Back in June of 2015 I was able to do some preliminary tests with the first 8K Weapon camera. Some of you may have seen the “8K Aerials” Light Iron photographed and presented at CineGear Expo on a 98″ BOE 8K television. For people in attendance, CineGear probably marked the first time they saw an 8K image on and 8K display and I believe it was our first peek into what 8K means for the future…
Since then, RED has been refining Weapon 8K and after a new camera test I just completed, I am certain Weapon 8K is absolutely RED’s best work to date. If you are a RED enthusiast, you are going to love what this camera can do for you. But moreover, if you are RED cautionary, you re going to love what this camera can do for you.
There are already a number of people chatting about how unnecessary 8K is and that the “race for resolution” is a pointless contest. Let me explain why this way of thinking is flawed:
1. COMPONENTS of UHD ADOPTION
I believe UHD (4K) will be the mezzanine standard for home entertainment displays until around 2025. By this, it’s important for people to understand that we are entering a decade (minimum) of consumer UHD adoption, which means you can get comfortable with investing in it today. By 2018, it will be impossible to purchase an HDTV and by 2020, broadcast technology will deliver content to less than 50% of consumers with OTT groups becoming the leading majority of content distribution (and for some of them, content creation). Once OTT servers more than 50% of the population, they will make all the rules, and they’re already telling us what those rules are going to look like.
2. BROADCAST VS BROADBAND
I have had to get comfortable with the notion that the internet plays the most important role in the road to 4K exhibition, which is to say that the world of motion picture cinema is unfortunately not going to rise to the occasion like I had hoped. Already guided by brave leaders like Netflix and Amazon, 4K capture is the minimum standard in acquisition for their original content. Unlike broadcasters (many of which are stuck with 720p 59.94i broadcast infrastructures), OTT groups have a major technological advantage by instantly upgrading their exhibition systems with relatively inexpensive and simple software upgrades. They know that in just a few short years, every home entertainment system will not only be SMART, they are bi-directional and will enable UHD resolution, high dynamic range pictures (HDR), and a wider color gamut (WCG) to users as adaptation of these technologies widens. I call UHD, HDR, and WCG the “Tripod of Fidelity.“ When I was at NAB 2015 I asked a leading major network engineer what it would take to implement this tripod of fidelity at his network like the OTT companies. His reply was, “At this point, it would be impossible.”
3. AVOIDING THE UPSCALE
If you’ve ever run the video tap of a modern digital cinema camera to a SONY OLED monitor on set, you can look at that picture and say with confidence, “Wow! HD looks really good!” The fact is, HD does look good when super-sampled from a higher quality source. But after those same images are conformed, colored, compressed, and consumed, they are a long way from where they started. By 2020, every image not mastered and delivered in UHD, HDR, WCG, will become mangled in a calamity of unpredictable scale, contrast, and color conversions. All of us have experienced the tragedy of SD>HD broadcast upconversions. To master in HD or 2K today is to relinquish your image to any number of factors you cannot control in the near future. UHD/HDR/WCG mastering is the only way to ensure present-proofing.
4. EMBRACING THE OVERSAMPLE
Avoiding the upscale is a major part of the equation, but the next critical step in superior images is ensuring we have more pixels than we actually need. When the RED ONE hit the market in 2007, the images were so fantastic because even at bayer-pattern 4K, they were super-samples of 2K and performed wonderfully in HD. Now that OTT UHD is becoming the new normal, we need to apply that same logic to today’s content which is where the introduction of Weapon 8K becomes a powerful tool. Don’t just use resolution as a pixel meter for bragging rights, rather use it as a Swiss Army knife multi-tool that can be leveraged in a number of creatively constructive ways.
5. RESOLUTION IS NOT SHARPNESS
When you look at your Facebook wall you instantly know the difference between an iPhone photo and a DSLR photo. Yet on Facebook, if the compression and size of the photos are identical, how can you tell? Certainly the iPhone is not blurry. In fact, I find iPhone photos to be remarkably sharp and with surprisingly excellent DR and color. So what is the intangible difference between a lowres iPhone photo and lowres DSLR photo?
The digitally-educated understand that you cannot make a perfect circle using pixels because they are merely a series of polygons. Film, ironically, can actually photograph a perfect circle because it’s not limited to polygon arrangements. By this, the more pixels you can apply towards a perfect circle, the more perfect the circle appears to be. And there is the #1 reason for lovers and haters alike to test Weapon 8K:
8K is not about sharpness, it’s about smoothness.
When the stills world migrated to digital cameras, one thing they weren’t necessarily looking for was film-like resolution. What they were actually looking for was a more film-like smoothness. And the smoothness they were after became better and better as sensor resolutions increased. And that is what 8K is all about. The same way a 32 megapixel DSLR camera can look good after being rendered down to Facebook, so will Weapon 8K when rendered down to UHD.
6. WEAPON IS NOT EPIC
I first noticed “The Smoothing Effect” when the 6K Dragon came out in the Epic. I remember seeing the first set of dailies come in from Don Burgess, ASC on the 2017 release “Monster Trucks” and saying to my team, “This doesn’t look sharper…but it does look smoother.” Over time it was clear that the super-sample of Dragon 6K was producing a smoother transition of round objects which made them appear more realistic (the opposite of hidden/blurred aliasing or approximating that lower resolution BP cameras must do to hide imperfect edges). Now with 32 megapixels in a Weapon 8K, people will get the best representation between what resolution feels like without sharpness.
7. THE SUPER SENSOR
So as I said at the beginning;
“There are already a number of people chatting about how unnecessary 8K is and that the ‘race for resolution’ is a pointless contest.”
What I encourage everyone to consider is that 8K is not the new 4K. Instead, 8K is about to open up an entirely new era of cameras which I now call “The Super Sensors.” Super Sensors are camera systems like Alexa65 or Weapn 8K that are capturing with so much resolution that (like a DSLR) they are able to create a new level of smoothness that makes things look more like a photograph and less like a digital representation of film. Ansel Adams shot large format and no one has ever said, “His images look too sharp!” On the contrary, Adams’ images look smoother, cleaner, and multi-dimensional because they were super samples. These are the creative words I think people will begin to use when describing what they see while shooting Weapon 8K.
But creativity aside, there are also technical elements that I used in my test that I was excited to evaluate. I used the new Panavision Primo 70mm lenses which cover the 8K sensor beautifully up through my widest lens, which was a 24mm. They are a perfect blend between clarity, size, weight, and texture. If ultra-high quality glass is important to you, you need to get to the nearest Panavision and do some tests with the Primo 70s. You will fall in love with how perfectly they harmonize with a super sensor.
I also tested our first Weapon Module called the Panavision Hot Swap Module.
This module seamlessly ties into the Weapon body and provides:
• D-tap on top powered from either input
• Audio in & out
• 5v USB
• 00 Lemo Control connector
• 5 pin Timecode in with Genlock
• 3 – HDSDI outputs
• 3 – 12v outputs
• 2 – 24v outputs
• Hot swap between studio power and Anton Bauer gold mount
• Built and 3D printed out of carbon polymer
• Total weight of 8K Weapon camera & module is 5.4lbs
This is the camera exercise I did with the help of my friend, Erin Gales. Everything was shot Weapon 8K at 1280ISO except for a 2nd camera angle during interviews, which was a Dragon 6K.
Special thanks to Phil Newman, Megan Swanson, and Keenan Mock for their help on set.