Difference Between 10 bit and 8 bit Video Explained

What's the difference between 10 bit and 8-bit video?

Well, as far as our eyes can tell, an 8-bit video and a 10-bit video appear the same. Additionally, most displays, whether it's a TV, mobile, or PC monitor, display videos in 8 bit. So, why should you want to shoot 10-bit videos?

The difference between 10 bit and 8-bit video is very nuanced. You will need to understand a few concepts before you can differentiate bit depths and their applications. 

What is Bit Depth

Bit depth or color depth is an important factor that impacts the quality of an image. In simple words, bit depth is a measure of all the colors and shades a camera can record. Theoretically, more bit depth means a camera can record more colors for detailed and high-quality videos.

A 10-bit video holds more colors and shades than an 8-bit video. Any digital camera uses red, blue, and green (RGB ) information to create colors in an image or video. The more colors you record, the more nuances will be your final footage.

Now, let's take a closer look at 8 and 10-bit videos.

8 Bit and 10 Bit Videos: The Technical Differences

Videos shot in 8-bit capture RGB using 256 levels of color per channel. In the case of 10 bit, you can utilize 1,024 levels per channel. 

As a result, 8-bit videos can display over 16.7 million colors. When you switch to a 10-bit video, you can use more than 1 billion colors for your footage. That means you will get a wide range of shades to make your video appear closer to life.

However, most videos are shot in 8 bit, whether it's a YouTube video or a TV show. Your laptop, desktop, and mobile also use 8-bit color depth. You can find a few expensive 10-bit monitors and watch 10-bit videos on 4K UHD TVs, but that's it.

What's more interesting is our eyes can't differentiate between 8 bit and 10-bit images. So, why should you shoot in 10 bit?

The Applications of 10 Bit Videos

The difference between 10 bit and 8-bit video becomes prominent during post-production. It's far easier to edit 10-bit videos to make them look spectacular. You get more color information to customize your video and give it the color tone you desire.

According to Fujifilm, 10-bit videos give you more control while editing. You will be able to refine your color, contrast, and brightness more adeptly. Moreover, loss of quality will never be an issue with 10-bit videos.

8-bit videos will require heavy processing to give them the look you want. You might also experience banding when adjusting the colors or light of a sky. Bands of color may appear, making your video look bad. Plus, less color information can also create nasty contrasts in your footages.

The extra information in 10-bit videos makes way for smooth transitions. You can easily fill in information gaps and achieve a smooth color gradient for your shots. A sunrise or sunset is a good example, where colors change rapidly in a short time.

You may compare 8-bit videos to JPEG images and think of 10-bit videos as RAW files. You must have seen while editing JPEGs how difficult it is to manipulate colors or highlight a part. Your image will never come out with the same quality you expect. 

10-bit videos are like RAW images shot in 12, 14, or 16 bit. You have a whole range of data to push and adjust to achieve your desired looks. Even the minutest details can be handled with proficiency to create expected results.

The same happens with 10-bit videos. You get more data and flexibility to control your colors and shades in your videos. The more is your color depth, the more data, and customization you can get.

The additional data of 10-bit videos may come useful in many scenarios. They are great for maximizing dynamic range in your footages by using log gammas. You can highlight or create details to give your video the perfect color and appearance. 

Not all cameras can shoot 10-bit videos. Some also need an external recorder to process the high amount of uncompressed data. A few cameras send 10-bit signals through HDMI for external processing.

Should You Shoot 10 Bit Videos

The main difference between 10 bit and 8-bit video is in post-production. You get more data and control to achieve high-quality videos. But then again, most common displays don't support them, and our eyes cannot differentiate between the two.

So, shooting in 10 bit may not be a requirement. You certainly don't need 10-bit videos to upload on your Insta or Facebook. Your vacation videos can also do without a 10-bit shooting mode.

Professional applications may demand the use of 10-bit videos. You may plan to shoot your travel vlogs in 10 bit to woo your audience. Maybe you can also shoot your short film in 10 bits to guarantee its selection at the festival. 

10-bit videos make sense when you want greater control over color and shades. Go for it if you want to stretch and manipulate your video while editing for impeccable quality and color effects.

Most cameras record 10-bit videos in 4:2:2. It denotes the level of color information stored at the pixel level. A ratio of 4:2:2 means the horizontal resolution has been halved while the vertical resolution is intact. 

Some cameras also shoot in 4:2:0, where both horizontal and vertical color resolutions are halved. The best cameras shoot in 4:4:4, giving each pixel its color information.

Determine your purpose, and then choose the right color depth for your videos. Also, keep in mind that shooting in 10 bits will need more space to store the extra information.  

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