The Cheapest Package to Shoot 8K Video (Hint: It's Not Cheap)

The Cheapest Package to Shoot 8K Video (Hint: It's Not Cheap)

Sharp has released an 8K television. It should wonderfully compliment their 8K ENG camcorder. Now that 4K is so 2017, why don’t we look at how much an upgrade will cost?

The tech needed to shoot 4K has been in the works for about 15 years, but only getting mainstream now. Dalsa was renting the first 4K camera for $3,000 a day in 2006, while our smartphones can shoot 4K today. So on the crest of the Ultra HD wave, let’s all jump into the future.

8K is coming sooner than you’d think. NHK, Japan’s public service broadcaster, was begun supporting it. This is why Sharp’s $77,000 8K camera and their new 70-inch 8K television (poised for a $9,000 price tag) are so important. It was just two years ago that Sharp debuted the first 8K TV for $133,000. That’s a 93 percent discount! Sure, it’s still expensive, but so was 4K back in the day. Bear in mind that the updated Sharp TV also supports Dolby Vision HDR.

Sharp's new 8K TV, and the camera that will power it.

The infrastructure is getting better and better, and I’m not even taking computer monitors into account here. When Sharp had their first 8K TV back in 2015, you needed to use four HDMI 2.0 ports to feed video into it. In November of last year we saw HDMI 2.1’s release, which will allow for up to 10K video to be passed through at a rate of 48 Gbps (instead of 18 Gbps).

For about $2,000, Panasonic’s GH5 can deliver 4K 10-bit video. That’s less than the day rental for the first 4K camera. It might be 2025 before we see the same for 8K, but I’m guessing it will be sooner. Even though we're running head first into resolution overload, the current tech is prohibitively expensive for most productions. So how far will your money go now, and what can we hope for in the coming years?

The Camera

While we wait for Panasonic to release the GH6, we’re looking at available cameras. RED immediately springs to mind, and is the only contender we'll be looking at today. The cheapest 8K camera from RED is their EPIC-W, coming in at $29,500 (body only). This will only be able to reach 30 fps in 8K, and that’ll need to be in RED’s own raw format (not ProRes or DNxHR).

I used the camera builder on their website to build a respectable, but budget friendly rig. I saved $1,300 by forgoing autofocus and electronic iris control on a Canon mount. Then the base package includes a V-Lock battery mount, touchscreen monitor, the regular I/O ports, and a RED MINI-MAG media station. For $850 I got a single 120 GB MINI-MAG SSD which gives us a whopping 15 minutes of full-frame 8K recording.

Just enough to scrape by.

So in total that comes to $36,693. Honestly though, you’ll want to invest at least $40,000 into this to get anything worthwhile. Still though, it’s at least a decent discount from Panasonic’s $77,000 equivalent.

Unfortunately Canon’s teased 8K sensor has yet to make it into a camera body (perhaps the next C700?). While I doubt this will be competitively priced, I could see Canon opening up the floor to more competition in the 8K space.

The Computer

Now that Final Cut Pro X 10.4 has been released, the iMac Pro can cut through 8K ProRes 4444 footage from a RED camera without any problems. Still though, you’ll be spending at least $5,000 on this machine (and likely a couple thousand more).

It’s at this point we reach a fork in the road. Technically we could just create proxy files of our 8K footage and then edit with much lower resolution (exporting full resolution still). I can’t name a major editing system that doesn’t have a workflow for this. At this rate you could using any half decent computer to edit, after all you did just spend a mortgage deposit on your camera.

Alternatively, Lee Morris built a plenty powerful PC for $3,735, complete with dual monitors and speakers. In the spirit of this article we’ll include this in the cost of running an 8K production house. I think it's an appropriate setup that will get you over the line.


It’s worth noting that you’ll need to store all of this footage too. We can expect 500 GBs for every hour of footage from our RED EPIC-W, with a 9:1 compression ratio on the raw footage. That’s four times of what our measly 120 GB SSD can record, sure, but you can expect to at least need a 2 TB hard drive on set every day. That cost adds up!

If we assume you already have a drive (internal or external) that can handle the needed speeds for 8K footage, then we’ll just think about backing all of that up. I won’t give a definitive answer for this because I know people have their favorites, but you could spend $530 on a pack of 20 LTO-6 tapes and get 50 TB worth of storage. You’ll still need to drop $3,600 on the tape drive, but it will work out in the long run.

The Glass

I’m not going to add a particular lens to this, however it’s certainly worth noting 8K changes how we look at lenses. While you might want some parfocal cinema glass, this is a little different.

LensRentals wrote this up wonderfully a couple months back, so I’ll let readers dive into the details from them and avoid an argument over which lens is better. With the jump from 1080p to 4K and now 8K, we’ve effectively jumped from 2 megapixels to 9 megapixels and now 33 megapixels. A lens that looked pretty great in a HD video may not stand up in an 8K video. Luckily this doesn’t mean that we all need to pick up a $50,000 cinema lens package, but a $300 lens would be better left on the shelf.

The Total Price of 8K: $44,558

If you were to pick up the cheapest RED camera, a new computer to edit the footage, and an affordable storage solution, the total price to upgrade comes to $44,558. Really that number should be higher if you want a smoother experience (at least closer to $50,000).

Obviously, this is where you’d likely rent (but it was still fun to crunch the numbers). I pulled together a decent rig from LensRentals and got a figure of $2,250 for a RED EPIC-W HELIUM. That’s for an entire week, and includes a Zucato rig, a better Canon lens mount, and two 512 GB SSDs.

Rental of an 8K camera is costing a lot less than a 4K camera did in 2006, when the above package comes in at around $320 a day. I can’t see this getting cheaper with RED’s lineup, nor Canon’s future lineup. However there’s soon to be more affordable camera tech on the horizon. Hell, with Panasonic’s GH5 pushing out 10-bit 4K video at 400 Mbps, we could see an 8K GH6 sooner rather than later. Obviously we can’t compare a compressed footage to RED’s raw offerings, never mind the difference in sensor size.

So that’s that. It’s funny that we’ve skipped over 6K video, which is three times the horizontal and vertical resolution of HD (compared to 4K, which is two times). There are 6K cameras that I won’t get into, but it’s certainly not to be discarded so easily. I think that there’s a slight knowledge gap when it comes to 8K video in just how much resolution we’re dealing with. While I can appreciate the difference between 4K and 6K (especially for filming, when delivering in 4K), going all the way to 8K is exciting and scary at the same time.

Stock images from Pixabay.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Working in broadcasting and digital media, Stephen Kampff brings key advice to shoots and works hard to stay on top of what's going to be important to the industry.

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LMAO... Nice article. Every professional photographer/content creator I know has gear that costs more than their car...assuming they even have one to drive.

Haha yess everyone I know is in the same boat including me. We're just so passionate lol

I remember my first RED which was the 4k Mysterium sensor RED One costing $17,500 which had practically everything I'd need on the camera to allow me to control my camera (even mini XLRs). Compared to my $50k Weapon which doesn't have a lens mount and cost me an extra $10-$15k in accessories for my shooting package)... My how times changed

Anyway to make the RED package even "cheaper" you should look at what your getting in the DSMC2 Base Package. You can do away with the DSMC2 Base Expander (which I use for HDSDI/HDMI out and genlock), RED Sidewinder (since each module you purchase comes with a hex key so you don't need all in one with a sidewinder), and a RED Work Mat (since the $25 it costs adds up). So instead of the $5,643 for the total package; you get the v-lock battery module ($595), 4.7" LCD ($1,450), RED Brick Power Pack ($1,450), DSMC2 Universal Handle ($150), and RED Station Mini Mag Reader ($195).

Also there are cheaper alternatives to V-lock batteries (battery and charger) but for simplicity sake I'm leaving it on. Also cheaper alternatives to some modules can be found out there like Wooden Camera products.

Lately I've seen LOTS of used Epic-Ws on sale for approximately $25k-so to save some money you could look into buying it used.

And note that shooting 8kHD (16x9) at the highest compression (22:1) one hour of footage is 190GB so that 120GB Mini Mag isn't enough for one hour at 24p. Which to me I'd never shoot with-I don't go above 10:1 compression unless overcranking, I generally shoot 5:1-7:1.

And how would you define 8k? Just 8k pixels on the horizontal? Cause if you do if you shoot anamorphic at 6k (6:5) the desqueezed resolution is 7584x3160-which is less than 100 pixels on the horizontal from 8k 16:9 (7680x4320). That's pretty close to 8k! Or using the entire sensor without the crop the resolution would be 12288x3160... And there's plenty of 6k RED Dragons out there for around $15k-and purchase an anamorphic lens or a "would-be" anamorphic adapter.

Just some things to take into account ;)

A smashing comment! I didn't want to go down the rabbit hole of 6K, and Anamorphic lenses, as it's probably an entire article on it's own. Nonetheless it looks like you can pick up a 6K RED EPIC DRAGON for about $15k now. With some decent anamorphic glass it'd still be about $20k cheaper.

For the numbers I had in the article, I believe I was calculating with 7:1 compression. RED has a sweet online calculator for it which was super handy for fact checking.

I also use Phil Holland's Tools:

I like how it breaks everything down, and you can determine crop factors in addition to data rates and more!

And going down even more, there is a company in china making a 4k and 6k camera that can compete with red quality wise and seems to have way less trouble in term of realibility.... and a quarter of the price. I know philippe bloom is testing them right now.

Kinefinity seems like a very good choice but good luck getting your hand on one, they are too much in demand and backordered for at least 5 weeks... still waiting for Philippe's review to see if i take a 4k or going Panasonic EVA1.

Why would I want to go back to a 6k camera? I have a number of Sony cameras (F55, fs5, fs700, etc.) so if I wanted to shoot lower than 8k my bases are covered. And boy it sure is a big step back when I use those cameras since I've been shooting 8k for over a year.

Sure Kinefinity has an interesting product and it'll bring more competition into an already cluttered area. But how could I justify my rates when going from $65k+ in RED gear (not including lenses and grip) onto less than a $10k Kinefinity system? This is what it boils down to for me. When I shoot a $50k+ job to show up with a $10k camera I could only imagine what my clients would think.

RED has better frame rate options, the RAW recording of the Kinefinity's KineRAW is just as convoluted as me shooting RAW on my Sony cameras (crazy high data rates and not ideal to edit directly without conforming to a different format), Kinefinity is limited to 12bit recording (compared to RED/Sony's 16bit), and REDs IPP2 color science is amazing (and to my eye better than Arri) with so little footage online I really can't get a grasp on Kinfinity's color science-sure it looks nice but time will tell on that.

As far as reliability I've had RED cameras for over 10 years and have yet to have any problems (even on firmware updates). Seems like most "reliability" problems with RED are from people not formatting their cards properly, or jumping too early onto newer firmware patches/doing paid gigs on beta builds)

I'm not dumping on Kinefinity, but for my needs RED is where it's at. Whenever any of us picks a new camera system you choose it to fit your needs, and for me RED checks the most boxes.

And as far as build quality, reliability, ergonomics I'd choose an EVA1 over Kinfinity, I've shot with the EVA1 and was really impressed with it. And with Wooden Camera doing a PL mount for it, sure makes me want to jump Sony and buy it ;)

A couple errors in this article:
What is 8k prores 4444 from an epic-w? It shoots 8k raw or 4k prores.
LTO-6 is only 2.5TB each so a 20pack is 50TB. This article quoted the compressed storage number which is content dependent and not applicable to compressed video formats since they can't usually be compressed further.

8K Prores 4444 was what Apple was using to demo their 10.4 update of FCPX.

The LTO-6 number is my mistake! I'll amend this.