3 Benefits of 8K That Have Nothing to Do with Image Dimensions

Subtle differences revealed by the higher resolution sensor
Resolution is only 1/3 of the eqationCredit: DXL
Maybe large format matters, after all.

Whether or not 8K matters has been a hot topic since its emergence. During Camerimage 2017 in Poland, Michael Cioni (SVP of Innovation at Panavision & Light Iron), Dan Sasaki (VP of Optical Engineering, Panavision), and Ian Vertovec (Senior DI Colorist, Light Iron) discussed the benefits of shooting in large format (greater than 4K) video.

In their argument, they lay out three components of image quality using a triangle model where resolution is but one-third of the entire picture. They claim that, while resolution is certainly important, pixel density also provides for greater perspective and magnification—all of which help filmmakers tell their stories with more control and flexibility over the look of the final image. You can watch the entire, hour-long conversation here or read out three key takeaways below. 

Resolution is Not Sharpness as Illustrated by Dan Sasaki
Credit: DXL

1. Resolution is not sharpness

Dan Sasaki asserts that, while we often use these terms interchangeably, they are in fact not the same. The reason that we think they are is due to the marketing efforts of camera manufacturers and what he says is, "poor education". Contrary to the way many of us speak about images, Sasaki argues that higher resolution images actually look smoother or softer, not sharper, than lower resolution images. One of the reasons for that is that there are more pixels available to form curves smoothly. He goes on to demonstrate in the slide shown above that, when viewed at a distance, people will mistake an image shot with a lower resolution camera as being actually sharper because of this. 

So if higher resolution doesn't look sharper, what does it do? Sasaki makes the argument that because higher resolution sensors are able to resolve curved lines more smoothly, these sensors are able to lend dimensionality to the images they record that is greater and more lifelike than on less resolved sensors. This helps to fool our brains more into believing that the images we're seeing on screen more closely represent the subjects they portray. Furthermore, he makes the argument that because these qualities are "baked in" to the image, these enhancements are proportionately observable (compared to the same image shot with a less resolved sensor) whether they are displayed at native resolution or down-sampled to 4K, 2K, or HD. 

Vernier Acuity Diagram
A diagram illustrating Vernier acuity and making the case for human vision that exceeds 1 arcminute. Credit: DXL

2. Humans can see more than 4K

While it's been argued that the acuity of the human eye cannot detect smaller than one arc minute, Dan Sasaki argues that our brains give us hyperacuity that allows our brains to extrapolate visual information from extremely small bits of visual information (less than the diameter of a single rod or cone in our eyes). He suggests that we have three types of hyperacuity: Curvature Detection, Sharpness, and Stereo Acuity. This hyperacuity is used to help us detect things like curvature and the sharpness and smoothness of edges, which greatly helps us see and interpret images (like facial shape for example). By packing all of this sub-pixel information into the image, he argues that we are providing the viewer with much more information from which to render the images in their brains and this provides a sense of greater depth and more realism. 

More Pixels Provide More Color Information
More Pixels Provide More Color InformationCredit: DXL

3. More pixels render better colors

In the same way that higher pixel density allows curved lines to look smoother and allows images to exhibit more depth, more pixels also help our eyes determine subtle color and gradient shifts. This translates into more lifelike and realistic coloring.

As shown in the image above, the hue changes accentuate the fact that the leaf has dimensionality front-to-back and top-to-bottom. As Sasaki argues throughout the panel discussion, it is not necessary to view high-resolution images on high-resolution screens in order for our eyes and brains to be able to benefit from the increased information captured by the higher resolution sensor.     

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Your Comment


Seems like I can trust this or the Yedlin Demo, I trust the Yedlin Demo.

February 7, 2018 at 8:47AM

Indie Guy

By far.

February 7, 2018 at 4:44PM, Edited February 7, 4:44PM

Gleb Volkov
Director of Photography

Yep, I agree. Though I think Yedlin’s demo only contradicts “key takeaway” number 2 — the one which is total speculation without proof.

February 7, 2018 at 11:54PM, Edited February 7, 11:54PM

Jamie LeJeune
Director of Photography

Geezz here we go again....All I heard was bla bla bla Let me give you the flip side of all this technical horsesh*t. There are many out there writing good engaging stories that capture the heart and imagination .... then they shoot them on DSLR's and iPhones. At the end of the day the audience is happy, the production made money and life goes on. Don't let yourself get caught up in the technical noise that literally only 1% care about.

February 7, 2018 at 9:25AM, Edited February 7, 9:25AM


Valuing 8k is one thing, but not valuing the technical aspect of filmmaking is another. Yes there are stories that you could shoot with an iphone and they will still be good, but there tons and tons of stories that need technical proficiency to pull off.

At the end of the day, the differentiator of the medium is the camera. You can always do theater or write a novel story is the end all be all over the image.

February 7, 2018 at 10:08AM

Indie Guy

Guess what, not every article needs to be about how story is the most important part of film production. This kind of resolution based information is useful for a lot of reasons, and I would say is more useful for industry professionals than another article wanking on about how you can tell a story with a cellphone.

February 7, 2018 at 6:12PM

Sean Loftin

That leaf comparison shot is terrible!!! The one on the left is completely out of focus, which throws the whole comparison for the purposes of "dimensionality" (yeah, my browser's spell check doesn't believe that's a real word either) out the window. Terrible and makes me doubt the honesty of the whole thing.

February 7, 2018 at 10:25AM, Edited February 7, 10:29AM


I was going to say the same thing.

February 7, 2018 at 1:57PM, Edited February 7, 1:57PM

Senior Producer / Graphic Design Artist

This leaf shot is actually most likely showing 100% zoom crop at 4K vs 8K sampled down to fit the same crop, showing the difference in detail obtained between the two resolutions.

February 7, 2018 at 4:10PM

Anthony Berenato Jr.
Director / Cinematographer

Not sure about all the technical stuff, but one thing I do love about higher resolution is just that you can crop in, in post. This is super useful. 2K finish, I love having a 4K negative as I regularly push in or re-frame a bit. I rarely do 4K finishes, but if I did it would be nice to have an 8K negative (or at least a 6K) for the same reasons. The Look Around mode in Red or Alexa (adds a 0.5K around the crop marks) is so useful just because you can go wider in post. Nobody is finishing in 8K. It's meant for flexibility in post.

February 7, 2018 at 4:19PM

Gene Sung
DP / Director

For Image Editing I mainly use Portable Adobe Photoshop... Can I download it from here http://www.fileihippo.com/adobe-photoshop-portable-free-download/

February 8, 2018 at 11:10AM

Syeda Rehana

Now that Arri finally has a 4k camera, the elites can now safely sanction the resolutions the rest of us plebes have been working with for years.

February 9, 2018 at 12:14PM, Edited February 9, 12:18PM