Just after we found out that RED's 6K WEAPON MG cameras started shipping, we're getting some of the first public 8K footage from their new Full-Frame 35mm/Vista Vision camera — courtesy of Michael Cioni of Light Iron.
Though footage was shown at Cine Gear on an 8K screen in June, it was mostly wide aerial shots. While these aerial shots were impressive, there wasn't enough variation to really make much of a judgment. Now we have a full video with closeups that gives us a greater sense of what images shot with this camera will look like. Everything was shot in 8K except for a few of the secondary angles in the interview. Panavision's new 70mm Primo lenses were used on the shoot, as they can cover up to medium format/65mm sensors like the ALEXA 65.
If you've got a 4K or 5K screen (or certainly anything above 1080) be sure to head on over to Vimeo to download the original 4K UHD file, which retains quite a bit of quality from the original 4K master:
This is the camera exercise I did with the help of my friend, Erin Gales. Everything was shot Weapon 8K at 1280ISO except for a 2nd camera angle during interviews, which was a Dragon 6K. Special thanks to Phil Newman, Megan Swanson, and Keenan Mock for their help on set.
The first thing that everyone says when 8K is mentioned is why? Why is a good question, and there are lots of good answers. The camera is being used on the new Guardians film, and the director James Gunn explained his decision about choosing the 8K WEAPON here.
As for Michael Cioni, he spends a whole page talking about why this camera and sensor exist, and why we're going to see more high-resolution sensors in the coming years. Here's a little snippet:
So as I said at the beginning;
“There are already a number of people chatting about how unnecessary 8K is and that the ‘race for resolution’ is a pointless contest.”
What I encourage everyone to consider is that 8K is not the new 4K. Instead, 8K is about to open up an entirely new era of cameras which I now call "The Super Sensors.” Super Sensors are camera systems like Alexa65 or Weapn 8K that are capturing with so much resolution that (like a DSLR) they are able to create a new level of smoothness that makes things look more like a photograph and less like a digital representation of film. Ansel Adams shot large format and no one has ever said, “His images look too sharp!” On the contrary, Adams’ images look smoother, cleaner, and multi-dimensional because they were super samples. These are the creative words I think people will begin to use when describing what they see while shooting Weapon 8K.
As we've said a million times here on the site, single sensor cameras have a Bayer pattern (colored filter) covering the monochrome pixels. Essentially, each individual pixel corresponds either to red, green, or blue, which means that a RAW image looks like nonsense — colors must be interpolated from surrounding pixels. As we get to higher resolution sensors, it's not just about the resolution you're shooting at, it's about the detail you are resolving — which is actual resolution. This is part of the reason why we keep getting higher resolution DSLRs, and why medium format cameras still dominate higher-end photography. More resolution, in the right circumstance, can give you many more options later on.
People always talk about film having no resolution, and while that's true, there is a limit to the amount of detail that can be resolved. The same is true for digital sensors, and if you're shooting at 8K, you can't ever resolve 8,000 lines or so. That's because Debayering, the process of interpolating surrounding pixels, is a lossy process, and you'll end up resolving a maximum of maybe 70-80% of the original resolution. That's in a perfect world. In reality, temporal resolution (the resolution over time), plays a big role, as does the lenses you are using. Shoot a fast-moving object with bad lenses or with heavy filtration, and you're no longer resolving anywhere near what you started with.
Does that mean we shouldn't even bother with higher resolution cameras? No, it doesn't! Just because we may not be maximizing resolved detail in every shot, doesn't mean there aren't other artifacts at play with regards to resolution. If you want to finish at 4K, it can be hugely beneficial to start well above 4K. If you want to reframe, or VFX work needs more resolution for one reason or another, shooting only at 4K means you're going to finish below 4K — and that likely means upscaling if you wanted a 4K finish. Upscaling can look good depending on what's being done, but it's usually a compromise to create pixels that were never really there in the first place.
The other huge benefit to shooting higher than 4K for a 4K finish is downscaling. Cioni explains here:
Avoiding the upscale is a major part of the equation, but the next critical step in superior images is ensuring we have more pixels than we actually need. When the RED ONE hit the market in 2007, the images were so fantastic because even at bayer-pattern 4K, they were super-samples of 2K and performed wonderfully in HD. Now that OTT UHD is becoming the new normal, we need to apply that same logic to today’s content which is where the introduction of Weapon 8K becomes a powerful tool. Don’t just use resolution as a pixel meter for bragging rights, rather use it as a Swiss Army knife multi-tool that can be leveraged in a number of creatively constructive ways.
The footage that was shown at Cine Gear looked good, as does the footage above. It should, especially when you're using such fantastic lenses and you're shooting at the right time of day or under the right light. For the vast majority, 8K will likely be overkill for a while, but if you're finishing at 4K, there are lots of resolutions in between 4K and 8K that can help give you a smoother image, with less noise, and let you play around with the frame in post. It's also worth noting, that you'll be able to get 4K ProRes files from the 8K RAW image with the WEAPON 8K. So if you want the frame size and depth of field, but don't need all that RAW data, you can start with a 4K file right out of the box.
Productions are free to make whatever decisions work for them, but oversampling (when done correctly), will usually lead to a better and cleaner image.
Panavision WEAPON Module
Though this has been relegated to the bottom of the post, it's nearly as important (or more important depending on who you're talking to). Panavision is working on a module for the RED DSMC2 bodies. Here's what it has:
- D-tap on top powered from either input
- audio in & out
- 5v USB
- 00 Lemo Control connector
- 5 pin Timecode in with Genlock
- 3 - HDSDI outputs
- 3 - 12v outputs
- 2 - 24v outputs
- hot swap between studio power and Anton Bauer gold mount
- built and 3D printed out of carbon polymer
- total weight of 8K Weapon camera & module is 5.4lbs
Be sure to read Cioni's entire post here, as there are a lot more interesting details about 8K, and where resolution is heading.