“It will be as easy to do an 8K show a decade from now as it is to do 2K HD production now,” predicted Jim Houston, Principal, Starwatcher Digital, though it is also clear that getting to that point is predicated on sound workflow design.
The question of how best to handle the 'tidal wave of pixels' emerging from technologies capable of generating HFR, wider color gamuts, greater dynamic range, and higher resolutions is taxing the tech teams at post facilities, he said.

“From our perspective in the post world we are not fearful of any new proposals - they can all be handled given enough time and money - although some are too expensive to be practical just yet.

Managing greater volumes of data comes down to efficient workflow design, for which Houston outlined some principles.

“In essence, workflow is about how you move media around, to do so in the most cost effective way and to communicate every step clearly,” he said. “People get lost if you don't have a blueprint of it around.”

Footage is still a big cost and discipline in shooting ratios would be big help, he suggested. The cloud is not practical yet for post at these data levels but it is a great information management resource.

“Information should be freely available in the cloud but that doesn't happen today as often as it should,” he said.

Stressing the importance of storage, he said: “When you don't have enough media available then the long term cost will be much greater for a $100m dollar show than the upfront cost of a $7000 drive. Make sure you have multiple copies of media.”

As an indication of the size of data which facilities are being asked to tackle, dailies are commonly of the order of 2.5TB of data per day for a standard 2K show. By contrast an 8K show at 120fps might average 187TB per day of new data.

“Consider that with a typical dailies workflow of 2.5TB a day you are looking at a two hours transfer time and in 4K its 8 hours then in HFR 8K you could be looking at 16 hours of transfer per day of shooting,” he said. “So it's clear you are going to get backed-up with work very quickly.

“If you look at how data rates of network bandwidth and optical transmission are increasing then, to do an 8K show as easily as it is today to do a show in 2K or 4K, we are looking at the order of 10-12 years.”

FotoKem Chief Strategy Officer Mike Brodersen said the facility was currently handling a 4K multi-camera show and generating a volume of data “that is already becoming difficult”.

“Instead of a normal show average of 1-2TB a day, on some days we are managing 6-7TB so how we would deal with 8K I just don't know. That said, we are testing 8K images from an F65 for one client just to what we can achieve.”

With an 8K debayer pattern available from Sony in the summer “there will be a director out there who will decide to use it” noted Houstan.

Brodersen went on to describe the set to near-location post workflow for Oz The Great and Powerful, a Red Epic project which averaged 2TB a day with up to 11TB on days of heavy shooting.

“On set media management became the launching point for everything we did in the remote post environment,” he said. “In some cases a single take would fill a DIT cart with media so the speed at which the media needed to be ingest and verified in a second pass was vital.

“We treat digital media like original negative,” he emphasized. “It's checked and visually QCed. There is no room for error. Getting it in quickly and getting it right is a challenge.”

Real world data wrangling of giant proportions was outlined in a case study by Peter Anderson, ASC of Universal Studios King Kong 360 3D theme park attraction.

For this 91 second immersive ride Weta Digital delivered four files of 8K x 1.5K or 5559 DPX frames in full color space which totaled 22,236 8K frames.

The sequence was played out over 16 projectors over a 300 foot wide screen viewed by guests on a tram ride just 35 feet away.