The Plura Broadcast PBM-070X HD Monitor
By my unofficial survey, one of the hot topics among shooters, editors and post-production types is monitoring in this age of HD. More specifically, there is great interest in, and need for, small, affordable, portable and accurate HD monitors. Field monitoring needs accurate reproduction, shooters need critical focus, and post-production situations are as varied, demanding and crowded as a mid-town Manhattan street corner at rush hour. Also, perhaps last but not least—budgets are tighter than (insert your own metaphor here).
All these needs have turned users toward LCD monitors, which are continually getting more accurate, smaller, lighter, less power hungry and more affordable. A somewhat recent entry into the market for critical LCD monitors is Plura Broadcast, a company with a history of expertise with LCDs. One of their units under consideration along these lines is the PBM-070X 7-inch multiformat HD monitor.
The PBM-070X is a solid little 16:9 monitor, with a case made of steel. It sits on a desktop stand, also made of steel, which pivots a few degrees in either direction, for adjusting the tilt of the angle of view, and is removed by unscrewing four small Phillips-head screws.
Rotary controls for brightness, contrast, chroma level, phase and volume level are arranged along the right side; a push of the knob brings up an on-screen display that shows the value of the particular control as it is changed, and a second push dismisses the display.
Across the monitor's bottom front panel are push buttons to select input, over/underscan, blue only/monochrome (grey), waveform monitor/vectorscope display, markers, menu and two user-assignable buttons.
The rear panel houses the I/O connections: BNCs for high- or standard-definition SDI in/through; three more BNCs that serve for either a single analog component (either YPbPr or RGB) standard- or high-definition input, an S-Video input, or three composite inputs; DVI/VGA in.
There's also a 3.5 mm audio in and out, an RJ-45 port for remote control, an RJ-11 port for program updates; a V-mount for battery power and a 4-pin XLR connector for powering the unit from a 12 VDC source.
The unit ships with a power supply, a screen cleaner, VGA-to-DVI adapter and a small threaded plate that screws onto the bottom of the unit and serves as a tripod adapter.
There are a number of very useful features available in software, which, by the way, is one of the great reasons for the migration to small and portable LCD monitors. On the Plura, these include a software-based real-time waveform monitor and vectorscope, with control over screen placement, vector colors, and whether waveform, vectorscope, or both are displayed.
Audio levels—up to 16 channels in SDI embedded mode—can be displayed at a user-selectable position on screen.
Markers can be separately preset for 16:9 and 4:3 displays, and there are safe area presets for a wide range of aspects and configurations, as well as customizable color, marker line thickness and transparency. There's also a user setting that allows for separate positioning of horizontal and vertical marker lines, two in each direction.
Additional useful features of note include picture-in-picture, picture-and-picture configurations, timecode and closed caption displays. There's also a tally light and a built-in speaker (necessarily tiny). Users can optionally purchase a rack-mount kit, carrying case, sun hood, carrying handle/sun visor and/or a tripod mount.
I had the pleasure of using this Plura monitor in a few settings outside my studio, with the first of these at a performance shoot of a new musical being performed in a small theatre. I operated with the monitor running on battery power, and I was able to easily mount it on a flexible support arm, which I secured on my tripod.
Because of the camera's location, I had to keep as low a profile as possible to avoid distracting the show's audience.
Due to the Plura's size and weight (I took off the desk stand for this gig), it was easy to position for convenient and discrete viewing. Proper positioning here was important for several reasons—the camera was higher than my head and I had a choice of easily viewing the Plura monitor or getting a stiff neck from attempting to look at the camera's LCD viewfinder. Also, the monitor had to be as far out of the audience's sight line as possible, and I needed a fairly straight-on view of the monitor, as I was using it for critical camera focus.
In this setting, the Plura monitor functioned beautifully. It was very easy to get and keep in position. I did find that the most straight-on and direct angle of view was the most accurate for color and image. I could swing a few degrees horizontally to either side of center and things looked pretty goos, but I needed to stick to the straight and narrow on the vertical axis.
With a power draw of about 12 W, there was no problem keeping the monitor powered for the duration of the show. And what was most important, the image presented to me was sharp and clear, and had plenty of brightness in the darkened theatre. This allowed me to make my critical focusing decisions with complete confidence.
Field/studio HD video monitoring
Digital and analog video and audio inputs, multiformat display, waveform/vctorscope/audio metering functions
Plura Broadcast | 877-467-5872 | www.plurabroadcast.com
I also did several other sessions outside with the monitor, shooting a solo cellist for a music video. Again, it was a quick and simple job to mount it for ease and accuracy of viewing. And operating on battery power made me appreciate its low power draw. I haven't seen an LCD monitor yet that wasn't challenged by direct sunlight viewing, and the Plura is no exception. A sun shade or hood of some sort would help a lot in bright light situations, but with the monitor's small footprint and light weight, it's very easy to maneuver it into a position that is not glaring. Inside and outside, the built-in waveform monitor was a great help in checking exposure.
I found it very handy to have this 7-inch monitor in my studio as an extra plug-in point of reference, especially with its built-in scopes and audio monitoring.
I very much appreciated the fact, both in the studio and on location, that I didn't have to worry about connecting or lugging around any extra hardware that would otherwise be needed to de-embed and monitor SDI audio.
The Plura PBM-070X is a lovely little monitor—crisp and clear images, in a lightweight and versatile package. It makes a great on-camera and on-location monitor. While the Plura certainly isn't the least expensive small LCD monitor on the market, it really is one of the best. Its price, performance, features, size, and ease of use all put it right in that sweet spot that designates truly good value. It is well worth a look.
Michael Hanish operates Free Lunch, a video/audio/multimedia production house near Guilford, Vt. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.