Production Monitors

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The latest technology developments in production monitors are making them more user-friendly and yet cost-efficient striking the balance to become effective in post-production activities. Imaging professionals in post-production houses involved in digital colour rendering have high expectations from the equipment they use. This is especially true when it comes to their production monitors as these are a must to offer uncompromising colour performance and calibration tools.

Product Mix

The latest production monitors available to customers include several new aspects like refresh rate, viewing angle and contrast ratio. ARK Infosolutions provides a range of TV-logic make Production Monitors to the Media Industry. The top models include LVM-170A, LVM-171A, LVM-171S, LVM-182W-A, LUM-170U, LUM-171G, VFM-058W, LVM- 095W-N, RKM-270A, RKM-290A, etc. With multiple interfaces including 3G-SDI, HDMI, DVI, Component, CVBS, S-Video, VGA & Audio, these monitors are ideal for TV-stations, ENG News Crews, Production Studios and directors in Live and Post Production applications. The 4-bay G-SPEED Shuttle with ev Series Bay Adapters that have 20TB of disk storage on-board alongside the ev Series Reader Atomos Master Caddy Edition and an ev Series bay adapters helps Michael Coleman, Director, Atomos do his job. He said, “gone are the bottlenecks and the speed humps. There is flexibility now thanks to the superior drive technology. The speeds that you get from the caddy and the drives that I am using is amazing.” Professional monitors are used in every stage of the imaging chain in content creation to display which typically range from on-site shooting at the actual location to editing to image grading at the post production facility. Apart from the application, customers usually make their choice based on screen size, type of panel and budget.  To each and every application, monitors must be compatible to display industry standard video signals faithfully  and also provide support related to gamma functions, wide viewing angle, high contrast ratio, provision of input/ output interfaces and ease of operability. Sony offers wide range of professional monitors to suit various requirements in the imaging chain. Sony’s range of products range from LCD flat panels to OLEDs in the HD and 4K premium segment and are offered in various screen sizes from 9” onwards. All the recent products introduced by Sony’s LMD-A and PVM-A series are slimmer and lighter by 40% than its predecessors. These have wider view angles, high contrast ratio and there is a marked improvement in the power consumption. Additionally the quality of panels used ensures that the customers get their full value for money. Mohit Bhasin, Head of Technology, Supari Studios said, “as of now, technology is really moving rapidly, especially when it comes to the resolution films and the like. There are now 8k cameras and when you shoot a film in 8k ideally you should carry out post-production also in 8k; if not your work-in-progress files then at least your final files should be viewed in the final output resolution. This also means that you have to keep up to date with what new technologies are being announced and for what price point. CES 2018 just concluded a little while back and we saw a bunch of new monitors from LG, Dell, Lenovo, Asus and in fact, even Nvidia came out with a monitor.”

Making the Cut

Today, production monitors offer uncompromising colour performance and calibration tools. These monitors support color gamut’s that conform to the ITU standard and match EBU/Rec. 709 specifications for HD broadcast video, allowing for accurate and standardized color reproduction. “All these monitors are field upgradable using optional handheld tool that quickly and easily loads firmware updates into individual monitors. All these monitors are calibrated prior to shipment with factory standards. TV-logic offers free colour calibration utility that automatically realigns monitor for accurate color reproduction. Four different measurement probes are supported that cover various requirements of sensitivity, speed and budget. TV-logic recommends the Klein K-10A probe as it offers both fast and highly accurate calibration as well as broad compatibility with the entire TV-logic line. The other supported probes include X-Rite i1 Display as well as the most advanced Konica Minolta CA-210 Color Analyzer,” said Mohan Rawat, Country Manager – Broadcast & Post, ARK Infosolutions Pvt. Ltd. When it comes to key decision making, it is ideal to have the best hardware to help bring to life the creative teams vision. “And the quicker you realize issues with your final output the easier it will be to take your project through the defined pipeline. This would usually save a bit of back and forth on the final files especially when deliverables are nearing and you just begin to start watching your project in high formats and resolution, as would be seen by the audiences,” opined Bhasin.

Quality Control

Quality of panels, processors and the overall electronics which form the basic structural components determine the performance of professional displays. Traditionally, the monitors were built with metal chasses but were heavier and were difficult to carry on location. “Sony successfully overcame this challenge by adopting PC/ABS to reduce weight while maintaining the same robustness. The advantage was lighter weight body which could be easily carried. These are also tested for vibrations for making them useful in OB vans and trucks. Professional Monitors are also designed to be dependable and stable with tools to measure input video signals. Sony’s LMD series has the same signal processing engine as the PVM-A series but with a reduced cost allowing us to maintain color reproduction quality that responds to the needs of the professionals. Further color reproduction of the LMD and PVM series is quality controlled individually at the factory. Sony professional monitors are also tested for long time aging until LCD stabilizes thus ensuring reliability on field for retakes,” said Amitab Kumar, Marketing Head – Media Solutions, Professional Solution Division, Sony India.

Technology Matters

New technologies are on the horizon for production displays, as well as camera and field production monitors. CRT displays have been the gold standard for precision quality-control monitoring for many years, but it’s getting hard to find CRT monitors these days. “Improvements to flat panel displays combined with technology changes that reduce (but do not eliminate) the need for calibrated displays make flat panel LCD monitors the most popular choice today. Still, LCD display technology is getting more refined with each passing year. LCD displays are low-cost, lightweight and can produce excellent images, and new LCD developments such as In-Plane Switching (IPS) promise to give LCD displays much wider viewing angles and better visibility in bright light,” explained Rawat. Another improvement in LCD technology is the use of LEDs for the backlight instead of CCFLs. It’s important to understand that displays with LED backlights are not technically LED displays; rather, they are LCD displays that use an LED backlight. These LED/LCD hybrids bring big benefits: deep blacks and improved contrast, thinner cases, lighter weight and lower power consumption. A recent trend in display technology is the use of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). The benefits of OLED display—including high brightness and wide viewing angles—stem from the fact that the display consists of pixel-sized LEDs; light from the LEDs does not pass through a controlling matrix such as that used in LCD/LED hybrid displays. Monitors are available for many other specializations, such as 3D and the latest, 4K monitoring. 4K is taking off, but it’s still in its early stages. There will continue to be refinement and advancement in professional video monitors, as well as continued creativity shown by manufacturers with monitors that pack in more features and capabilities.

High Definition Impact

High dynamic range (HDR) is a bigger breakthrough compared to 4K as the latter are merely measures of resolution, which is just one of the many characteristics of a high-quality display such as higher contrast ratio, smoother motion, more colors, enhanced frame rate, etc. “Increased pixel count does not necessarily mean the viewing experience will be better. HDR pushes the limit of peak brightness and black level to as much as 1000 nits and 0.05 nits, respectively. This delivers extremely natural pictures,” said Rawat. 2160p (4K) video is widely being adopted by streaming services such as YouTube, Amazon, Vimeo, and Netflix. Netflix offers some blockbuster shows in 4K. But it does not necessarily enhance the viewing experience; however, HDR does. With HDR, on screen fire effects will look much warmer, and images will be lush and vibrant. It is a technology that’s arguably more noticeable than the upgrade from 1080p to 4K. Display makers are manufacturing HDR supported TVs, Consumers will opt for HDR TVs as it gains popularity. That’s when content owners will realize the shift in viewer preference and drive HDR video production. Producers should make tactical changes in terms of shooting and processing to create HDR ready content.  Now, HDR content is in a nascent state. The pioneers in OTT delivery, Amazon Prime and Netflix are both progressing towards acquiring more HDR videos in their library. 4K is highly data intensive. 1 minute of 4K video consumes as much as 375 MB of space at 30 fps. Similarly, 1 minute of 1080p video requires approximately 150 MB of space at 30 fps. Kumar opined, “HDR adoption in consumer television has propelled the use of HDR content creation in the industry. This has been augmented by the standardization of HLG and SMPTE ST 2084 PQ gamma settings. Additionally, Sony HDR compatible monitors are capable of S-Log3 HDR displays. HDR support in HD and 4K have given customers choice in workflow. The impact is in giving never-seen visual experience to the viewers and emulating the high dynamic range characteristics that human eyes possess.”

The Right Selection

The selection of the right monitor can help a post-production team in the delivery of high quality programming. Post- Production setup plays an important role in shaping the content to its best visual quality before it reaches the consumers. If one does bit have the right type of monitors in setup, then more chances are there to have mismatch in the final output desired. Therefore, the focus on right kindly of displays as per applications usage is of the paramount importance. Right size of monitors with features required to finish the task and proper calibration tools is the need of hour. “Depending on the hardware and the exact requirement the factors that usually play an important role in picking the monitor includes price, display port (HDMI or Thunderbolt or SDI or other such connections), colour gamut (how much can it realistically replicate the sRGB spectrum, 90% or 100%) and viewing angles among other factors,” said Bhasin. cinema, television in SDR and in HDR. “Today OTT platform has opened up separate need to deliver content. As per the deliverables the professional monitor must be able to meet the industry specific standards in color spaces like ITU-R 709,DCI-P3, ITU-R BT.2020 color spaces. The presence of International OTT players has set definite international standards of display and Sony’s flagship product BVM-X300 is the top choice,” said Kumar.

Efficiency Matters

Production monitors ensure that they are primed for critical image evaluation, while also offering improved gamma and grayscale for accurate colors. Highly demanding critical viewing requires highly accurate monitors with many features including 10-bit display drivers, high-purity RGB matrix LED backlight system and most advanced video processing engine. Industry leading color management is achieved using the inbuilt 3D LUT to import/export 3D LUT’s and precisely reproduce various color gamut’s with excellent greyscale linearity. There are monitors available in the market with recording and playback capabilities for different formats and one can view in different viewing conditions without compromising the quality. Coleman’s philosophy is that getting the workflow right is an investment in yourself, your gear and your projects. “The details matter because they show up. Transferring footage in half the time is more time that I can spend working on my edit,” he explained. As technology progresses it is important to keep up with the revised standards of display and video technology. It is imperative for creative professionals to keep up to date with the latest gear to avoid any snags in their workflows and affect the final output. Making sure you research on the right technology for your own workflows will enable you to concentrate on the creative aspects of your work without getting impeded with the challenges of dealing with soon-to-be-obsolete hardware. “One interesting thing to note is that companies like BenQ are making self-calibrating monitors (to an extent) which look at the ambient light and make adjustments accordingly. This can be very helpful! Another cool thing to have is that monitors have more universal ports, like USB-C, HDMI and SD Card slots. This enables the top-of-the-line monitors to actually be able to flexible in their I/O streams which can be a huge benefit too,” said Bhasin.

Looking Ahead

Most of the production monitors in conventional post-production houses were deployed several years ago. Hence there are many reinstallation or revitalizing opportunities that lie within for solution providers. There is a huge opportunity lies ahead with the advent of newer technologies and the facilities using them, keep upgrading themselves at regular interval. Currently the buzz word is HDR. Bhasin explains, “I think we can safely say that it is a function of defining a workflow for your film. The decision making process starts right in the beginning and goes on till the very end, where post production lies. If the team decides that the entire workflow needs to be done in 4K and they take on more work from that perspective then it would help to have a pipeline that can support it, right from the workstations themselves to the monitors and so on. If you do a get a 4K monitor, for example, but do not have a computer or a colour grading software that can support 4K streams then it will be ineffective.” In all it certainly seems all about building the right workflows, pipelines and ecosystems.

This story appeared in the April 2018 issue of Digital Studio here: Production Monitors

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