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Canon Expo 2015: 8K Cinema EOS technology demo camera recording to four external recorders

By site editor Dan Chung:

The first day of Canon Expo in Paris was a packed event
The first day of Canon Expo in Paris was a packed event

Today I attended the Canon Expo in Paris. The company hold their Expos every five years in four major cities across the globe – New York, Tokyo, Shanghai and Paris. One of the key technologies Canon chose to show this year was a 8K Cinema EOS camera. Already shown in New York it is classed as a technology demonstration and not an actual product as yet. The camera forms part of Canon’s complete working demonstration of a possible 8K future. Along with the camera there are 8K monitors, 8K projection solutions and even 8K printing of still grabs.

Canon's 8K Cinema EOS demo is certainly a monster as it currently stands
Canon’s 8K Cinema EOS demo is certainly a monster as it currently stands

The camera looks from the outside to be the same as the C300 mkII apart from a few extra ports. The differences are inside. The S35 sensor is 8K and there are no internal recording options. Instead the camera feeds out up to RAW images up to 60fps via four SDI connectors to a special de-bayer box, which in turn feeds it into four separate Convergent Design Odyssey external recorders. These record onto SSD in the same Canon RAW format used by the C500 to record 4K. The resulting footage generates a whopping 11TB of data per hour of recording. As yet there is no compressed recording option. The material is then stitched together in post using an automated tool.

The camera moves a staggering amount of data off to external de-bayer box
The camera moves a staggering amount of data off to its external de-bayer box

Clearly there are very few productions that could currently commit to using such large amounts of data at the moment. Whether that changes as storage capacities increase remains to be seen.

There is also a live production camera option. With addition of more boxes you can feed the 8K signal into a broadcast system – although outside of Japan I don’t know of any other country actively planning one yet.

Canon's prototype 4K camera top display looked very nice indeed
Canon’s prototype 4K camera top display looked very nice indeed

Even though the camera is only a technology demonstration at the moment it had a couple of interesting features such as a working AF system and the ability to output to a 8K high dynamic range display in BT.2020. With so much of the development work already done I suspect we will see an actual 8K camera on sale at some point in the not too distant future.

The 8K S35 servo zoom lens prototype on the 8K camera
The 8K S35 servo zoom lens prototype on the 8K camera

Looking at the footage from the Canon 8K camera footage projected in 8K (using four 4K projectors) was certainly impressive. It had an incredibly life-like appearance and at some points appeared so real that you felt you were looking through a window, and not at a screen. On a smaller 8K monitors at the show you could hold up a magnifying glass to the screen and see super fine details of the image that were imperceptible to the naked eye – quite amazing.

A magnifying glass held over a section of a 8K display reveals super fine details
A magnifying glass held over a section of a 8K display reveals super fine details

I can see real advantages to this kind of immersive 8K viewing for wildlife, sports, live events and possibly even documentary, but it is certainly not the kind of experience that we have come to identify with as ‘cinematic’. At such high resolution any slight imperfections in your shot, or you subject, will be seen instantly. There is no hiding. Audiences will have to re-calibrate their expectations of what a movie should look like if 8K is to become popular.

Is the world ready for 8K? Who knows. But Canon are certainly ready if we decide we want it.

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