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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.