8K UHD: The ultimate ultra-high definition.
The highest resolution available for cameras and screens, 8K is the newest tech on the block. “Video resolution is the equivalent of megapixels in a photo. It’s how many pixels exist within the frame,” says videographer Mike Leonard. Nearly 8,000 pixels wide, 8K native resolution is 7680 x 4320 pixels, which equates to 33,177,600 total pixels. By comparison, 4K, also called ultra HD or UHD for short, is approximately 4,000 pixels wide with 8.3 million total pixels. “To put that level of detail in perspective, movie theaters show films at a resolution slightly higher than 1080 pixels (full HD). And that’s on the biggest screens out there,” says Leonard.
In addition to pro cameras, 8K TVs are becoming increasingly common as the newer technology replaces 4K TVs. Other consumer electronics, such as the Sony PlayStation 5 and the Microsoft Xbox Series X, and smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S20, now come with 8K video capabilities.
At four times the resolution of 4K, 8K may be the future of video, but four times the pixels doesn’t necessarily equate to quadruple the quality. “Resolution is one of the foundations for understanding video quality, but there’s a number of other factors at play,” says videographer Hiroshi Hara. “It’s much more than the pixel count,” adds Leonard. “It’s how the image is perceived by the sensor, by the color, and by the dynamic range.” Everything will contribute to its quality, from the camera and lens used to the video format, bitrate, and frame rate of the video recording. Get to know the benefits and drawbacks of shooting in 8K to find out if this high-resolution option is right for you.
While resolution isn’t the only factor behind better quality, it is certainly high on the list. When it comes to resolution, 8K content provides unparalleled sharpness and detail.
Because 8K footage captures so much detail in each shot, it's ideal for reframing in the editing phase of production. “Say you’re editing an interview and you have a wider shot that you want to crop into a close-up. As soon as you crop an image, you expand pixels, sometimes to the point where an image will look pixelated and blurry,” says Leonard. But with 8K’s giant pixel count, you can comfortably crop for the best composition without sacrificing quality.
Videos with a lot of computer-generated imagery (CGI) can benefit from the enhanced quality and detail 8K video provides. “The more you’re able to zoom in without losing pixel information, the cleaner the image will be when you integrate special effects,” says Leonard.
Can you actually tell the difference?
Should you use 8K format in your videos?
There’s a lot more to consider than just getting the highest resolution possible for your videos. “8K is a great move forward in the sense that it’s really cool that cameras can do this,” says Leonard. But between the higher cost and the potentially negligible impact of all that extra resolution, you should carefully discern whether 8K is right for your project.
You’ll see a big difference if you’re working with special effects and CGI videos. The ability to crop in without losing quality is also a big plus for 8K. “Fashion photography and high-end commercials often use 8K,” adds Hara. While 8K is still mostly used in special areas like these, it’s quickly becoming more and more accessible.
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