I just left an extremely interesting seminar moderated by Curtis Clark, ASC, in which there was extensive discussion of high (or extended) dynamic range techniques. And then I went to Quantel's press conference, where there was much talk of ever higher resolutions and frame rates.
All of these things are, of course, nice. 6 and 8K pictures have lots of spare resolution. 16-stop images have lots of spare dynamic range. Nobody's complaining. But to me there's a question to be asked about why we want these things. I don't mean to presuppose any particular conclusion here - this is a genuine question - but are we chasing bigger numbers because we want the audience to see them, or are we chasing bigger numbers because it'll make it easier to achieve excellent results in terms of the output we already produce?
Do we want 4K (and 6 and 8) because we want the audience to see 4K images? There's no reason to assume they particularly need to, or are willing to pay for it. For decades, they've been watching decidedly sub-4K 35mm projection. I suspect most people, even most professionals, won't be able to tell the difference, especially given average projection quality outside the major cities. Or do we want 4K so we can stabilize and crop and reframe without loss of resolution, because we can apply gain in postproduction without the increase in noise becoming objectionable?
Likewise, do we want HDR because the audience wants to see, and is willing to pay to see, 16-stop images from 4000-nit displays, or are we doing it to ease the concerns associated with lighting - say - high-contrast mixed interior-exterior scenes?
Either might be fine, but even if we decide we actually do want to distribute and exhibit the higher grade stuff, is there at any point a limit to our desire? Do we want to be able to shoot a sunset and force the audience to don sunglasses? Visceral reaction might be nice to have as an option, but is the artform as it's developed right now something that is worth preserving, much as books have been preserved even now we can record the human voice saying the same words?
I'm not sure I actually want a cinema screen to look like a literal, stereo 3D, high dynamic range, wide gamut, high resolution window into another literal reality. People disliked Hobbit because it looked too real. Are we chasing the wrong things?