A term that photographers, especially those who seldom shoot videos, are unfamiliar with is Bit Depth. Bit Depth denotes the number of bits used to represent a single pixel. As you’re aware, an image is composed of tiny pixels. One pixel represents the building block of an image. The tiny photodiodes on a sensor represent each pixel.
We often use the terms 8-Bit or 10-Bit to represent the number of bits used to represent the color. More Bits is better. However, there is always a catch. I will come to that later. An 8-Bit Bit-depth, for example, means 256 possible colors that can be used to represent a pixel. However, as we know, a pixel can be represented by Red, Green, or Blue color. So, there can be a possible 16.7 million colors representing that pixel, with 256 colors in each channel.
16.7Million colors? Wow, that sounds like a lot. But believe me, despite being unable to see more than 10 million colors, the human eye can see and differentiate among many more colors, and 16.7 isn’t a lot. Also, the 16.7 million colors may not include the same 10 million colors the human eye sees.
Even with all those colors, if a display supports a higher bit-depth, you will notice color banding when there are many colors in a scene. This will appear where one color transitions into the other, and as the display does not support as many colors, banding happens.
10-Bit sounds a lot. 10-bit is much better than 8-Bit, with more than a billion possible colors and a reduced risk of color banding. However, 10-bit consumes a lot of data, which puts pressure on your camera’s processor. In a recent discussion, I talked about frame rate and resolution; those also put pressure on the image processor of your camera.
There is something else you need to understand along with bit depth, and that’s Bit-rate. Bit rate denotes the amount of data your camera’s processor can handle. This puts a lot of pressure on your camera processor.
Unless you’re planning on color grading and most of your videos will be viewed on YouTube, you don’t need 10-bit color depth. You can quickly shoot in 8-bit color and get great-looking videos. However, if you’re shooting landscape footage and the clips change considerably from one frame to another, you need to shoot in 10-bit color. The additional color will make your videos appear smooth, and when you’re playing back on a screen that can render 10-Bit color, you can see excellent footage without any banding.