YouTuber Matti Haapoja decided to put himself, and his viewers, to the test: can you tell the difference between shots taken in 1080p and those taken in 8K from the Canon EOS R5? He edited several clips back to back in a mix of 1080p and 8K to see if the average person watching on YouTube can tell which is which.
In the video, Haapoja admits that he tricks the viewer a bit: he did not just shoot in 1080p and 8K, but also mixed in shots in 4K and even some in 720p. He even goes a step further and throws in a few shots taken on the EOS R. He also admits that though he could see the difference on an assortment of monitors (including the new LG CX 4K OLED television), due to YouTube compression it’s highly unlikely that the average person watching his video would be able to, even when he was swapping between 8K and 720p.
When viewing source footage that has not been compressed by YouTube, the difference in quality between a 1080p stream and a 4K stream is very easy to spot, so it goes without saying that adding even more pixels into the equation with 8K would result in even more disparity in quality. That said, Haapoja proves that if someone is just shooting in 8K and uploading to YouTube, without an 8K source monitor and the original footage that has not been compressed, you would be unlikely to be able to fully appreciate it.
Footage like the clip below by Phil Holland was shot in 12K to future-proof it, but nearly no computer monitor nor TV can view it in its full resolution. As of publication, YouTube does not even support 12K videos.
Though more average consumers now have access to 4K televisions, they are still not the norm. Even fewer have ways to view 8K content at its maximum resolution (only 4.1% of households in the world are expected to have 8K televisions by 2023). So even in this particular video’s case – which was uploaded at 8K – your viewing device is very likely not able to view it in such a way where you would have been able to see a difference in quality.
However interesting tests like Haapoja’s are, they do miss the point of shooting in 8K in 2020. Though yes, there are situations to shoot, master, and view video in full 8K resolution, it’s not the reason a filmmaker would normally choose to shoot in that high of a resolution. Cinematographers or directors filming for 4K streams like those found on Netflix rarely shoot in 4K, but 6K, 8K, or higher to allow for greater latitude post-production work. Editors want more pixels to work with in case they need to crop or stabilize, and if a video is only shot at its intended mastering resolution those options become more challenging.