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What will Documentary shot with a 8K camera look like? DP Phil Holland shoots with the RED Weapon 8K

DP Phil Holland has given us a tantalising glimpse of what future documentaries shot on 8K cameras might look like. In February he had the opportunity to shoot with RED’s new 8K Weapon and the results are very impressive. To test it out he chose a subject with plenty of detail and challenging lighting: the process of bladesmith Tony Swatton crafting his own version of a Roman Gladius sword. The video was produced by RED studios and Xenolux entertainment.

The shoot took two days and Phil used mainly Zeiss Otus glass in EF mount. These are some of the finest lenses in the world and from the results it looks like they are a great choice for the larger VistaVision+ sized sensor. He also used some Duclos modified 30- to 40-year-old Olympus lenses for some of the detailed macro shots. A couple of the shots are with a 200mm Canon prime. As this was as much a test as it was a shoot, Phil took the opportunity to explore creative options. Pretty much everything was shot between f1.4 and f2.8.

Shooting the RED 8K Weapon and Zeiss Otus lens
Shooting with the RED 8K Weapon and Zeiss Otus lens

Playback on YouTube is currently limited to 4K (Edit: an 8K version is apparantly possible but I don’t think there will be too many people with a display to take advantage of it), but the result is still very filmic. Indeed, one of the principal arguments for higher solution 6K and 8K sensors is that they are capable of creating a much more detailed 4K image than a 4K Bayer sensor that many cine cameras currently use. Stills photographers might also want to take note – the stills grabs from this sensor are likely to be as good as some digital SLRs (although shutter speeds and autofocus will remain challenging, of course).

For the curious, the sword is made of Damascus steel. Phil explains: “In this case there’s 93-layer Damascus technique in the blade, twisted in the grip, and detailed pieces throughout the guard and pommel nut. The finish of the blade maintains a darkness, yet still captures a shine from the light.”

This is what Phil had to say about his experiences with the camera:

“During February 2016 I had the special opportunity to shoot with the upcoming RED Weapon 8K camera. These are the earliest of days for 8K and this was as much a camera test as an actual shoot for me. However, this format size and resolution are two important things for me as we are getting into the VistaVision+ format size. I wanted to shoot something special for this project as this is one of the first 8K shoots. Reaching out to Bladesmith Tony Swatton to bring this modern take on a Roman Gladius sword to life using Damascus steel provided exactly what I was hoping for. 8K for me is about creating ‘bigger than life’ motion pictures and I wanted to bring that together with visuals that revealed sometimes more than the naked eye could see. Documenting an experienced craftsman like Tony truly brought together what I was looking for. Revealing macro, close up, and wide shots help bring that bigger-than-life quality out.

Watch to the end of the film to see a subtle bit of RED brand promotion.
Watch to the end of the film to see a subtle bit of RED brand promotion.

The RED Weapon line of cameras provides so much when it comes down to it. The interesting thing on this particular sensor is that there’s a real film format to resolution relevance which provides the organic feel you’d want out of a sensor/format size like this. Shooting at 8K provides the format size and resolution you’d expect from shooting VistaVision film, while shooting and windowing down to 5K creates a Super 35mm filming experience. That feature in particular, combined with impressive color science and a very broad total captured dynamic range, makes this one of the most film-like digital cinema cameras on the market. It’s insane that this is all happening in a camera that weighs under 4 pounds and shoots a compressed RAW format I can easily edit with on my laptop. These are indeed special times to be a filmmaker.”

You can find out more about Phil and his work on www.PHFX.com

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