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Exploring 8K: Does It Matter? Yes. Should You Embrace It? Maybe.

Jourdan Aldredge

Move over 4K, 8K is the way of the future. But the question remains, does it matter today? Should you start shooting videos in 8K? Let’s talk about that.

Believe it or not, there will come a day when filmmakers and video professionals look back at 8K and laugh. Not because 8K was such a hot topic, but because we’ll have moved on to 16K or higher! Seriously, if you look back at how the news of 4K cameras was handled, you’d think the video world was about to collapse under the weight of the increased pixels and file sizes.

Instead, we’ve all largely learned to embrace 4K, as it has truly been a game-changer in how video professionals and filmmakers frame their shots, manage their workflows, and handle post-production. Now, thanks in part to Canon for introducing a relatively affordable 8K mirrorless camera with the newly announced EOS 5R, we’re looking down the barrel of a new 8K revolution.

So, before you pull the trigger on the R5, or perhaps the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K, or even just a Samsung S20 Series, let’s ask ourselves: Does 8K actually matter?

A Look at 8K

4K vs. 8K

People have a hard time differentiating between 4K and 8K televisions. Image via Proxima Studio.

As PremiumBeat writer Lewis McGregor points out in his article on how the industry may have reached its threshold for sub-$3,000 cameras, the 4K digital camera revolution began with the Canon EOS-1D C back in 2012/2013. This paved the way  for high-quality, yet quite affordable options like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, the Sony Alpha a7 III, and many more.

But 8K has long been the next frontier, albeit not necessarily for the reasons you may think. Compared to 4K, 8K is still new and not nearly the norm — not just for the video industry, but also for video itself.

Even though the first 8K televisions were unveiled in 2019, 4K television is only recently starting to find its footing — sort of. The technology has been adopted by half the households in the US, and according to an article in Forbes, most people can’t tell the difference between 4K and 8K televisions in the first place.

Yet, in 2020, we have several cameras available that can shoot 8K UHD (7680 × 4320) — which is literally the highest resolution defined in Rec. 2020 (UHDTV) standard. These cameras include the high-end RED Digital Cinema Cameras, the new Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K, the Canon R5, and even several smartphones that can push versions of 8K.

And, while more and more companies are undoubtedly going to start chasing 8K in the months and years ahead, it will likely have less to do with recording video for 8K and more to do with shooting for 4K.

The Upsides of 8K

TV Comparisons

The upside of shooting 8K footage expressly to create a 4K video is that you’re getting more information to work with. Image via REDPIXEL.PL.

Arguably, unless you’re using a high-end cinema camera to shoot feature films for the biggest of screens, the best reason to shoot 8K today is to improve 4K videos. And that’s because shooting 8K footage with the expressed purpose of creating a 4K video gives you a lot more information to work with.

While it’s debatable if these added pixels actually add clarity over 4K, they do certainly add more coverage options, shooting flexibility, and more information for working on framing, stabilization, and effects in your edits.

The Challenges of 8K

8K Challenges

Many in the industry won’t be able to handle the new file sizes when transitioning from 4K to 8K. Image via gnepphoto.

On the other hand, 8K comes with plenty of challenges, as well. The majority of these challenges have to do with file sizes and the amount of processing power you’ll need at every part of your video production workflow.

These issues are all similar to when the industry had to adapt from Full HD (as the standard go-to) to 4K. However, in terms of technology adoption rate, the 4K-to-8K move is happening way faster than previous transitions, which means many going to 8K aren’t going to be ready to handle these new file sizes right off the bat.

Because of the sheer amount of information that needs to be processed with 8K video recording, many of these early 8K cameras are going to have several issues and limitations.

These will — and do — include issues with recording time (just how long you can continuously record 8K), recording space (how much can your cards or SSDs handle before filling up), and overheating (which has actually already been a reported problem with the new EOS R5, which Canon is working hard to update).

Along with challenges in recording 8K, many turnkey videographers and editors will experience new issues with their post-production workflows, starting from the first stages of uploading, archiving, and backing up footage.

In terms of file sizes and storage, 8K is not double 4K, it’s four times — which means very large files. Luckily, many editors have already adapted processes for working with large file sizes with proxies and downsampling. Again, if your end goal is shooting 8K videos for 4K projects, your editing timelines and exports shouldn’t be overtaxed too much — for now.

8K for Visual Effects

Digital Effects

One of the advantages for 8K film professionals comes from the extra bandwidth and flexibility in digital effects. Image via DC Studio.

The biggest advantages for 8K film and video professionals are perhaps going to come from the extra bandwidth and flexibility for those interested in digital effects. More information is always better for motion, stabilization, color grading, and visual effects.

However, while video editors and motion graphic artists are going to encounter many of the same issues with increased file sizes as before, ideally, they’ve already been operating with increased processing power.

For your everyday filmmakers and videographers that dabble in motion graphics and visual effects, if you can push your current setups and workflows to their max, you should be able to get much better basic effects out of your 8K footage as you work with it to create your 4K videos.

Should You Shoot 8K?

Canon EOS R5

The 8K-capable Canon EOS R5. Image via Canon.

So, the question is this: Should you shoot 8K?

I’m going to have to ultimately say: Yes! But only because this article is going to be up for a long time and, eventually, you’ll have no choice but to embrace 8K as it becomes the new norm. As of today, shooting 8K for your 4K videos is a suitable option, but only if you’re ready and set up to handle it.

There’s nothing wrong with sitting and waiting as the technology continues to advance. After all, it took almost eight years between the first mainstream 4K cameras and when the resolution finally reached its peak in terms of performance and price.

Undoubtedly, 8K will move quicker, but you still have several years to follow the trend and watch the technology evolve before you’re forced to make the jump and invest in 8K for your video production.

For more tech news and video production advice, check out these articles below.

Cover image by DeawSS.