Manufacturers Say So Long to CRTs

Michaela Cavallaro examines the migration to new display technologies for professional video monitoring.
Author:
Publish date:

he consensus is clear: the era of CRT monitors is over. “The war is won,” says Stephen Golub, product line business manager at Panasonic. “They’re simply not making CRTs anymore.”

Indeed, most manufacturers have staked their claim on LCD and plasma display technology. And TV stations seem to be following suit, replacing their old CRT monitors with plasma and LCD models as budget and quality concerns allow. :©iStock/David H. Lewis Although plasma and LCD technologies continue to improve, CRTs still set the standard in a variety of areas, including latency, contrast ratio, black level, color gamut, motion rendition and viewing angle.

So perhaps it’s no wonder that Gary Mandle, Sony’s senior product manager for display products, said 95 percent of the professionals he knows are still relying on CRTs for critical monitoring. If a unit fails, however, the options for replacing it with another CRT are slim.


DOWN TO PARTS

When Sony stopped making CRTs in 2003, for example, the company stockpiled as many units as it could. It continued selling from that cache until early 2007, and then kept the remaining stock on hand to service customers’ existing models. Meanwhile, Ikegami is the only major manufacturer to continue producing CRTs, based on what it describes as demand from the broadcast and professional video market.

Chris Cordt, however, doesn’t miss the old monitors a bit. A producer at KJRH-TV in Tulsa, Okla., Cordt said the three or four dozen CRTs that used to line the control room’s back wall “broke all the time. You’d have to smack them to get them going again.”

When KJRH renovated its control room earlier this year as part of an upgrade to HD for local news broadcasts, the station replaced its CRTs with several 52-inch plasma monitors and some smaller LCDs. Cordt sees no drawbacks to the switch, saying that view angle has improved, there’s little to no burn-in, and color isn’t an issue.

“From a producing standpoint, there are no drawbacks to the switch,” he said. “And quite frankly, the new monitors just look cool.”

According to Peter Polit, chief technology officer at Indianapolis-based Cine-tal Systems, LCD dominates the post-CRT landscape, particularly for location shoots.

“LCDs are smaller, and they perform very well under bright lights,” Polit said.

What’s more, LCDs draw less power than plasmas, which can make a critical difference when operating off battery power in a remote location.

OFF COLOR

In post production, however, color matching continues to be problematic with LCD.

“A colorist who’s been working with CRTs knows precisely what’s going on with the content by looking at a CRT monitor,” Polit said. “But an LCD will not represent the color space the same way a CRT does.”

Still, Cine-tal feels secure enough with the technology that it put its efforts behind LCD. Customers use Cinemage, a 24-inch LCD monitor containing a sophisticated video processing server, about equally for production and post production. The system’s big selling point is the server, which allows for real-time collaboration between acquisition and post production.

Panasonic, too, has gone with LCD for its production monitors. The company recently introduced the 120 Hz 17-inch BT-LH1760, which it says provides the motion handling and latency advantages previously only available in CRTs.

“It’s a big step forward,” said Stephen Golub of Panasonic. “When you pan the camera, there’s just no lag at all.” Panasonic BT-LH1760

Sony has taken a slightly different approach, offering the BVM L230, an LCD panel with an LED backlight.
“The LED backlight means we’re able to do a wider color gamut,” says Gary Mandle, adding that the product has a selectable color space that can comply with broadcast standards ITU-R BT.709, EBU or SMPTE-C.

Meanwhile, plasma produces what Golub says is “an even nicer picture than LCD” due to plasma’s superior brightness and greater color gamut. But pixel size restrictions mean that professional plasma monitors under 37 inches simply aren’t made.

Besides, burn-in can be a significant problem with plasma. Dennis Hunt, chief engineer at KEZI-TV in Eugene, Ore., looked at plasma last fall when KEZI’s sister station, Bend, Ore.-based KOHD-DT, went live last September with an all-new control room that was HD from the ground up. The station initially used Evertz VIP8 multi-input displays with Panasonic plasma screens.

But, Hunt said, “the plasmas gave us a significant problem with burn-in on the dividers between each of the individual monitor displays.”

In the end, the station eventually selected 52-inch prosumer Sony LCDs, which Hunt says perform better on viewing angle and black levels than did the plasmas.

“The newer LCDs go down pretty darn close to black,” Hunt said.

As a result of the experience at KOHD, Hunt said he’s looking forward to switching out monitors in the master control at KEZI, which was built in the late 1990s and is stocked with CRTs.

“As we replace monitors, we’re looking heavily at going to LCD,” he said.

Despite all the optimism about new display technology, however, CRT adherents are still hanging on to their monitors.

“It’s a surprisingly big battle,” says Sony’s Mandle. “CRTs have been around for 100 years, and everyone is very comfortable with them. As a result there are some LCD dynamics--like blacks--that people just don’t understand. That’s an area where we really need to focus on educating people.”