I'd love to be able to site-check my clients' TV sets before giving them their programs. I could ensure their TVs were set up properly, reproducing the right colors, the right black levels, the right aspect ratios. I could rest easy, confident in the knowledge that all my hard work and creativity will look the way it's supposed to—the way it looks in my edit suite!
I haven't asked him, but I suspect even Ed would say, "That's too much pre-planning (or at best wishful thinking). There's no way any videographer can check each and every display or monitor a customer might use."
So how do video producers anticipate all the different settings and sets out there, and based on whatever foreknowledge they may have, to what display standard do they make their videos or DVDs? A recognized reference monitor is one way to go. It's not what everyone will watch, but it is the best square-one starting point you can have. If your video looks great here, you can have more confidence about its appearance elsewhere.
One of the best reference monitors out there is, in fact, not a monitor at all, but a rear-projection LCoS system from JVC. The 48" 16:9 1920 x 1080 DLAS-HRM1U is a high-contrast (3000:1), high-resolution (1080p) reference monitor, well suited for in-studio or postproduction suite reference. Three new D-ILA chips drive the image engine.
Digital inputs include HD-SDI, SDI, HDMI, and so on; analog connections include component, S-video, composite, and VGA. Thus the monitor is compatible with DTV, video, and computer signals. The JVC operates in what's called the REC 709 color space, a technical standard proposed for both internet and DTV signal delivery, and a new bridge for RGB and 4:2:2 environments.
There are four proposed gamma tables, or settings, available with the monitor, so color reproduction parameters can be factory preset or user-defined for different ambient light situations. Brightness and black levels are pure, detailed, and fully adjustable.
Technicalities aside, imagery on the monitor looks gorgeous! And while the display is 48" wide, the unit is only 30" deep, and described as "easily transportable." I don't know about that; the unit—with its price tag—seems pretty heavy to me: $44,995!
Meanwhile, Sony recently introduced a whole family of solutions for professional image reference and confidence: the new BVM-A series of digital monitors. One new model, the BVM-A24E1WU is a 24" (21 7/8" viewable area measured diagonally), 16:9 aspect ratio monitor.
These are "real" CRT monitors—flat-surface Trinitrons, in fact. CRTs may be an endangered species in many locations, but they have long been the choice for any pro monitoring application in studio production, postproduction, and broadcast settings. CRTs are still the most common form of home display, as well.
The BVM-A series monitor incorporates a built-in test signal generator, so the setup facilitates many different uses. It also offers controls for H/V delay, so the horizontal and vertical sync signals can be checked and set properly; automatic and manual degaussing; and internal aspect ratios overlays for DTV and cinema aspect ratios. Auto White Balance, Auto Matrix Selection, and Auto Chroma/Phase/Matrix Setup are included as well.
The BVM-A24E1WU supports multi-format input, accepting a range of SD and HD signal formats, with the added capability of dual-link HD-SDI input to monitor top-quality images up to 1080/50i and 1080/60i 4:4:4 RGB.
Street pricing is around $25,000, so we have almost cut the price of a great reference monitor in half! But I know that pricing level is still way out of whack with most wedding and event videographers' budgets.
Even an $8,000 price tag still sounds very high, but the new Brillian 6580iFB 1080p 6-megapixel HDTV might make you think for a minute.
The ultra-fine-pitch 16:9 widescreen, with its 170-degree viewing angle, native 1920x1080-pixel, three-panel light engine, and a new mega-sharp lens, is great in high-end home digital theaters, and also for postproduction environments.
It has six standard screen presets, but it also offers user-selectable software controls over color temperature and gamma. The display provides 12-bit grayscale and supports a range of video and media center/PC resolutions: 14 (digital and analog) inputs for video resolutions of 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p and PC resolutions of VGA, SVGA, XGA, SXGA, 720p, and 1080p. Response time is 7 milliseconds. Other features include advanced motion-adaptive de-interlacing and scaling, 3:2 pull-down detection, and digital noise reduction.
OK, so eight grand may still seem a lot for a TV, no matter how feature-packed. How about three?
Sony's 17" LUMA, multi-format, widescreen LCD monitor (LMD172WS) is available on the street for around $3,000. It features Sony's own color processing technology called ChromaTru, so the LCD can emulate SMPTE-C, EBU, or ITU-709 standards, according to Sony, with accurate gamma and white balance (color temp and gamma are selectable).
The image engine houses the video processing, input connections, option slots, controls, and power supply. As do most pro displays nowadays, the unit supports analog and digital signals such as NTSC, PAL, 480/60i, 575/50i, 480/60p, 576/60p, 1080/50i, 1080/60i, 720/60p, and 1080/24PsF. Optional input cards for SDI, HD-SDI, and iLink are available.
Another drop in pricing (this time to $1,500) will see a commensurate drop in features, of course. And though the display is only seven inches wide, the new Marshall V-R70P-HDA LCD is a nice little video-assist monitor. It can be mounted on a camera, and powered by a battery. It uses an internal A-to-D 10-bit converter (composite and component inputs are used) to handle incoming analog signals, passing them through a five-line comb filter and a color space converter for precise gamma correction.
Color bars and a blue screen-only adjustment setting, necessary tools for proper monitor set-up, are built-in to the unit, both somewhat unique on a field LCD. Its relatively high contrast and luminance settings mean the display can be used well in outdoor settings. It weighs less than two pounds and is priced around $1,500.
By the way, for you multi-camera or live-switch videographers, Marshall is introducing a four-screen LCD display combo, with adjustable screen aspect ratios, blue gun adjustment, and DVI or VGA compatibility, all with the same platform of brightness, luminance, and contrast specs as the company's larger displays.
Four 3.5" screens are in the rackmountable unit.
So, is $1,500 still too much for a monitor you can control, adjust, and depend on? How about $100? Well, ikan introduced a new line of affordable LCD monitors for the video production and AV markets, with models ranging from 2.5 inches up to 9 inches. They all feature AC/DC operation and come with A/V cables for basic connectivity.
The V2500 is the smallest of the line, 2.5 inches, with the smallest price, $99.95. It has brightness and contrast controls, but that is the extent to which you can adjust its image. The V7000 7" and the V9000 9" displays are 4:3 and 16:9 switchable and do include on screen menus for slightly more image control. Both monitors feature horizontal and vertical display flipping to accommodate any mounting position, a single-connector disconnect for easy setups and strikes, and NTSC or PAL compatibility. List pricing is $349 and $449, respectively. (Nebtec and Varizoom are among the other companies offering camera-mount LCD displays.)
One spec puts these functional, low-cost but restrictive displays into context: the ikans offer a contrast ratio of about 150:1. From the first monitor we cited, at some 3000:1, you can begin to see the wide range of prices and qualities that you will depend on when your video gets screened—whether you've checked it ahead of time, or not!