Move over 4K, 8K is the way of the future. But the question remains, does it matter today? Should you start recording video in 8K? Let's talk about it.
Believe it or not, there will be a day when filmmakers and video professionals look back at 8K and laugh. Not because 8K was such a hot topic, but because we moved on to 16K or higher! Seriously, if you look back at how the news was handled by 4K cameras, you'd think that the video world would collapse under the weight of the increased pixels and file sizes.
Instead, we've all largely learned to use 4K as it has fundamentally changed the way video professionals and filmmakers create their footage, manage their workflows, and do post-production. Thanks in part to Canon for introducing a relatively affordable 8K mirrorless camera with the newly announced EOS 5R, we are facing a new 8K revolution.
So before you pull the trigger on the R5 or the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K or even just a Samsung S20 series, let's ask ourselves: does 8K really matter?
A look at 8K
As PremiumBeat writer Lewis McGregor points out in his article on how the industry may have hit the $ 3,000 camera threshold, the 4K digital camera revolution began back in 2012/2013 with the Canon EOS-1D C. That paved the way paved the way for high quality yet fairly affordable options like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, the Sony Alpha a7 III, and many more.
But 8K has long been the next frontier, if not necessarily for the reasons you might think. Compared to 4K, 8K is still new and nowhere near the norm – not just for the video industry, but for video itself too.
Although the first 8K televisions were introduced in 2019, 4K television has only recently found its base. The technology has been adopted by half of US households. According to an article in Forbes, most people can't tell the difference between 4K and 8K TVs at all.
However, in 2020 there will be several cameras available that can record 8K UHD (7680 × 4320) – this is literally the highest resolution defined in Rec. 2020 (UHDTV) standard. These cameras include the high-end RED Digital Cinema cameras, the new Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K, the Canon R5 and even several smartphones that can broadcast versions of 8K.
And while more and more businesses will undoubtedly hunt for 8K in the months and years to come, this will likely have less to do with recording video for 8K than more with recording for 4K.
The benefits of 8K
Unless you're using a high-end cinema camera to shoot movies for the largest screens, the best reason to shoot 8K today is likely to improve 4K video. And that's because by capturing 8K footage with the express goal of making a 4K video, you get a lot more information to work with.
While it's debatable whether these added pixels actually provide more clarity over 4K, they certainly offer more coverage options, recording flexibility, and more information for manipulating frames, stabilization, and effects in your edits.
The challenges of 8K
On the other hand, 8K also comes with a lot of challenges. Most of these challenges are related to the file size and processing power that you need for each part of your video production workflow.
These problems are similar to when the industry had to move from Full HD (as standard) to 4K. However, in terms of technology adoption rate, the move from 4K to 8K is much faster than previous transitions, meaning many who move to 8K are not immediately ready to handle these new file sizes.
Because of the enormous amount of information that must be processed in 8K video recording, many of these early 8K cameras have various problems and limitations.
These include issues with recording time (how long you can continuously record 8KB), storage space (how much your cards or SSDs can handle before filling up), and overheating (which has already been reported to be a problem) on the new EOS R5 which Canon is working hard to update).
In addition to the challenges of recording 8K, many turnkey videographers and editors will face new problems with their post-production workflows, starting with the early stages of uploading, archiving, and backing up footage.
In terms of file size and storage, 8K isn't double 4K, it's four times – which means very large files. Fortunately, many editors have already customized processes for working with large files using proxies and downsampling. If your end goal is to capture 8K video for 4K projects, then your editing schedules and exports shouldn't be overwhelmed for now.
8K for visual effects
The biggest benefits for 8K film and video professionals may come from the added bandwidth and flexibility for those interested in digital effects. More information is always better for movement, stabilization, color correction, and visual effects.
While video editors and graphic artists will encounter many of the same problems with larger file sizes as before, ideally they are already working with higher processing power.
For your everyday filmmakers and videographers dealing with motion graphics and visual effects, if you can get the most out of your current settings and workflows, you should be able to get much better ground effects out of your 8K footage when working with your 4K Videos.
Should you shoot 8K?
So the question is: should you shoot 8K?
In the end I have to say: yes! But only because this item will be around for a long time and you will ultimately have no choice but to accept 8K as this will become the new norm. Starting today, capturing 8K for your 4K videos is a good option, but only if you're ready and set up to do it.
There is nothing wrong with sitting and waiting as technology advances. After all, it took almost eight years between the first 4K mainstream cameras for resolution to finally peak in terms of performance and price.
8K will undoubtedly move faster, but you still have a few years to follow the trend and watch the technology evolve before you are forced to take the plunge and invest in 8K for your video production.
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Cover image by DeawSS.