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January 10, 2023

8K Multi-camera Shooting is Getting Easier

We previously reported on a talk at the 4KHDR Summit in Malaga, Spain, by Takeshi Shibasaki entitled “Is 8K Production Difficult? The Answer is NO”. He is the Chief of 8K Programming and Distribution Center of NHK, the Japanese broadcaster specializing in nature programs. During the talk, he briefly mentioned a project that his group had undertaken in Japan using multiple 8K cameras. That intrigued us as that is relatively novel and has real challenges, so we contacted him and interviewed him to find out more.

A Big Change

The significant change, Shibasaki-san said, has been that the 8K cameras, which had previously been very heavy and bulky, have now become very portable. His group wanted to make a feature about coastline marine life and how children looked at what was in the sea, so they used five cameras to do the shoot. 

The project was to capture children looking for marine life on the coast

A particular breakthrough was the release of the Nikon Z9, which can capture high-quality 8K video. The shoot used three of those cameras and two Sony Alpha 1 mirrorless systems with underwater housings. So, in professional TV, all five cameras could be described as very compact.

These are the cameras with 8K support, NHK said at the Summit

Shibaski-san said that the shooting of the video was relatively straightforward. Each camera recorded its own video content and audio; the main challenge was the focus. It was tough in the conditions to reach broadcast quality focus – the Atomos and SmallHD monitors used are, of course, not 8K, and the budget for the shoot did not allow any focus pullers. The result was that the shoot had to rely on autofocus. He told us that the quality was variable and different between the cameras. 

Gimbals and on-camera monitors were used.

It turns out that the audio was the most difficult challenge. The audio facilities of the Z9 are ‘not so good’ from a professional point of view. The shooters used Rode audio systems to send the audio from each boom microphone to the cameras. At the time, there wasn’t a good way to synchronize the timecode of the cameras, but Shibasaki-san told us that a Bluetooth time code matching system has now been released for the Nikon Z9, and that would have made post-production much simpler. 

Nikon N-Raw Format is Useful

The Nikon video was stored in Nikon N-Raw format, which he likes a lot as it allows for various grading options and adjustments. In particular, he told us, it is very good at dealing with dark rooms. 

DaVinci Resolve supports 8K in N-Raw format, now the preferred editing environment for Shibasaki-san’s group. A couple of years ago, finding editors with Resolve experience in Japan was hard. Still, its ease of use and low-cost availability has encouraged more editors to embrace it.

Usually, on a shoot, the group would use an Apple Mac and a 5K 27” to review captured content on location, but the limited time on this project did not allow it, and a small RED field monitor was used for quick looks. 

Regarding editing, 4K proxies were made using the H.265 codec, so the files were very small (in 8K RAW terms!), and it was easy to use a ‘very low-cost’ MacBook Pro or Mac Studio to edit. The editing was sometimes done in the dedicated 8K editing suite that NHK has, but it was sometimes done elsewhere in the facility. Typically, just one editor was involved.

Shibasaki-san and the 8K editing suite (capture from 4K HDR Summit)

Storage

In terms of storage, the group used Sandisk Xtreme Pro technology for backups. The editing suite has an SSD-based RAID storage system using technology from Areca Systems that typically handles content storage and editing. The group is also planning on being able to edit 8K RAW directly and is working with a Japanese specialist to develop a ‘server-type’ 20 x 20 TB HDD system for this purpose. 

Lots of 8K Projects

Shibasake-san’s group is involved in a lot of projects. Live 8K nature productions looking at fossils are happening in Egypt and Argentina. The group almost always shoots in native 8K, which is helped by the increasing range of cameras that can capture content. Occasionally, for example, if very high frame rates are needed beyond the 120fps that is currently available, a 2K or 4K camera may be used and up-scaled. 

8K Helps Japan Value its Culture

Japan is very proud of its traditional culture and artisans, and NHK likes to record them in as high quality as possible to capture lots of detail. There are many ‘national treasures’ to record. 

In the past, it could be more challenging to show the 8K content, but recently the group made a documentary about the Ishikari river, the longest river in Hokkaido, Japan, and flows through eight different cities on the island. The documentary was stored on a USB stick and attached to a TV from Sharp or LG (Samsung does not sell TVs in Japan). That makes it simple to give access to high-quality content to civic authorities in each of the towns along the river. A special promotion was also organized to move a TV to each city for a month at a time.

USB facilities integrated into SmartTVs makes it easy to distribute and display content, now

The Takeaway

The takeaway? The combination of low-cost, portable 8K mirrorless cameras, ordinary PCs, and editing/grading software makes 8K capture and finishing available to a much wider audience of content creators.

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