Gradient Effects Unveils Sci-Fi Short to Test 8K

Megan - H Publicity 2018
Courtesy of Gradient Effects

While Hollywood is currently more focused on moves toward 4K resolution and high dynamic range imagery, some believe 8K — 16 times the resolution of HD — may not be so far behind.

To accommodate these higher resolution requirements including 8K, L.A.-headquartered visual effects house Gradient Effects wrote new software and upgraded its infrastructure to go as high as 8K. As a “stress test” to the system, it initiated production of a 5-minute, high-res short with several partners.

The sci-fi short, titled Megan, was produced by Gradient Effects and its owner/VFX supervisor Olcun Tan, writer Giuseppe Mercadante and Jean de Meuron. Suppliers Red, Helinet, Dolby and PRG provided support; Decipher Entertainment was the production company, led by exec producer Nicolas Emiliani. Gradient handled the roughly 100 VFX shots.

The live action was helmed by Greg Strasz and lensed in 8K by cinematographer Markus Förderer, using a Red camera.

The VFX were produced in 8K with a new infrastructure that includes proprietary software, an upgraded high-speed network and clustered storage. The VFX also incorporated upgraded proprietary software that Gradient and its sister company Secret Lab initially developed to create the Upside Down world in the first season of Stranger Things, invisible effects for The Revenant and lighting for Thor: Ragnarok.

“8K requires about 16 times more bandwidth, computation power and storage than the traditional 2K workflow used on most productions today, which means studios that want to stay on top of it, really need to prep their pipelines. Gradient and Secret Lab were designed to tackle two different challenges: demanding TV schedules and ambitious VFX,” Tan says, adding that this upgrade could benefit clients doing 4K and HDR today, and would be ready for the point when 8K is required.

Gradient created a 4K mastered version of Megan (currently there's limited 8K screening options) that will be submitted to several film festivals. Megan is also getting a high-dynamic range finish, through Dolby.

The producers are now seeking distributors/partners who would like to further develop the story into a feature. A version of the short can be viewed here.

While the U.S. and most of the world are working toward 4K and/or HDR resolutions, there is already some interest in 8K, particularly from Japan public broadcaster NHK, which intends to be offer 8K broadcasting in Japan in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.