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July 2014
Issue: June 1, 2013

Monitors: improving HD with an eye on 4K

By: Christine Bunish
Monitor manufacturers have responded to the growth of 4K image capture by introducing full-featured 4K monitors in small and large formats. Some are getting ready to ship, others are still in the prototype stage. Even those monitor-makers who don’t have 4K product on the drawing board admit that 4K is where the industry is headed.

That’s not to say there’s no room for new and improved HD monitoring. Manufacturers continue to support HD with high-quality professional reference monitors and broadcast monitors designed to meet daily critical viewing needs.

PANASONIC

At NAB Panasonic (www.panasonic.com/broadcast) unveiled the BT-4LH310, a 31-inch 4096x2160 pixel resolution IPS LCD monitor for field monitoring; video village viewing of 4K cameras and devices with I/Os as well as viewing of dailies; and editing, dailies and screenings at post production facilities.



The 10-bit panel, which will available this fall, is “true native 4K resolution, not consumer 4K, which is ‘double HD,’” says Steve Cooperman, product manager for P2 HD and production displays. The monitor also bears the Panasonic “production tough” designation with a “well constructed aluminum chassis” that holds up to the challenges of working in the field. An LED backlight also promotes outdoor use.

The full-featured BT-4LH310 includes versatile hardware connections for mounting on stands and walls, built-in waveform and vectorscope, and four 3G inputs. It offers 178-degree vertical and horizontal viewing angles to permit multiple simultaneous viewers. In addition, “The monitor covers more than 96 percent of the DCI-P3 color space — that’s pretty big; you want a wide color space to assess the quality of the images,” Cooperman explains. “It can accurately display Rec 709 too.”

Cooperman believes the new monitor will “open up more rooms to real 4K” at a cost that post houses can afford. “A lot of facilities have been using expensive DLP projectors for 4K display. They won’t get rid of those rooms, but with the BT-4LH310 they’ll be opening up new revenue opportunities, while still maintaining HD/2K capabilities.”

Panasonic plans to continue to sell HD monitors and showed an HD OLED monitor in a technology demo at NAB. “We’ve been pretty dominant in the HD production monitor market for years,” Cooperman notes. “But we think our 4K monitors will also be very popular.”

TVLOGIC

TVLogic USA (www.tvlogicusa.com) introduced a prototype of its new 30-inch DCI 4K monitor at NAB. With 4096x2160 pixel resolution, 10-bit color depth and Rec 709 and DCI color gamut support, it’s slated to ship at the end of the year. TVLogic also has a 56-inch 4K monitor with 3840x2160 pixel resolution for industrial and broadcast applications.



“We see the new 30-inch 4K used in two areas,” says Wes Donahue, director of sales and marketing. “One is on-set, with feeds directly off the camera to preview LUTs and monitor off 4K cameras in realtime. The second is in post production, because the monitor is capable of reproducing color gamut at almost 100 percent of DCI and 100 percent of Rec 709. It has a considerably wider color gamut than other 4K LCD monitors, so we feel it will be deemed acceptable for color-critical work. In fact, the biggest difference from the competition is the quality of the panel’s color characteristics. There are other 4096-size monitors available now, but nothing has the overall color gamut and contrast of this panel.”

The challenge for all manufacturers of 4K displays will be “how to notch up quality without making the displays too costly for users,” he notes. “At NAB we kept hearing people say there was cool stuff out there but it was too expensive. People don’t want to pay $30,000 for a 30-inch 4K monitor. In HD post production, they’ve gotten by with plasmas and saved a ton on capital expenditures. So 4K will be about finding the magic price point where the professional consumer says, ‘I’ve gotta have it!’”

SONY

Sony Electronics’ OLED monitor technology took a 4K turn at NAB, where the manufacturer (www.sony.com/professional) displayed its 56-inch QFHD OLED monitor and presented a technology demonstration of a 30-inch true 4K OLED prototype.

The 56-inch display has 3840x2160 pixel resolution and will be available later this summer. The 30-inch monitor boasts true 4096x2160 4K resolution and is slated for release in 2014. Both panels offer wide viewing angles, low color shift and accurate signal reproduction for 4K content.

At NAB, Sony also showcased updates to its current pro OLED product line, with dramatically improved viewing angles for the BVM-E, BVM-F and PVM Series monitors. New feature sets, including closed captioning, timecode, camera focus, WFM, vectorscope and audio, were also shown for the PVM and LDM-41 Series monitors.



“The time is right to take OLED to the next level by incorporating 4K resolution,” says Gary Mandle, senior product manager, professional displays. “High-quality, reference-grade OLED monitors are more important now than ever, especially when working with content shot at 4K or beyond. At this level of production, being off even by the slightest degree, in terms of color accuracy and reproduction, will be readily apparent to the viewer.”

Mandle notes that Sony’s newest OLED products, the Trimaster EL “A” OLED series, “offer an improved panel for a 50 percent increase in viewing angle. These new monitors join the current line-up of Sony OLEDs, which are used for editing, dailies review, special effects, critical viewing and cinematic production. We’ve already implemented 4K technology into our professional display line, starting with the PVM-X300, which has a 30-inch 4K LCD panel.

“Now when we begin to add 4K resolution into our professional OLED line, that increase in resolution will further complement the already proven characteristics of OLED technology: superb contrast, amazing clarity and accurate color reproduction.”

CANON

At NAB, Canon USA (www.cinemaeos.usa.canon.com) displayed the most recent iteration of the development of its 30-inch 4K reference monitor prototype. “4K was the focus of our booth on the monitor side, although we have no plans to announce a production schedule, delivery or price yet,” says Chuck Westfall, technical advisor, professional engineering and solutions division.  “We developed the reference monitor to match up with our 4K capture devices: the EOS C500 and EOS 1DC. The C500, especially, is very important to our overall 4K strategy. 4K capture is causing a paradigm shift in the industry — it’s happening right in front of us.”



The 30-inch reference monitor prototype is a 10-bit IPS LCD panel with 4096x2560 pixel resolution, which equates to a 16x10 aspect ratio. The viewing angle is set at 178 degrees top to bottom and left to right.

A pair of prototypes was displayed alongside a large screen illuminated by a newly developed Barco 4K editing projector in a demonstration DI suite in the Canon booth. “We were very impressed to see how accurately our color matched a very expensive projector,” Westfall says. “Resolution and brightness are always important, but accurate color and tonal gradation is absolutely critical at the technical level.”

He reports that Canon is working with organizations, such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which are seeking to standardize a 4K workflow. Canon is currently engaged with ACES, an evolving industry standard for 4K color space.

The reference monitor is targeted to the major studios and post houses in major markets as well as TV networks, which are “aggressively pushing the development of 4K production,” with sports broadcasting driving the move toward the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

“We anticipate that the market for 4K monitors will expand rather healthily over the next several years,” says Westfall. “Edit suites will want a couple of screens at eye level, and a 30-inch monitor is a good size for them.”

DOLBY

Dolby (www.dolby.com) continues to upgrade its 42-inch PRM-4200 professional reference monitor, which launched at the end of 2010. “Regarded by many as way ahead of its time in performance and features, the PRM-4200 is constantly upgraded to meet evolving workflow needs,” says Bill Admans, director of production and post production solutions at Dolby.

Dolby was “not known as a company in the video space” when it introduced the PRM-4200, he notes, so “it was a very bold move in a heavily-saturated market.” Designed for color-critical work, the monitor has been used by David Fincher to monitor DI color remotely for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, Pixomondo and ILM for VFX for Star Trek Into Darkness. It was honored with an Emmy Award last year. “In less than two years we went from being unknown in monitors to recognized as the industry standard in reference monitors,” Admans says.



Manufactured and calibrated in Dolby’s California facility, the PRM-4200 comes with three years of software updates included in the purchase price. New features include Apple iPad remote control, available free from the iTunes store; support of the ACES workflow with D60 preset native color space; and expanded color management capabilities with Nucoda 3D LUTs. 
 
Admans says the monitor also offers “high dynamic range capabilities.” The monitor is calibrated to a peak brightness level of 600 nits when in the dynamic mode, instead of the usual 100 nits found in many reference monitors.

On the service side, Dolby has responded to customers’ concerns about the cost of calibration tools and trained staff by launching the Dolby Display Calibration Service for low-cost, on-site calibration by Dolby personnel, which “dramatically reduces cost of ownership” for clients, he reports.

It’s still “very early days for 4K technology at the moment,” Admans says, but Dolby is “working actively” with 4K standards organizations. “We have an exciting road map of products planned for the next several years. We believe 4K customers will want the same high level of color accuracy, black levels and on-screen performance they enjoy today with our professional reference monitor.”

FLANDERS SCIENTIFIC

Known as manufacturers of affordable professional broadcast monitors, Flanders Scientific (www.flandersscientific.com) unveiled five new models at NAB. “We cater specifically to the broadcast environment, high-end color suites, on-set production and editorial,” says product manager Kris Merkel. “Our price sets us apart from a lot of the competition along with our professional feature sets, including vectorscope and VU meters across all inputs; monitoring modes for Sony Log, Canon Log and Blackmagic Film Log; CFE2 processing boards for advanced color management in Rec 709, SMPTE C, wide gamut, DCIP3 and EBU; gamma choices; and color temperature choices.”

New models include the BM210 21.5-inch monitor, ideal for field monitoring, with native 1920x1080 resolution, CFE2 and simultaneous monitoring of two inputs, and the BM230, a 23-inch version that works well in editing environments. Both ship this month.



Also shown were the new CM171, a 17.3-inch, 10-bit panel with native 1920x1080 resolution, CFE2 and simultaneous monitoring of two inputs; the CM240, a 24-inch, 10-bit, wide gamut panel with 1920x1200 native resolution, CFE2 and simultaneous monitoring of two inputs targeted to editors, colorists and DITs; and the CM320TD, a 32-inch, 10-bit panel with 1920x1080 native resolution, CFE2 and simultaneous monitoring of two inputs that’s well suited for all post applications but also adaptable as a field monitor thanks to its lightweight and low power consumption. All ship this month.

Besides price and performance, two other points make Flanders Scientific monitors stand out, says Merkel. “We align every unit with $60,000 worth of professional calibration equipment, so they’re ready to plug and play out of the box,” he explains. “We also offer free lifetime, same-day calibration, as well as integrating with many popular third-party calibration options.”

The company also sells direct to end users “so we can supply product very quickly and listen to users and implement their feedback,” he says. “Most functions on the monitors are a result of customer requests.” Lifetime free firmware upgrades are also offered.

Merkel realizes 4K panels are “where the industry is headed” but cites their current high price tags. “We’ll see more at the next NAB as the price of manufacturing comes down. We try to strike a balance between functionality and affordability. We’re always researching new technology, but we don’t want to sell a unit that is more expensive than our customers can afford.”

MARSHALL ELECTRONICS

El Segundo, CA's Marshall Electronics (www.marshall-usa.com) is offering the QVW-2710, a 27-inch, 2560x1440 resolution 2K/4K compatible Quad-Viewer monitor featuring four independent 3G-SDI inputs, which enable users to view four channels simultaneously scaled to the highest resolution. Users can take advantage of the convenience of an all-in-one monitor without sacrificing the visual quality of the four input sources.

The new monitor has an all-digital TFT-megapixel active matrix LCD system with QHD native resolution and permits previewing of a 4K signal scaled down to the monitor’s resolution. 

Three different quad layouts are available, and the side-by-side mode allows any two consecutive channels to be viewed on the screen at one time. In-monitor display enables on-screen text and tally indication, controlled locally or remotely via a variety of industry standard protocols.



“Generally, you need separate monitors to achieve the kind of image quality and the selection of features available in the QVW-2710,” says sales manager Rob Foster. Marshall’s new monitor is “a cost-effective, all-in-one” solution for post production facilities, broadcasters and mobile units. 

Additional features include color temperature adjustment, aspect ratio settings, blue-only mode and monochrome mode. Pixel-to-pixel mode allows native display of any incoming image format. Users can set four function buttons to the desired settings for quick access and adjustment.

The Marshall QVW-2710’s anticipated release date is late summer 2013.

SAMSUNG

Samsung’s new S9 85-inch 4K display made its NAB debut in the Adorama (www.adorama.com) booth, the first NAB booth for the retailer. The giant Samsung S9 boasts a pixel resolution of 3840x2160 and offers full-array local dimming backlight for increased contrast to more areas of the screen, making blacks blacker and brights brighter, and creating a significantly higher-quality picture.  



The panel has a thin profile, supported on an easel-like frame, which houses the speakers and allows the screen to be tilted for better viewing. The S9 is the only display of this size and format in the US right now from Samsung (www.samsung.com). It will be available later this year. Adorama will offer options for acquiring the product either through lease or financing via the company’s forthcoming credit program.

BOLAND

Lake Forest, CA's Boland Communications (www.bolandcom.com) began heavy shipping of its new SE Series of premium monitors this year. The monitors are available in a range of sizes from 15 to 72 inches. They feature native 10-bit displays with 12-bit processing, dual 3G SDI inputs (plus HDMI, DVI and Composite), waveform and vectorscope, and other scope overlays. They also de-embed audio, offer fully adjustable frame markers, and are calibrated to Rec 709 out of the box.

The SE Series represents “a logical step in our product mix,” says national sales director Gary Litwin. “Dual 3G SDI is where the broadcast world is going.” Rec 709 calibration out of the box is “another big plus.”



Boland products are American-made and have lifetime support.
 
Although there hasn’t been any formal announcement yet, expect Boland to ship 4K product by the end of the year, “if not sooner,” says Litwin. “The demand is already there. We’ll probably offer two or three sizes, including a reference monitor for the post community and larger models with the same features. Although it will be one of Boland’s most expensive offerings, I’m confident our price will lead the industry.”

CONVERGENT DESIGN

Based on customer feedback, Convergent Design (www.convergent-design.com) in COlorado Springs, CO, has made some changes to its Odyssey7 and Odyssey7Q line of monitor/recorders. The biggest news is that DNxHD and any future supported compressed codecs (up to 1080p60 422) will now be included in Odyssey’s base price. There is no additional firmware option to purchase.

Odyssey7 is now configured as a 7.7-inch OLED monitor with compressed recording capabilities, making it a simple solution for DSLR and broadcast. The unit is low power, lightweight and comes in a rugged magnesium case.



Additional cost options and features are only available on Odyssey7Q, which boasts two bi-directional SDIs enabling a 4K@60fps-ready option. Additional computational power supports recording/playback of up to four-compressed HD/2K simultaneously, support for one video stream up to 120fps and concurrent proxy and raw recording. OdysseyQ7 can be upgraded to a full pro recorder with the following options: uncompressed HD/2K RGB 444 (up to 60p), 2K/HD Raw, ArriRaw (full 16:9,4:3 support), Canon 4K Raw and Sony Raw for the FS700.

IKEGAMI

Maywood, NJ's Ikegami (www.ikegami.com) showcased an advanced range of HD flat-panel LCD monitors at the NAB show in April. The newest member of the product line is the HLM-905WR 9-inch LCD monitor, a compact, high-resolution unit with multi-format HD/SD SDI inputs, including two-channel 3G, and a one-channel analog composite input. It offers WFM and vector displays, audio level monitoring, plus a USB connector for mouse control and file storage.   

Ikegami also showed its 50 Series of high-class displays: multi-format HD monitors with wide critical viewing angles, built-in vector and waveform monitoring and full 1920x1080 pixel resolution. The 50 Series includes the HLM-3250W (32-inch), HLM-2450WB (24-inch), and HLM-1750WR (17-inch) models, all of which feature accurate color and gamma reproduction, embedded audio-level metering, timecode reader display, and optional 3G-SDI inputs. 



On hand, too were the 04 Series of economical displays, including the HLM-7002WR dual 7-inch and HLM-5003WR triple 5-inch monitor, which made their debuts last year.

Other affordable, space-saving HD flat-panel LCD monitors on hand included the HLM-1704WR multi-format 17-inch monitor, the HLM-7002WR dual 7-inch LED backlit multi-format rack mount monitor with 3G input, and the HLM-5003WR triple 5-inch LED backlit multi-format rack mount monitor with 3G input. Both the HLM-7002WR and HLM-5003WR provide a title generator, embedded audio level indicators up to 16 channels, waveform display, and a vectorscope.

JVC

JVC Professional Products Company (http://pro.jvc.com) in Wayne, NJ, demonstrated its new PS-840UD Professional Series ProVerite 4K 84-inch LCD monitor at NAB. With a native screen resolution of 3840x2160 and 60p display capability, it’s one of the largest professional-grade 4K monitors in the world.

“JVC has 4K projectors, and we introduced a 4K camcorder over a year ago, but we haven’t had a 4K monitor,” notes assistant VP of marketing and communications, Dave Walton. “Even before there are 4K TVs in the home people are shooting TV and movies in 4K and need to monitor them, so that’s why we introduced the 84-inch model and showed a 32-inch prototype at NAB.”

Developed for screening rooms, CAD applications, boardrooms and limited digital signage, the PS-840UD features an IPS LCD panel, 10-bit color depth and 178-degree viewing angle. The ELED-illuminated monitor produces vibrant, natural images from a variety of input sources, including HDMI 1.4a and HDMI 1.3.

A key differential is the monitor’s 60p capability, Walton says.  “Anybody investing in a 4K monitor should insist on 60p. And you should make sure the inputs and signal match the sources you’ll be feeding it.” When the PS-840UD begins shipping in June, JVC will become “one of the first to ship a monitor in this price range in the commercial arena,” he points out.

SHARP

Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America, a division of Sharp Electronics Corporation (www.sharpusa.com) in Mahwah, NJ, has released the PN-K321, a new 32-inch professional LED monitor featuring the company’s IGZO technology and 3840x2160 pixel resolution.

The monitor brings Sharp’s proprietary IGZO technology to its professional display products. With much smaller thin-film transistors compared to conventional displays, IGZO technology also supports increased pixel transparency and reduced current leakage, resulting in lower power consumption.



“Sharp’s PN-K321 utilizes the company's IGZO technology to provide 4x the pixel resolution of conventional 1080p, providing users with the ultimate ultra-high definition (UHD) picture clarity, making it ideal for post production video editing work,” says Gary Bailer, director of product planning and marketing, pro AV products. “It is the world's thinnest ultra-high definition monitor, just 35mm at its thickest point, and is easy to connect using compatible 4K2K video cards with a single HDMI or DisplayPort cable.

“Our UHD 32-inch class monitor is designed and engineered for professional applications, and its unique features make it suitable for both in-studio and on-set environments,” he notes.  “In addition, we are able to offer it at a more affordable price point to ensure those businesses that demand ultra-high definition clarity can find a monitor that meets — and exceeds — their expectations.”

RED

Optimized for the 6K Red Dragon sensor, Red Digital Cinema’s (www.red.com) Red Rocket-X is designed to accelerate the process of the R3D workflow, regardless of resolution. Using Dual DisplayPort + Dual HD-SDI 1.5G/3G for video output, Red Rocket-X provides realtime 4K playback directly to a 4K display or projector.

Red Rocket-X processes and transcodes files up to 5x faster than the previous Red Rocket accelerator.  Red Rocket-X supports Stereo 3D video output. A redesigned chassis protects the card, which uses a full-length PCI-e x16 requiring external 6-pin (75w) PCI-e power for installation in a Mac or PC.



“The original Red Rocket has become the staple of the post industry — everybody uses it in editing systems and DI systems to deal with native raw Red files in high resolution,” says Red’s Ted Schilowitz. “We were already bumping up against the threshold at 5K with the current Rocket, so now we’re going to 6K with the new Red Rocket-X.  Anybody working on-set or in post will need its performance.  And the build is now much more rugged and robust.”

Red Rocket-X is expected to ship this summer.