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Knowing What to Look For in Flat-Panel Monitors

MULTIPLE CITIES: In the world of video production/editing, flat-panel liquid crystal display monitors are taking over from bulky cathode ray tube monitors. In fact, “The major shift from CRT to LCD flat-panel monitors started about 10 years ago and now virtually all monitors sold are LCD-based,” said Ramseen Evazians, Samsung Enterprise Business Division’s manager of Commercial Displays.

At first glance, the only quality that seems to set flat-panel monitors apart from each other is their relative sizes of their screens, but do not be fooled. To paraphrase a line from George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, all flat panels are equal, but some are more equal than others. To help find the best “more equal” flat-panel monitor for video production possible, listed are some qualities to look for when making that selection.

Because understanding drives intelligent assessment, knowing how flat-panel monitors work is necessary to evaluate those units.

JVC’s DT-V24G11Z Fundamentally, “An LCD flat-panel monitor uses the light-modulating properties of liquid crystals to display arbitrary images,” said Steven Cooperman, a product manager for the Panasonic. That is essentially the same basic technology used for a digital clock, except that arbitrary images are made up of a large number of small pixels, while other displays have larger elements, he added.

Because it is still possible to purchase CRT monitors—some users believe them to be superior to flat panels—asking why a flat-panel monitor should be used is not a silly question. However, there is no denying the many advantages of flat panels compared to CRTs. For instance, “They take up less space on the desktop and are much easier to connect to new technology and devices,” Evazians told Government Video. “They are also better for the environment, as they use less power, plastic and packaging, fewer hazardous materials and require less energy than CRT,” and “current higher-end LCD monitors also create images that rival virtually any CRT monitor,” he said.

It can be argued that any cheap flat-panel monitor will do and that might be the case for running computer programs and surfing the Web, but quality matters when it involves video production and editing. That is because any video produced on a flat panel has the chance of being viewed on the largest, most expensive and most demanding high-definition television.

If a flat panel is not good enough to enable a user to see everything that is in the video—including color correction issues, poor focus and digital artifacts—then those flaws could end up on the top-end screens for everyone to see.

“Accuracy is very important, you don’t want an LCD monitor to hide or mask defects in picture quality,” said Dave Walton, JVC Professional Products’ assistant vice president of marketing and communications. Professionals need to ensure the “monitor is large enough to show defects that would be visible on a large-screen TV,” he said. In addition, do not discount the importance of a wide viewing angle. “If more than one person is viewing footage in an edit suite, you need to be sure everyone is seeing the same image,” he said.

JVC’s DT-V24G11Z 24-inch LCD monitor is part of its Vérité G Series, and it features a 3G/duallink HD/SD-SDI input for monitoring of 1080p/60 signals, plus component and composite inputs to accommodate legacy equipment and a DVI-D input for Blu-ray playback. Its native1920x1200 LCD panel offers a 178-degree viewing angle with minimal color change from different angles.

The qualities to look for in a quality flat-panel monitor or set of monitors start with size. Be sure to acquire a screen that is appropriate for an individual production/editing environment. That is where higher quality, and higher priced, flat panels can be worth the extra cost, because, unlike their low-end cousins, such monitors typically incorporate superior image processing technology.

Samsung’s S27A850D A reputable vendor can help with the details. Sufficed to say, the screen should be large enough to view onscreen minutiae clearly, but not so large that it overwhelms the ability to take everything in at one glance. Put plainly, monitors in the 20-inch size are best for desktops while monitors starting at 42 inches—and growing larger—are appropriate for wall mounts and other more distant viewing applications.

“Resolution and screen size are the key factors,” said Evazians. “For video production, higher contrast with better color accuracy also tends to be critical,” he said. Samsung offers—for HD video production—its S27A850D and S 27B970D flat-panel monitors. “Samsung’s 850 series and 970 series monitors are ideal for uses where high-resolution and color accuracy are important, such as video, photography, graphic design and more,” Evazians
said. The reason is “both the 850 series and 970 series feature Samsung’s innovative LED PLS technology, which results in more accurate color and better viewing angles, while consuming less energy than the competing technologies.”

Nonetheless, deep, full blacks also matter, said Gary Litwin, Boland Communications’ national sales director. Litwin recommends flat-panel televisions that offer “wide/full off axis viewing, accurate color (and) multiple inputs.”

Boland’s SE Boland offer its newest addition to the flat-panel monitor market, the SE family of monitors which offers features that include 3G SDI, HD HDMI/DVI(+HDCP), HD VGA, Composite and Component, plus 8 and 10 Bit panels. Some SE models also come with LED backlights, plus analytical tools such as Audio Bar Graph, Waveform, Vectroscope, Peaking and Adjustable Frame Markers.

Flat-panel monitors that can be used with a multiple range of HD formats—such as 1080p/i and 720p—have Cooperman’s recommendation. “Flat-screen production monitors should boast an HD resolution, HD/SD SDI and HDMI connectivity and 16:9 aspect ratio,” he said. “LCD flat screen monitors should handle fast-motion content well and reduce image blur to a low level,” he added.

The Panasonic BT-LH2170, a 21.5-inch LCD flat panel with native 1920x1080 HD resolution, netted awards at NAB thanks to its top-end specs. They include a 3D look-up table that produces accurate colors and smooth gradation, an ultra-rugged aluminum die-cast chassis, mercury-free LED backlight, high brightness, 1,000:1 contrast and powerful stereo 3D assist functionality for 3D review in the field.

Larry Enroth, ViewZ USA’s director of sales for broadcast and post production, says flat panels offering “fast internal processing (of either) 10 bit or 12 bit” to produce the best quality HD video, especially for fast-moving images. Other qualities of a production-quality flat panel include user-definable Color Temperature settings, Gamma selectable settings, mono displays of Red, Green and Blue, and Test & Measurement overlays that support Waveform, Vectorscope and Y, CB, CR levels, he said.

Panasonic’s BT-LH2170 The ViewZ USA VZ-215PM-3G is a 21-inch 3G-SDI video production monitor. It offers 1920x1080 resolution, brightness rated at 250 cd/m2, and an embedded HDMI-SDI/SDI-HDMI converter. This model offers a 178-degree viewing angle both vertically and horizontally, making it highly useful for editing and displaying video in a group situation.

Additionally, it is also recommend that users purchases flat-panel monitors outfitted with function buttons that assure quick access to value-added features such as pixel-to-pixel display, cross hatch, split screen, audio level meters, time code and closed caption (from video) displays, Cooperman said. “Rugged features are a final key purchasing consideration (so) look for a flat-panel monitor with a production-tough chassis,” he said.

Remember, there are a lot of competing claims being made by flat-panel monitor vendors, so users need to do their homework before making a purchase, said Ray Kalo, Plura Broadcast’s president/CEO. “Customers need to be educated about the panel technology behind the LCD monitor,” Kalo said. “There are vast types of panels to be aware of (and) customers should know the pros and cons of each to make the right choice.”

The PBM-S Plura Precision Broadcast LCD Series of flat panels are built with “Grade A” LCD panels. Ranging in size from seven to 55 inches, the PBM-S series supports native full HD resolution with high contrast ratio, wide viewing angles, accurate color reproduction and quality picture consistency. It features intelligent connection for Calibration Alignment and Adjustable Colormetry and Gamma Correction.

In a tight economy vendors are often willing to make deals, so shop around before signing on the dotted line because buyers can get some good prices on the flat-panel monitors. Also, consider acquiring last year’s model as long as it is new in the box and meets, or exceeds, an organization’s needs. ~ from Government Video

James Careless is an award-winning journalist who has written for TV Technology since the 1990s. He has covered HDTV from the days of the six competing HDTV formats that led to the 1993 Grand Alliance, and onwards through ATSC 3.0 and OTT. He also writes for Radio World, along with other publications in aerospace, defense, public safety, streaming media, plus the amusement park industry for something different.