The Tokyo Olympics was set to showcase 8K to the wider world. But despite its postponement, vendors are pushing ahead with UHD HDR announcements, writes Adrian Pennington.

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Homecoming: Amazon Prime drama shot in 8K

Source: Amazon Prime

2020 was supposed to be the year when 8K seeped into consumer consciousness as the new premium broadcast experience. But the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics has derailed the plans of TV display makers like Sharp who were looking to capitalise on the interest but has not stopped the launch of UHD-2 equipment.

In fact, 8K is gaining ground as an acquisition format for high-end TV series and films. Season 2 of Amazon Prime’s psychological drama Homecoming and season 4 of Netflix runaway hit Money Heist were shot at 8K and 7K respectively for a variety of creative reasons. Mank, a feature biopic of the co-writer of iconic film Citizen Kane from director David Fincher is also shot in 8K and in black and white. The Eddy, a Netflix musical drama from La La Land director Damien Chazelle shot most of its episodes with the Red Helium 8K sensor, cropped to mimic capture on S16mm.

Producers can’t sell productions delivered in less than 4K to Netflix and it stands to reason that Netflix will be among the first streamers to offer an 8K option. When it does, it will have a catalogue of 8K material in the bank.

At this moment, though, if you want to record 8K in cine-quality your main options are Red cameras or the Panavised version Millennium DXL. As good as they are, the filmmaking community is excited by the prospect of Canon’s EOS R5. Reckoned in some quarters to be as revolutionary a Canon product since the debut of the 5D Mark II over a decade ago, the EOS R5 promises to put 8K into the hands of the prosumer.

The R5 is a mirrorless full-frame sensor camera able to record 8K Raw at up to 30fps (in 4:2:2 10-bit C-Log and HDR PQ) and 4K at 120fps (ditto) to onboard CFexpress and SD cards. It can also output 4K at up to 60fps via HDMI.

As others have pointed out, on raw specs alone, the camera seems to outperform even high-end cinema gear like the Euro35,500 full-frame Sony Venice, which maxes out at 6K/30p and 4K/60p, both externally recorded.

What’s missing are details on price and release date but it will be welcomed by filmmakers whose only current option for cine-quality 8K recording is RED.

6K is the new 4K
While 8K is still exotic, there is a trend toward shooting at resolutions beyond 4K for high end documentary and cine work. The additional data again providing scope to post-manipulate the image but still deliver in UHD.

Among cameras offering this are the EOS C500 Mark II (5.9K); Sony’s PXW-FX9 XDCAM which boasts a 6K full-frame sensor plus colour science inherited from the Venice camera; Blackmagic Design’s 6K, S35-sized sensor version of its Pocket Cinema Camera which allows users to fit EF lenses without the need for a converter; and Panasonic’s Lumix S1H full-frame mirrorless camera.

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Blackmagic: Pocket Cinema Camera 6K edition

Blackmagic recently made the PCC more attractive by reducing its price, and by making the 6K and 4K versions compatible with live production with BMD’s latest ATEM Mini switchers.

Switcher control of up to four cameras and its parameters, lens and tally light via an HDMI connection enable a professional live studio workflow. It’s a package Blackmagic is angling at the current demand for multi camera live streaming from home broadcast studios.

Panasonic Lumix S1 users will soon be able to output 12-bit Raw video over HDMI via the Atomos Ninja V HDR monitor-recorder. The result is claimed to be the highest quality video images ever seen from a mirrorless camera.

The new firmware enables the output of full-frame 5.9K at rates up to 30fps, plus Super35 C4K (4128x2176 with a 17:9 aspect ratio) at rates up to 60fps. It can also record 3.5K anamorphic 4:3 at up to 50 frames. Both updates will be provided free.

HDR monitor-recorder

Atomos Ninja V

Atomos Ninja V: HDR monitor-recorder

Earlier last year Atomos had announced its first 8K product, an update to its Neon monitor-recorder enabling recording and playback of 8K ProRes Raw. Jeromy Young, Atomos CEO hailed the development saying, “The detail is incredible, with enough resolution to reframe for 4K and 6K and even enable virtual multi-camera angles from one shot.” While still in development, the product has yet to make its debut.

The Sony Venice is finding its feet as a serious cine-quality production tool with TNT series Snowpiercer and new Netflix drama Hollywood both shot using the camera. A recent firmware upgrade means it will not capture HFR at 6K 90fps and output HD ProRes 444 up to 30fps to SxS cards.

8K post production
Productions need the flexibility to work with and combine content spanning a range of resolutions as well as both HDR and SDR ranging from HD SDR to 8K HDR, and everything in between.

“There’s a misconception that 8K is vastly more expensive than it actually is,” says AJA director of product marketing, Bryce Button. “Generally, moving to 8K is an incremental cost, especially if you’re already working in 4K or have worked in stereo 3D. The biggest expense often comes with storage and moving large volumes of data, but the strides made by the industry to support 4K and S3D have provided a strong foundation to support the data needs that 8K workflows require.”

AJA offers I/O solutions like the KONA 5 to facilitate downconversion and monitoring of 8K content on 4K displays, whether for editing or other tasks.

Cinegy’s embrace of 8K goes back to IBC 2015 when it introduced the Daniel2 codec, capable of decoding 16K video at 280fps using a now obsolete Nvidia Quadro M6000.

Since then, in the words of Jan Weigner, co-founder and CTO, “we’ve been optimizing the hell out of it” and integrating the codec across its software product. As a logical follow-up to other recent releases, Cinegy Multiviewer 15 joins its Capture PRO and Air PRO in a collection of 8K supporting solutions.

‘SDI must die!’ has been Cinegy’s motto for ages it continues to believe in this. The new Multiviewer will support SDI but it prefers to promote options including NDI over IP and over the public internet using the SRT protocol.

Live 4K / 8K
With NHK’s showcase for 8K TV on hold until Summer 2021, BT Sport may find itself with the world’s first regular live broadcast of 8K UHD. It has announced it would launch an 8K service starting with the 2020/21 European football season. The date for that is still to be determined of course, but the English Premier League remains on track for its scheduled mid-July KO.

It’s probable that its 8K HDR coverage will use a handful of native 8K cameras while maintaining a regular multi-camera 4K HDR plan, perhaps upscaling some 4K positions. In live demos, the broadcaster has used Ikegami’s SHK-810 8K cams. These models employ a 33 million pixel Super 35 CMOS sensor with a PL lens mount and has the same operation routines as existing Ikegami HD and 4K broadcast camera systems. Production-related functions include lens aberration correction and 8K focus-assist.

For 4K, Ikegami has just launched the UHL-4 camera that carries the same 4K-native sensors as its UHK-430 and UHK-435 Unicame XE series. 4K signal outputs are via 12G-SDI with an optional 3G-SDI quad link. The camera also incorporates three 2/3-inch 8-megapixel CMOS sensors, each of which can capture 4K-native 3840x2160 resolution images, high sensitivity and high signal-to-noise ratio.

HDR is now ubiquitous in the broadcast studio and shoulder camcorder line-ups of the major broadcast camera brands. The aim now is to simplify workflows to ensure operators are as comfortable using HDR as they are with standard DR production.

Recently unshackled from Belden and with venture capital backing Grass Valley seems to have a new lease of life. It’s ‘virtual’ NAB line-up concentrates on upgrading its live production technology to full 4K IP workflows.

Marco Lopez, Grass Valley’s svp of live production, says “The demand for increased production bandwidth has created workarounds that in the past have ultimately slowed down and put limits on the workflow.”

The GV K-Frame XP “eliminates the need for compromise”. There’s no reduction in I/O count in 4K UHD, no reduction in M/Es, keyers or DPMS in 4K UHD, and no change in operator workflow in 4K UHD.

LiveTouch 1300 is also said to simplify 4K UHD requirements with “unique” dual redundant 50G SMPTE ST 2110 IP interfaces (NMOS IS-04 and IS-05) “that allow operators to use standard IT network connections to quickly identify and connect the system.” It is designed to facilitate 4K UHD over IP for remotely produced replays.

Grass Valley LDX_100 camera

High speed UHD: Grass Valley LDX 100 camera

The company also launched the LDX 100, a high speed, native UHD camera built specifically for IP workflows. It connects into the contribution network, eliminating the need for an external control unit.

HDR is now ubiquitous in the broadcast studio and shoulder camcorder line-ups of the major broadcast camera brands. The aim now is to simplify workflows to ensure operators are as comfortable using HDR as they are with standard DR production.

Recording 8K video requires lenses with an exceptionally advanced optical performance. Canon unveiled a pair of 8K zooms last November both equipped with 1.25-inch sensors: the UHD-DIGISUPER 51 box field zoom lens and the 7x10.7 KAS S portable version. Not to be outdone, Fujinon has announced a new box lens and a portable lens.

The 66x zoom of Fujinon’s HP66x15.2-ESM box lens is claimed as highest zoom magnification on any 8K lens to date with a focal length of 1000mm. Its released remains timed for this Olympic summer. The smaller Fujinon HP12x7.6ERD-S9 claims the world’s widest focal length for 8K at 7.6mm with deliveries due around September.

Both lenses can be used with the focus position demand unit (EPD-51A-D02/F03), released by Fujinon in March, to achieve precise focusing. The combination should simplify shooting 8K video, which demands an advanced level of focusing precision.

Sony had its 8K systems camera UHC-8300 on the market for over two years but would appear to have had few orders for it outside of Japan. It is, however, enhancing its range of cameras for live remote production for recording 4K 60p. Due in August, the SRG-XP1 (robotic point of view) and SRG-XB25 (box cam) offer wide-angle lens or optical zoom ideal with remote control and signal distribution over IP using NDI-compatible hardware or software. The SRG-XP1 POV camera can capture 100-degree wide horizontal viewing angles making it particularly useful for reality shows, and in e-sports.