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April 3, 2023

8KA Panel Explores Creating in a New Way with 8K at DEG Entech Fest

The DEG Entech Fest is a much anticipated chance for creatives and technologists to get together to discuss the evolution of entertainment technology and how it can enhance the experience of consumers.

Panel at the DEG Entech Fest
Mike Fidler (8KA), Jonathan Lee (Amazon Studios Technology), Greg Ciocci (IMAX) and Loren Simons (RED)

The 8K Association Executive Director, Mike Fidler, moderated a panel on 8K with the topic ‘8K – Creating a New Way’ at the event. After being introduced as a ‘long time friend of DEG’, he introduced the panel members.

  • Jonathon Lee  – Head, Media Engineering & Innovation – Amazon Studios Technology
  • Greg  Ciocci – Sr Director Post Production at IMAX
  • Loren Simons – Product Manager for RED Digital Cinema

The first to describe what is going on in 8K was Simons. His company, RED has been involved with 8K cameras for seven years and originally 8K was seen as the optimal capture medium, even with content being then delivered with high fidelity in 4K. There are real benefits in terms of over-sampling and in noise averaging, smoothness and color fidelity, he said. However, in the last couple of years the conversation has turned to 8K for delivery as well as capture. 8K viewing environments are now being developed. Further, those that adopted 8K early on have been able to go back to their masters and create content in ‘native 8K’, highlighting the ‘futureproofing’ that 8K capture can bring.

8K Helps with Smoothness

Loren said that it’s not just about the detail and resolution. Having more pixels really helps with smoothness.

“If you have a 4×4 grid and try to draw a circle, it’s always going to look like a square”.

Loren Simons – RED

Sharpness is fine for some content, but smoothness is also important for faces and other video. RED can stream direct from its cameras to the cloud in 8K RAW format and that can be viewed on an Nvidia GPU. Sports broadcasters and VR really like this flexibility. You can stream 8K120p video directly from a camera position using fiber, Simons explained. Once the content is in the GPU, “You can do anything”, he said. You can extract multiple 4K views for example from a single 8K stream.

8K Important for HMDs

8K is also important for head mounted displays. There are few viewing environments that are as critical as a display just an inch or two from your eyes. As the display panels get better and better as makers eliminate the ‘screen door effect’ with higher resolutions, you need more and more resolution in the source. You can stitch dual 8K feeds from two cameras to create stereo 360 degree viewing which is really exciting for live sports.

Echoing the point made by Florian Friedrich in a recent interview, Fidler pointed to the extra ‘headroom’ that is given to Directors of Photography (DPs) by 8K on the latest cameras. He also highlighted the use of an 8K camera for capturing the maximum level of detail at the recent SuperBowl.

Amazon Investing in Culver City

Lee then described what Amazon is doing in 8K at its Culver City Theater and Virtual Production stage. After taking over the site during Covid, Amazon has created the world’s first 8K post-production dub stage and the first 8K exhibition stage. Lee emphasized that 8K with HDR is a ‘new palette’ for the artists to work with and it allows the creation of ‘hyper-realism’. In some ways, Amazon is ‘ahead of the curve’ in terms of distribution, IMBs and ‘that crazy stuff’. Lee said that when his team saw 8K HDR content in a large format it was ‘mind-bending’.

He described the way that PQ works and highlighted that HDR has enough range to trigger responses in the eye and brain that make you think you are actually outside rather than in a theater. This is a new experience for viewers in a theater that’s ‘different from anything experienced before’. Now Amazon is exploring the creation of 8K content and is very excited about bringing this experience to the industry. It’s an ‘Extraordinary exhibition format’, Lee said.

Fidler added that he had been to the Culver City Theater recently as it is open to the public and he agreed that the viewing experience is ‘remarkable and kind of intense’ because of the realism that you don’t see in traditional theaters based on projection. That intensity of experience will drive a new wave of theater-going. The Theater includes four 4K LED HDR theater displays from Samsung and one 8K display.

IMAX Looking for High Quality

Culver City Theater Image:Costar

Ciocci said that IMAX has been concerned with high quality using up to 65mm film. High quality and highly immersive content is important to IMAX both in the theater and in the home. We’re really getting there with up to 13 stops of dynamic range and high color volume and wide color gamuts, with a push to get to Rec. 2020. He highlighted that ‘just because you have HDR, it doesn’t have to be bright all the time’. It’s about shadow detail, too. Just because you have 8K, he went on to say, all your images don’t have to be crystal sharp.

Telling Stories in the Shadows

Later in the discussion, Simons pointed out that ‘telling stories in the shadows’ is really important. In the early days of HDR, there were often bright images that really didn’t need to be. Correctly graded images can be really immersive.

The detail in 8K is part of the creator’s palette, Ciocci continued. If you want an older or softer look, you can use that, but having 8K as an option gives more range. TVs are getting bigger and your home experience is getting more immersive – the seats are not being moved further away from the display. You can get theater quality at home.

For a while now, home TVs have had better dynamic range and contrast than theaters, but with its new Culver City Theater, Lee said, with four 4K LED and one 8K LED display, Amazon can now bring the benefits of HDR.

Projection has limits, he continued. The screen is white so black is never really black and even if you have a 4K projector, the light reacts to the texture of the screen itself and is diffused, so you don’t get 1:1 pixel mapping of the content. Even if the focus is spot on, the image is still softened, That can be very beautiful, and has its own palette. But, he added,

“You have not lived until you have seen that 4K or 8K content that is that sharp. It’s stunningly beautiful.’

Jonathon Lee

Ciocci pointed out that he wasn’t at the event to promote LED over projection, of course, but he recognizes that the ability to switch from a film look to hyper-realistic detail could be a powerful artistic tool. He highlighted that in an IMAX presentation tools including format changes to suddenly expand the display were part of the experience.

Amazon Working on 8K Viewing

Lee said that Amazon has been working with RED and other camera companies to immediately view 8K camera files, the technology that Simons had previously described. RED has always been a RAW capture company and it allows a huge amount of re-processing later, even with content that was captured in 2009.

Fidler highlighted that all of the developments in color, dynamic range and resolution are about elevating the experience. It’s about providing creators more tools for storytelling and the best experience in the theater or the home.

Lee pointed out that one of the aims of Amazon in developing the new 8K theater format with HDR was to provide creators with an opportunity to deliver the same quality of content whether this was in a theater or via streaming at home.

While he knew there is not a lot of 8K content being delivered yet, Fidler said that there is a lot being captured. Ciocci asked the audience if they had more than 100Mbps of broadband at home and most did. If you have that level of connectivity, he asked why you wouldn’t use that to send 8K?  The ecosystem is arriving and the content is developing and ‘We’re not far away’ he declared. It’s important to master at the highest level and not at the limits of today’s displays.

Moore’s Law Will Solve Some Challenges

Lee said that Moore’s Law will solve some of the challenges of processing and storage and Simons said that compression is also improving. Simons also pointed out that the more you are exposed to really high quality, the more you can see and feel the difference.

In summary, Fidler pointed out the knowledge and enthusiasm being brought to the development of better experiences.

There was a question about frame rates and Ciocci highlighted that HDR tends to make judder more apparent, but having different frame rates was artistically important. IMAX and others are very sensitive to the issue of judder and are working on technologies such as motion grading to improve the look of content even more. Amazon is also looking at these issues in its 8K theater. RED is already shooting at 8K 120P in some of its cameras.

There was some discussion in questions about compression and Lee said that all streamers are aiming for visually lossless compression.

You can view the whole panel session on the 8K Association YouTube channel. Subscribe to keep up to date with the latest 8K developments.

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