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August 14, 2022

Is 8K’s time here? Production company Paramax says yes

Paramax Film is a film production company founded by Amos Rozenberg in 1999, with the first concert filmed in 2005 in SD resolution. Paramax upgraded to HD production in 2008 and 4K in 2014. In 2017 Paramax started shooting in 8K.

Concert films

I asked Amos why Paramax has a focus on concert films.

When he started filming concerts it was mainly just a “functional” technique. The audio was the production focus, with images added as an afterthought. But he saw the potential for making the images into art too. It doesn’t hurt that he also has a passion for music.

Paramax has produced documentaries and short movies in 4K, but since 2018 almost everything has been shot in 8K. As an early adopter, Paramax even set up a Q&A of 8K filming on their website several years ago. You can see it here.

Up the resolution ladder

So I probed as to why Paramax invested in higher resolution even when it was still on the bleeding edge. Amos responded, “We need to leave a mark of today’s music for future generations. For that, it must be of the best quality possible. 8K will one day be like today’s HD.”

He went on, “In 2008, we filmed eight bands in eight different Jazz clubs in New York. The double-Blu-ray used HD resolution, with 5.1 DTS sound, and was the absolute best possible back then. If we had filmed in SD, which was the standard at the time, that 14-yr old content would already be considered an archive. I believe I can still exploit it commercially for another few years”.

Future-proofing content

Paramax has always filmed in RAW format (bizarrely, RAW isn’t an acronym; people just tend to use upper case). This has enabled the company to return to older rushes and extract HDR. They are doing this with their 4K back-catalog of about 100 concerts in 4K.

Storing in “RED-RAW” is the way to go for this. Amos told me many people use plain ProRes 4:2:2, which preserves less data. RAW formats are another way to future-proof content. Paramax started using REC.2020 as soon as possible (circa 2015).

When I asked Amos about 8K filming, he told me about the Chick Corea concert filmed a few years ago. He’s proud to have preserved something of that musical genius for eternity. You can see an extract (unfortunately in SDR) here. Other 8K concerts include a total of over 10 finished hours.

Is 8K production still reserved for high-end production?

Amos said that it still is, but in line with our article on the democratization of 8K production (here), Paramax is currently experimenting with the Nikon Z9 to create extra angles, perhaps for backstage or other places where a small form factor is required in concert film production. You can see a snippet here from a Z9. We’ll keep you up to date once their testing is complete and they see if and how these images can be mixed and matched with the usual high-end RED equipment.

Feature films in 8K

I then asked Amos about the movie Music Hole, currently in French cinemas and to be released on VoD (4K HDR) soon. Paramax was the executive producer of this zany Belgian comedy, the company’s first full-length feature film. I saw the movie and loved it. It’s hilarious, dark, and very Belgian (there’s a review in English here). The script writing started in 2016, and the movie was scheduled for theatrical release in 2020, but Covid said otherwise. Those two years were used to finalize postproduction. The first ticket figures are encouraging. OK, so where does 8K fit into the whole concept?

A scene from Music Hole

As discussed above, the film was shot in 8K to have the best possible quality and make the movie future-proof. During editing, proxy files had to be used, but the color grading and VFX were done in 8K. Amos is thankful that there weren’t too many VFX because this is still very expensive in 8K. The DCP version sent to movie theatres was in 4K, even though some cinemas are still limited to 2K. None of the cinemas in Music Hole’s distribution are yet equipped with HDR.

Paramax is ready to create a new master copy in 8K as soon as there is somewhere to show the movie in its full 8K glory. Of course, no cropping or other image manipulation was done to preserve this 8K output potential.

Cooke S7 lenses were used on set to enable full-frame in the RED Monstro cameras. This setup was new then. Using full-frame sensors has advantages for 8K over more traditional S35. However, it becomes harder to maintain focus when using full frame. Shooting, therefore, requires much more prep, for example, for floor markings to follow focus during an action shot.

A scene from the making of the Music Hole

During postproduction, Amos told me the team saw some 8K output on Sony TVs that were available at Prestafilms in the south of France. Paramax also worked with SwissKiss, Loedens, and Mas Prod for the 8K postproduction.

“Who knows what use will be made of our content in the future? If something new, like some sort of VR, finally takes off, maybe they’ll want to remaster old content starting at 8K… But in the meantime, working in 8K has enabled us to produce the best 4K and even 2K possible. I believe an 8K version of Music Hole will make sense soon. We are now exploring several opportunities with TV makers and some networks.”

Artistic intent

I pressed Amos on what it’s like to create 8K content from an artistic perspective with the film director and camera people. He told me that achieving the best quality available with the best sensors makes everything more flexible to express artistic intent. However, for now, 8K is just more pixels than 4K providing more detail. Because the movie has to work in 4K and 2K, we can’t yet take advantage of new ways of framing that would depend on 8K being present all the way to the screen. He added that the newer Cooke S8 lenses are no longer full frame, having moved back to an S35 format. This illustrates the trend to recreate an analog look & feel. From a resolution perspective, 8K’s extra pixels represent a more powerful tool to do whatever our artistic inclination is. Being able to do more with pixels lets us do less through artistic choice or technical distribution limitations.

Music Hole is coming to VoD platforms, but will it be in 8K?

Paramax will release the movie on VoD platforms starting October 6th with HDR and at least 4K resolution. Amos insists that audio is critical to the success of UHD and 8K, and they are working on an Atmos version with the streaming platform Eluvio. As a fallback, a 7.1 version is already available. If one of the precursor 8K platforms is ready, an 8K version could be mastered in time. At the 8K Monitor, we’d love to see the 8K movie from anywhere, so if you can make this happen, there’s a contact form on the producer’s website here.

Wrap

The 8K ecosystem is made up of pioneers and is still growing. We all know that content will be the final enabler. As a genre, concert films show potential for artistic intent to be expressed through 8K’s unique characteristics. Especially after the recent negative press after disappointing 8K TV sales, I was truly energized to meet another true co-believer like Amos. I’m looking forward to watching Music Hole again, this time in 8K HDR.

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