In my previous post I wrote about 4K television sets. 4K is impressive, both on television and in digital cinema’s. But there is an even more impressive system: 8K.
At the IBC 2008 I first witnessed a demo of 8K, also known as Ultra-HD or Super Hi-Vision. Japanese broadcasting company NHK developed it and basically it’s a video system with a 7680 × 4320 resolution, 16 times bigger than HD. Every year they show a new demo at IBC and the technology is improving every time.
The experience I had with 4K television screens is almost the same with 8K digital cinema. It’s as sharp as reality. You’re watching a big screen and it’s like a real window to another place on the world. No make-believe, just a lot of pixels.
In 2008 the camera was a huge! Now it is more like a regular high-end studio camera. Not portable yet because everything needs to be 16 times bigger and more powerful. Some problems are bigger as well, like chromatic aberration. But it’s still in development so let’s wait and see.
There is another, more human issue. The camera will improve but the human eye will always have it’s limits. The 8K image is so sharp and holds so much detail, it’s hard to focus your eyes on one subject. The cameraman needs to guide the audience’s attention over the screen. With smooth, subtle camera movements and a very well controlled focus and depth of field.
8K might also be the death of lovely full screen close-ups because it shows every irregularity in the face. Not even perfect make-up can hide that. 8K digital cinema definitely needs a different kind of filmmaking. Maybe more IMAX-style.
Speaking of IMAX, they are also developing a digital IMAX 3D camera. Too bad it’s 3D. You don’t need stereoscopic 3D in 8K. That will only result in 16x more headache. Free paracetamol with every pair of 3D glasses might fix that.
Playing with the biggest toys
You think 5.1 (home cinema) or 7.1 (digital cinema) is impressive? Wait till you have experienced 22.1. Yes, you have 22 microphones on set to record and end up with 22 channels of audio to feed the 22 speakers in the cinema. Plus a subwoofer.
Why so many audio channels? Well, because sound doesn’t just come from left, right, the front or the back, it can also come from above or below and every angle in between.
Mixing this many channels is hell so NHK developed a Wii-like controller to place each channel in 3D space. Clever.
4K in you pocket
Let’s put all the technical stuff aside and dream. Many photo cameras can record HD video in an amazing quality. They actually skip lines of pixels to lower their resolution for HD video. Could an existing photo camera be altered to make it a 8K videocamera? You would need a 34 megapixel sensor, that is not an option yet. But 4K theoretically needs only a 10 megapixel sensor .. plenty of those!
In theory, because the bottle neck is the datarate. 4K is a huge data stream coming from the sensor. That needs to be moved around the camera, processed and stored and cameras of today are noway near of doing that. But what if you could ‘tap’ the sensor’s information to another box that does the processing and recording? A bit like a Nanoflash. Hmm … might be a nice revolution.