OpenDrives Has Supported 8K Workflows for Years

Start Thinking About 8K Now

Even though most post-production shops have been focused on supporting 4K workflows more fully or efficiently, all signs point to a rapidly approaching industry pivot to 8K.  You might be thinking, “But we haven’t even upgraded our entire infrastructure to handle 4K workflows, and now we have to worry about 8K?” You wouldn’t be wrong in asking yourself that, but the answer, in short, is yes.  Rather than start worrying, though, let’s break down the industry push toward 8K, explore the benefits of 8K, and then suggest the best way forward to support 8K workflows.

So why are we suddenly shifting attention to 8K while 4K is still in the process of saturating the market?  One reason is that the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are just around the corner. Many major broadcasters—led by Japan’s NHK in the local Olympics market—have already announced that they plan to produce 8K content as part of their overall coverage strategy.  Considering that total worldwide viewership for the Olympics now numbers in the billions of viewers, a whole lot of people will be hearing and getting excited about the possibilities of 8K content over the 4K experience, regardless of whether their television sets actually support 8K.

The fact of the matter is that 8K isn’t such a future-state technology for many vendors, especially in the cinematic camera market.  Instead, they’ve been moving toward 8K for years. Companies like Sony and RED have already been implementing 8K capabilities, and these types of vendor innovations usually drive mass-market appeal due to increased affordability downstream.  The logical result is that increasing amounts of content will be acquired in 8K format in the here and now. That means you need to be prepared to incorporate 8K into your workflows. So you really need to start thinking about 8K now, before the unexpected project demanding 8K support walks through your door and catches you off guard.

The Benefits of 8K Content Extend Beyond the Viewing Experience

It helps to understand the reasons behind the push toward 8K.  Most people think of it as purely a function of the viewing experience right here and now and then dismiss it because currently the consumer market is still catching up to 4K sets.  Why worry abut 8K content when everybody’s delivering, at best, 4K content?

The answer is that even though an end-to-end 8K pipeline including delivery is unlikely right now, acquiring and then manipulating 8K content has many benefits.  To begin with, from a mathematical perspective you need to acquire at 4x the size of whatever the final delivery specification is. In this case, to deliver the best possible 4K content, you need to acquire in 8K.  Downscaling is always the right way to go, so you need to prepare to handle 8K content in your workflow that gets downscaled to the best 4K output.

Another reason behind the inclusion of 8K content is that it brings more than just improvements in spatial resolution.  Other exciting improvements include more nuanced color ranges. With 8K, you’re talking about a significant improvement to 12- or 16-bit color depth as opposed to the 10-bit aspect of 4K.  So content is not being captured in 8K simply to improve the pixel resolution—being able to reproduce color with more realistic complexity is another driving feature.

In addition, with its increased spatial and spectral properties, 8K is ideal for more immersive types of viewing experiences.  One example is 8K Fulldome, which provides planetariums with incredibly clear and detailed night-sky and celestial exhibitions.  Though we often consider emerging technologies such as 8K through the reference of the television or theatrical experience, we have to understand that 8K will bring huge advances and expanded possibilities for a wide range of entertainment venues.

Most importantly, though, is long-term viability of the asset library.  In order to preserve the lifespan of your content, it’s best to capture at the highest specifications possible.  This has a direct effect on the ability to monetize content now and also in the future. Capturing in 4K will have limited shelf life—8K content acquisition ensures that it can be manipulated for multiple or many different purposes for years to come.  Why would anybody reduce the monetization potential when 8K acquisition technology is currently available? The smart organization won’t. The real question, then, becomes whether a post-production workflow can handle 8K content. Or more specifically, can yours?

Storage Won’t Be the 8K Bottleneck

One thing’s for sure—an OpenDrives storage solution won’t be the bottleneck in an 8K pipeline.  We’ve already solved for the storage performance issue with 8K content. Our storage solutions are engineering for ultra-high throughput with extremely low latency, which is exactly what an 8K workflow demands.  In essence, we’re ready for the coming 8K wave—we’ve just been waiting for the industry to catch up.

As a matter of fact, we’ve been showcasing demonstrations of 8K content for several years now.  And we’re not talking about compressed 8K, either. Our storage solutions can handle file-based uncompressed 8K content with ease, which is a testament to the incredible thought and engineering invested into our storage optimizations.  We can show you what 8K playback looks like when fully supported, scrubbing back and forth without any lag or delay. If you already have an OpenDrives storage solution, then supporting 8K workflows really becomes a non-issue. Our solutions support it, you can do it right now, and you can move on and focus on other aspects of your infrastructure.  And we’re really the only storage vendor who can claim that right now.

As a proof point, our benchmark tests have shown our Apex storage solution capable of fully supporting multiple streams of 8K content (7680 x 4320) with 12-bit DPX at 24 fps, which is well beyond what current standards such as those promoted by Netflix demand.  What these numbers show is that OpenDrives is ready for 8K acquisition and editing, whenever that content shows up in your projects. Let us know if you’re interested in seeing this performance demonstrated for you.

Contact us today to schedule a demo and let us impress you!