sensor and worse glass? Why would that be interesting???

March 12, 2015 at 7:22PM

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I believe the 5DS is 50mpx. Not sure how that's a smaller resolution sensor.

Also, there are plenty of adapters for EF AND Zeiss glass is available for EF. I don't see any validity to your argument.

March 12, 2015 at 7:45PM

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E. David Nazario
Filmmaker
181

Oh: a Nikon troll !

March 13, 2015 at 5:25PM

10
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LOL Are all Nikon users as dumb as you?

March 14, 2015 at 6:08PM

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Miggs
74

Their shooting resolution is 8K RAW, so any DSLR with a good dynamic range (like the Nikon D800) that can shoot 8K RAW images could produce these type of results.

March 12, 2015 at 8:27PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32868

When Red is talked about ARRI has to be brought up. When Nikon is talked about Canon has to be brought up. So the skip in the record continues.

March 14, 2015 at 11:50PM

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Gene Nemetz
live streaming
1026

"If the subjet isn´t moving too much" there´s something better than 8k you can take advantage of: Crazy Dynamic Range. Check this teaser and you´ll see what I mean https://vimeo.com/83898006

March 12, 2015 at 7:25PM

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Wow ! Very nice !

March 13, 2015 at 5:33PM

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The footage is beautiful, but this really isn't real-time filming. It's motion-controlled fast time-lapse footage, so you aren't going to see anything or anyone in motion. ( check out the surface of the pool in the one segment )

March 12, 2015 at 8:30PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32868

the pool does look weird

March 13, 2015 at 1:04PM

8
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Max Ciesynski
Gaffer
632

I remember doing a lot of these kind of test when magic lantern developed the RAW recording functionality. Since the card controller is slow in almost every camera, we experiment in recording low fps in order to squeeze resolution out the smaller DSLR. For example: T3i raw video test 6 (Resolution: 1536x656 ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS5tcnW5lY8
I shoot it at 12fps. Moving objects create ghost effects, but if you are shooting real state, land scape, architecture, or micro etc. it is good to go.

March 12, 2015 at 8:56PM

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Edgar More
All
1081

Yes not a totally new approach, here my interpolation video, like others online, to get 24 fps raw clips, almost full hd out of an old and cheap 550D https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-43irxBed4

March 13, 2015 at 4:39AM

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Nik
81

I feel like there is flickering on the edges of the tracking shots.

March 13, 2015 at 12:41AM

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Einar Gabbassoff
D&CD at Frame One Studio
1151

I noticed a bit too, but I was more weirded out by the strange Hitchcock zoom on the ice flow at 0:51

March 13, 2015 at 4:01AM

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Facundo Rodrigo Campos
Wearer of Multiple Hats
335

Not a totally new approach, here my interpolation video, like others online, to get 24 fps raw clips, almost full hd out of an old and cheap 550D https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-43irxBed4

March 13, 2015 at 4:36AM

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Nik
81

Really interesting method! The colors in the final video are gorgeous, as is the space itself.

8K is defo overkill, no matter who you are, but good on em for figuring this out. I love the tinkerers of the world.

March 13, 2015 at 9:18AM

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Taylor Russ
Director of Photography
675

Looks awesome! Imagine the number of actuations this guy has on his camera bodies! Too bad there's just an illusion of motion. Very cool for what they are using it for though.

March 13, 2015 at 3:24PM, Edited March 13, 3:24PM

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Beautiful color. Very pleasing image. If Nikon had a mind to, they could make a fantastic 4k video camera. They just need to take the engineering step from burst to video. It certainly could be done. I would probably use Nikon exclusively if they did because of its beautiful color and appealing image. In my mind only Red 6K and Arri can beat it, and Arri doesn't by much. And I am not pointing to tech specs when I say that. I am meaning just the appeal of the image---which to me, is more important than splitting hairs over specs, and deciding which camera to use exclusively by specs. Also, with the level they can do video at, i.e., 1080p, they continue to have the 29:59 (or less) limit on their cameras. I can't use them. :-(

I wish they would take up the task of making a video camera.

March 14, 2015 at 11:02PM

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Gene Nemetz
live streaming
1026

Their blog post mentions that they used an intervalometer to overcome the 100 shot limit but do not explain how they manage to shoot RAW at 5FPS for this number of shots. The buffer on the camera cannot sustain this when in RAW but is able to when shooting in JPG.

March 15, 2015 at 9:00AM

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These guys definitely gave me an itch to give this technique a try. It's no D800 but I managed to coax out some 4.5k 12bit RAW video out of a GH3 mounted on a cheap slider I have laying around. If you pay attention you can see some artifacting and stutter but in all honesty I was surprised it worked this well. It's crazy to see what the sensor on any given camera is actually capable of vs the video you get after it has been subsampled and smashed into a compressed codec. https://vimeo.com/122211023

March 16, 2015 at 12:12AM

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