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November 28, 2022

Is 8K Production Difficult? The Answer is NO!

The 4KHDR Summit recently took place in person in Malaga, Spain, and virtually. There were several sessions on 8K, and here we’re reporting on the talk by Takeshi Shibasaki. He is the Chief of 8K Programming and Distribution Center of NHK, the Japanese broadcaster. His speech was entitled ‘Is 8K Production Difficult? The Answer is NO!”. 

NHK undertook much (or most) of the early work to develop 8K after it decided to develop a TV technology that was as close as possible to the experience of looking at the real world. Because of that work, it has a lot of experience in using the format and creating content that exploits it, so we listened in to the talk.

Shibasaki-san introduced himself and explained that he has been producing science programs for 25 years, from the Arctic to the International Space Station and down to the deep ocean. He started working in 4K in 2015 and 8K in 2016, and for the last two years, he has worked exclusively in 8K. 

NHK has been broadcasting 8K for four years and has produced many programs with content from sports to music and drama, as well as history and science. However, 8K has not developed much outside NHK as content creators believe that 8K must be:

  • Difficult to shoot
  • Cannot be edited
  • No channel to broadcast
  • High in cost

Some of that was true initially. However, in the past two years, the 8K content production process has gotten much more accessible, especially in the last year, and now Shibasaki believes that it is ‘as simple as 2K or 4K production’.

Plenty of Good 8K Cameras 

First, there are now a good number of 8K cameras, although only the RED 8K Helium was available when he started. They are now available from multiple brands and in different formats. These range to smaller devices like the Sony Alpha 1 or the Fujifilm X-H2 at reasonable prices. Many 6K cameras can produce good content in 8K (which would need to be upscaled, of course).

Shibasaki showed content captured by skiing videographers and those who had to climb a mountain to photograph the ancient Yakusugi (Japanese Cedar) trees. The extra resolution of 8K really brings out the texture of the bark on these beautiful specimens. 

Compact cameras were also used in historic locations in Italy, where large cameras were not practical because of the number of tourists, but the image quality of 8K was desired. He showed a multi-camera 8K shoot that highlighted that the process was the same for 2K or 4K.

Editing is Now Straightforward

Several years ago, no equipment could directly edit 8K footage, so 2K proxies had to be created for editing. That added time and cost to the process. However, today, as he showed in the video editing suite where the webinar was sent from, just a simple Mac Pro notebook was being used for direct 8K editing. His demonstration showed that it was possible to edit using a variety of different RAW formats as well as H.265 content. The content was edited at 8K30P and can be quickly exported with a 30-minute 8K render taking just 30-60 minutes.

Set and player costs have dropped

8K set prices have also been decreasing, making the content available to more viewers. There are professional, dedicated players (such as the BlackMagic Design HyperDeck Extreme 8K), but you can play back 8K on a desktop or notebook gaming PC. The costs are the same as for 4K, Shibasaki said.

Mastering in 8K records the content at the highest quality so that it has a long lifetime – essential when recording important cultural activities, events, and nature. 

Dome Theaters & Planetariums Need 8K

A significant advantage of 8K shooting is that content can be used in IMAX and ‘Dome Theaters’, and there are 2700 of those worldwide. He gave the example of NHK’s program “The Wine Crafted in Yamanashi”. This was shown as “Wineries are full of Wonders” after being converted to the 4K x 4K dome Master format. As presented in a planetarium, the content has become part of education and entertainment.

Dome Theaters use 4096 x 4096 resolution masters, and 4K content does not have enough vertical resolution to allow them to be created, but 8K content does. 

Exhibitions & Events

A special exhibition about Pompei was presented in Japan for the whole of 2022. One of the items was a giant mural painting of Alexander the Great. The real picture could not be moved to Japan, so it was photographed at 20K resolution (19008 x 10688 – 203 megapixels!). It was projected at life-size with an 8K projector. The image size was 6m x 3m (19′ 8″ x 9’10”) and has been highly regarded by those that have seen it. 

8K has also been used to create 3D images of cultural heritage objects using 3D scanning and photogrammetry. High-resolution images are used to create a texture for the object. Combining these datasets, a highly accurate 3D model can be seen, which can be rotated and controlled using a game controller. A model of the ‘Goggle-eyed Dogu’ (a traditional Japanese figure) has been displayed in the Tokyo National Museum using an 8K display to show the highest possible quality. 

In Conclusion

In conclusion, Shibasaki-san reiterated that 8K content creation is now no more complicated than 2K or 4K and can be used in many ways. NHK is happy to work with other international broadcasters and production companies and make new 8K programs together. 

In questions, he said that the arrival of the Mac Pro had truly changed things for editing and production, and the end of the pandemic has allowed travel to enable new content creation. Theaters have better and better displays and need more and more high-quality content. He also admitted that there is only one 8K broadcast channel (NHK’s own) but highlighted that many viewers with 8K TVs like to watch 8K content on YouTube.

Video Summary: Is 8K Production Difficult? The Answer is NO!
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