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Monitors: Beyond What the Eye Can See

Plura’s SFP-3G Series

NEW YORK—Seeing is usually believing, except when it comes to measuring accuracy on a professional monitor. In these cases the monitor can now provide accuracy that goes well beyond what can be “eye-balled.” Yet, even when the user is able to judge by eye alone, this doesn’t necessarily carry over to other monitors.

“Many depend on their eyes for a certain ‘look,’” said Russ Walker, director of strategic planning and business development at Marshall Electronics in El Segundo, Calif. “However they also want to duplicate that look on another day and likely on another monitor.”

With the market now broken into several segments, including TV and cable production along with video production and post-production, many different users are looking at the same professional monitors but all with very different eyes.

“This now requires functions to duplicate the monitor settings,” Walker told TV Technology. “This is most often done with LUTs [look up tables] that are a series of numeric values that manage gamma, brightness, contrast, primary and secondary color points etc. This kind of functionality is found in so-called ‘grade 1’ monitors. This level of monitor also needs to be capable of ‘field calibration.’”

In addition Walker noted that there are large segments of customers who do not need this much capability and they rely on many of the pre-set values in the monitor such as gamma settings, brightness and contrast. In these situations budget and customer sophistication are the primary drivers in how much functionality is required and actually used.

“Monitors that do it all are more costly as the firmware is more sophisticated and the high-grade panels cost more as well,” Walker added. “We are working to offer choice in price points and capability.”


To ensure that the end user can get just the right picture, Plura, a Phoenix-based provider of professional monitors, now offers monitors that include LKFS audio loudless measurements, built-in precise waveform and vector and display video payload identification (VPID) as well as 16 channel audio metering with different scales.

The SFP-3G Series, which Plura introduced at the NAB Show in April, further offers a 6 x 6 built-in cross point switcher, pixel to pixel mode, and internal pattern generator as well as digital audio decoding.

JVC provides a range of functionality in its professional monitors, including 3G ATSI input capability, waveform scope and 16-channel audio metering. Its new 17-inch studio model offers a mercury-free RGB LED backlight.

The 17-inch studio monitor offers 10-bit processing capacity, according to Craig Yanagi, JVC’s national marketing and brand manager. “It enables a precise 709 gamut mode, making it a default monitor for accurate color imagery,” he said. “It also offers a wide gamut mode that covers 110 percent of the NTSC color space.”

These smaller monitors uses are not just limited to the studio either. “Those built-in monitor features such as waveform are really helpful in the field with small monitors where it is not practical to take some of the external calibration tools,” said Nicholas E. Dugger, president of Tennessee Digital Video in Nashville. “Some of those included features are very helpful and we take advantage of those in the field.”

TVLogic offers users different tools to measure exposure and focus. “These are not uncommon tools to find, and these are fairly ubiquitous across our product line,” said Wes Donahue, director of sales and marketing at Preco, TV Logic’s U.S. distributor. “All of the monitors on the mid-to-high- end have quite the same feature sets that include vectorscope and waveform and focus assist.”

Waveform functionality allows users to check the exposure as they are shooting. “There is a lot of choice depending on what the user needs,” Donahue added. “Audio level metering is enabled on the screen, and that is another feature that can come in handy for many users. Some of the monitors on the higher-end offer side-by-side picture and picture, and this can come in very handy when matching cameras.”

In addition, TVLogic’s monitors can be auto calibrated, and many of the models now feature a built-in 3D look up table.

As professionals continue to move towards 4K the market continues to evolve. This is spreading beyond the use in the studio as well, and it is here that new problems require new solutions.

“4K is becoming a serious niche for field production, post production,” said Steve Mahrer, Panasonic senior technology alliance manager. However he adds, “4K also brings new problems. A simple yet everyday example is the ability of the DP or cameramen to actually see focus. On HD monitors, the DP could see focus on a 7-inch or 9-inch HD LCD attached to the camera. These HD LCDs had peaking that provided an indication of camera/lens focus. Alas, 4K requires something new and better; a 4K image that is soft or not at critical focus is essentially useless and disappointing.”

As a result, Mahrer suggests that Panasonic’s 31-inch BT-4LH310 LCD Production Monitor, which features multiple professional inputs including HD-SDI, 3G-SDI and HDMI; true color processing with a 3D LUT; HD/SD closed captioning; 28 Volt DC operation for field use; and an eco-friendly panel with mercury-free LED backlight, could “be the right size to fulfill the field use need.”

Moreover Mahrer noted that Panasonic plans to have the 31-inch monitor work in an Academy Color Encoding System (ACES) environment, as well.

“This is where the workflow is defined by the colorspace and gamma profiles of the camera, the monitoring display and the final theatre projector,” Mahrer said. “The ability to load an ACES 3D LUT to correctly display on the 31-inch LCD what the customer in a movie theater will see and adjust the color accordingly is very important.”

JVC is also touting its latest feature-friendly 84-inch monitor, which was introduced last year at CEDIA and then shown as a production model at InfoComm. 4K allows for 4x full 1920x1080 HD signals to be displayed on a single monitor where cameras need to be matched, and these larger monitors make for easy comparing of the images.

“It has a stunning image,” said Yanagi. “It provides a multiview environment in situations where there is a need for large sizes, especially with 4K production. This enables the ability to use this monitor without compromising the resolution.”