It's always a great day when you get a message to check out new equipment. I had gotten a great demo from Canon about their reference monitor series a couple of years ago at an HDR event in Hollywood. I was impressed by the thoughtfulness of the design and useful features that Canon had at that time. Little did I know at the time that our paths would cross again, this time in the middle of a pandemic! And what better time could there be to have a reference monitor delivered to my house for evaluation.
Working from home is now the way, and having an HDR grading monitor at home is now de rigueur. That is how the Canon DP-V3120 came into my world.
The Canon DP-V3120 is a 31-inch HDR reference monitor capable of a peak level of 2,000-nits. Its intensity is something I haven't seen since I last saw the 4,000-nit Dolby Pulsar monitor. Fortunately, the Canon monitor uses a standard power supply. Other important specs to consider with the DP-V3120 are its 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, resolution up to 4096x2160 pixels, 10-bit color and Dolby Vision certification.
The monitor can receive up to 8K images via the four 12G SDI connectors on the back and then downscaling to 4K. The display is an LCD panel that features an IPS panel and anti-glare coating.
The DP-V3120 can be controlled remotely over Wi-Fi or LAN. There are also buttons on the front of the monitor to access settings. All the important formats for mastering are preset into the monitor, which makes getting started a piece of cake. I used Canon's award-winning HDR Toolkit with its built-in waveform monitor to insure proper signal flow and levels in HDR. I use the brand new HDR bars in Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 17 to verify the 2,000-nit output.
So now to the nitty-gritty: How does it work? The first deliverable for the short film I'm grading is UHD SDR. I've used the monitor in this mode for a couple of weeks and I've found it to be great. All the key things you need in a reference monitor – constancy over time, good handling of the blacks and highlights.
But that’s not what we’re here for. So the 31,000 dollar question is: How does it work in HDR?
I haven't graded on the Pulsar or X300, but I've spent many hours in the color bay – enough to see the differences. So I followed the Dolby Vision project setup spec, P3-D65 with a 2,000-nit level and Dolby Vision 4. For me, it comes down to the matte finish LCD on the Canon that leads to slightly duller blacks versus the other monitors. It's almost like the Sony monitor is crisper. I would posit that it's not bad, just different. The Canon has a softer feel to it in my opinion. On the other end of the spectrum, you have to be careful with the 2,000-nits at the high end. It’s really easy to let highlights – especially at-night street lights and car head- and tail-lights overwhelm the image balance. It’s a feature of the extended range of the monitor.
I did a test taking an HDR grade and running it through the Dolby Vision analysis, then switching the monitor to SDR, and I was very happy with conversion results.
A fun feature of the monitor that I’m using right now is the HLG setting. It’s really great for playing back 709 content and giving it an extra punch.
With its 2,000-nits and ACES support, the Canon DP-V3120 would be an ideal monitor for future-proofing your HDR deliverables.
Barry Goch is the Senior Finishing Artist at The Foundation (http://thefoundationpost.com) in Burbank, CA. He is also Instructor, Post Production for Film and TV at UCLA Extension (https://entertainment.uclaextension.edu).