Special Report: Canon's new 4K reference display
Ben Campanaro
Issue: January 1, 2014

Special Report: Canon's new 4K reference display

After teasing crowds at trade shows for the past three years with glimpses of prototypes, Canon officially announced its entrance into the high-end hardware market with the DP-V3010 4K reference display. Post Magazine was invited to the Canon Shimomaruko headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, for an exclusive first look and hands-on demonstration of the display.

The DP-V3010 is a big step for Canon. Growing from its legendary history as a leader in lens manufacturing and the launch of its EOS Cinema line in 2010 (most recently used on Ron Howard’s Rush and the indie hit Blue is the Warmest Color), the company is now serving its customers 4K digital cinema hardware that spans from input to output. While rewarding those who stick to the Canon brand with an optimized workflow from lensing to the color bay, the display has enough brand-agnostic features to cater to anyone working in high-end, on-set monitoring, editorial, VFX and motion graphics, photo editing, and color correction. As the industry evolves to a 4K standard, the DP-V3010 marks Canon’s intent to take the reference display throne away from Dolby’s 1080p PRM-4220.

Ideally paired with footage from Canon’s flagship EOS C500 4K camera, the DP-V3010 is a 30-inch, IPS LCD display with a resolution of 4,096-by-2,560. This yields a 10.5 megapixel image area in a 16:10 aspect ratio, well suited for viewing 4K video with the extra vertical space for a menu and task bar. With some marketing campaigns focusing on pixel density over the last few years, the Canon display scores a 161.01 pixels per inch measurement. Compare that to 52.45 on the Dolby, 94.34 on the HP DreamColor, or 108.79 on Apple’s Thunderbolt Display. Seeing really is believing for just how beautifully detailed, smooth and natural 4K imagery can appear when compressed to a desktop-sized screen.

I sat down with Canon’s Shinichi Yamato, chief of display products, and Hideyuki Komatsu, general manager of display products, at the Canon headquarters. Though not quite ready to release specifics, the Canon executives were proud to say that the reference display has been engineered completely from scratch: a new image processor, new imaging algorithms, and a new LCD panel and backlight design. They also alluded to an “internal feedback loop” designed into the display, which enables it to automatically adjust itself to maintain consistent imagery throughout the product’s lifespan.

The DP-V3010 can receive 4K signals over 3G-SDI or DisplayPort in frame rates ranging from 24 to 60p. It is DCI-compliant, with a contrast ratio of 2000:1. All color processing is calculated internally in 18-bit color space before being presented in 10-bit, on-screen. The display supports ACESproxy output for monitoring from the Canon EOS C500, and includes presets for linearizing Canon Log footage also coming from the C300. A USB 2.0 port on the display allows for the import of ASC .CDL LUTs, and exporting any modified .CDL or other settings presets chosen on the display to share with the rest of your team. Additional 1D and 3D LUT formats are said to be supported natively, but at press time, a comprehensive list was still pending.

The display also has an Ethernet port, which connects to the included controller bar, a separate interface with buttons for video selection, menu navigation, 10 programmable functions, and dials for color adjustment. While it’s always hard to give up desk real estate, I like having this interface separate from the monitor housing. Canon’s design avoids the problems I’ve run into while working on an HP DreamColor for the past few years with the standard buttons-on-bezel layout: unintentionally tilting the monitor, or getting fingerprints on the screen.

Navigating through the on-screen menus on the Canon display was slightly more sluggish than one may be used to, and the lack of physical weight to the controller bar and its dials make it feel a little on the cheap side. With 10 programmable buttons, Canon missed an opportunity to include the customizable LED displays often seen on Wacom tablets for labeling each function. As it stands, the controller bar lends itself to the all-too-common covering with post-it notes and hand-scrawled letters to remember what each preset is configured for. Nonetheless, the functionality is there to cater to DPs on-set, who can install their own LUTs in advance, quickly toggle them on and off while shooting, and create new LUTs on the fly and export them for dailies all without touching a PC. These refinements can be made anytime, even when viewing with the preset color settings from ACESproxy.

At the Japan press unveiling, Canon positioned two DP-V3010 units in their new digital cinema studio, flanking a synced 4K Christie CP4220 DLP projection on a 250-inch Stewart SnoMatte Filmscreen, all calibrated with a Minolta CA-310 color analyzer. Comparing some beautiful 4K EOS C500 footage of European landscapes and Victorian-era models, the displays appeared to be a spot-on match to the projection in terms of luminance range, hue, and saturation. The visible detail in the darkest of shadow areas was also remarkably similar, though the actual black level on the projection appeared slightly washed out compared to the strong, dense blacks seen on the displays.

Any concerns from the lack of movement in the first demo footage were squelched at the InterBEE Convention in Tokyo the next morning, when Mr. Komatsu and the lead engineers of the display were happy to switch on some Formula 1 racing footage at Post’s request. None of the tearing, streaking, or other motion artifacts that can plague many LCDs were apparent. Motion blur looked completely smooth and natural to the photography. It’s simply beautiful to look at.

The busy Canon booth at InterBEE showcased a trio of DP-V3010s with identical looking imagery. Mr. Komatsu was proud to say these were straight out of the box, without any additional work to get them to visually match — a testament to Canon’s rigorous in-house quality checks for uniformity. While this can help with transparency from one office location to another, and even allow for the sharing of monitor settings throughout a facility, I’m surprised that Canon is currently not planning to involve themselves in the calibration of the displays once they are installed on site?

The 30-inch display has an 89 degree viewing angle horizontally as well as vertically off-center, while still maintaining uniform color. This will come into play during those unannounced visits from directors or VFX supervisors, as four or five sets of eyes can stare at an artist’s desk and each of them will be presented with the same imagery. Canon likes to note that the display could be a space- and money-saver by eliminating a studio’s need for a large-screen review theater. While this may be true in the practical sense of image accuracy, best of luck trying to sell that concept to directors or producers who are used to lounging in posh screening rooms.

As a VFX compositing supervisor myself, I’ve felt the pains of struggling to work on a display that simply can’t show the artist exactly what they’re creating. Especially when working on darkly-lit plates, adding super-subtle effects like cold breath enhancements requires a display that won’t introduce banding at any range of the color space. This removing of any rose-colored glasses opens up communication between artists and streamlines post production, allowing for less time spent on logistics and more time spent on creativity. The Canon DP-V3010 is going to be the monitor that every artist, whether they’re working in 2K or 4K, is going to want on their desk. So of course there has to be a catch, right?

The price at launch in the first quarter of 2014 will be $40,000. While this puts the DP-V3010 directly in line with the competition from Dolby, it’s also nearly double the cost of what a filmmaker would spend on the 4K C500 camera housing to shoot their movie. This pricing strategy will greatly limit its audience to the highest level of productions: more screening rooms, less artist bullpens. After the phenomenal success of the DSLR put high-quality filmmaking within the grasp of the common man, I’m surprised that Canon is not also offering a more affordable alternative as their entry into the display market? Needless to say, I’m anxious to see how the DP-V3010 is received next year, and what Canon has next up their sleeve.

Ben Campanaro is an Emmy award-nominated VFX compositing supervisor based in Los Angeles. His list of works include television’s Sleepy Hollow and Terra Nova, and the features Spring Breakers and Mission: Impossible 4 — Ghost Protocol. He can be reached by email at: bengraphics@yahoo.com.