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Is a broadcast monitor necessary for viewing color correctly?


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#1 DamonS

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 01:22 PM

I am upgrading my editing suite, and I've run into a lack of full understanding when it comes to broadcast monitors, and whether they are still a necessary (and ridiculously expensive) requirement.

What I do:

Commercial production with the intent of web distribution and *some* broadcast work (usually an uncompressed master handed over to a post house on a drive)
Music video production
Short film production (which can result in a need for any number of digital formats)

Things I need:
Ingest from DSLRs (Primarily 7D and 5D)
Ingest from Scarlet, occasionally higher level RED cameras
Support for Premiere, with very occasional use of AVID and Lightworks (timeline + external monitor)
Support for Magic Bullet and After Effects (controls + monitored color correction suitable for review with clients)
Primary output to Vimeo and other web sources

Things I will most likely NOT be doing:

Any work with tape based formats
Any interlaced input/output, ingest or playback

I currently use a BenQ professional monitor for both editing on the timeline and color correction - as the monitor was designed for graphics professionals the color is calibrated and appears for all intents and purposes to be accurate as can be. I have corrected and graded projects for everything from Vimeo to the theater screenings at SXSW - it seems to work fine. But as the resounding response is always, "you MUST have a broadcast monitor" I feel like I'm setting myself up to fail at some point.

From what I've gleaned, there is a definite fundamental difference between 'video' and 'computer' monitors, but there's very little factual information as to what this difference actually is when producing content for an entirely digital workflow, especially when the primary output is for web viewing.

Canon DSLRs don't record color data in BT.709, so my workflow has been 8-bit RGB for a couple years. Since BT.709 and RGB share the same primaries, I assume my workflow is either correct or I'm just lucky. I don't see a good reason to invest heavily in a 10-bit monitoring solution when 99% of the time my input is 8-bit.

So my question is: do I need a broadcast monitor? If so, what am I really gaining outside of calibration (which can be done on any high end professional monitor)? I've been seeing a lot of conflicting information over where and how BT.709 standards are applied, and as far as I know, these standards are meaningless once the video viewable in a browser - my monitor already has 102% RGB gamut. I'm ok with a +/- 2-4% margin of error in my color correction if that's what comes down to thousands of dollars.

On a budget, would it be suitable to add an MXO2 Mini into the mix and use its internal calibration tools to improve something like a Dell u2410? Or run the MXO2 into a high grade HDTV? I have an Optoma HD20 projector I use for color preview before festivals - would this also be suitable for hooking into a Matrox box? I would love a pro broadcast monitor, but the money simply does not exist.

I know that's a ridiculous amount of text - thanks!
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#2 James Malamatinas

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Posted 09 June 2012 - 06:19 PM

Hi Damon,

Did you ever find an answer to this, I'm very interested in the answer too.
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 09 June 2012 - 07:15 PM

Short answer: you don't need an expensive monitor to deliver up to and including feature films on HDCAM-SR because I have been involved with projects that did exactly that - the Dell 240x series is pretty decent. The problem is usually that the blacks end up looking a bit sat-up, but you can usually eyeball that out if necessary. You won't get a guaranteed "it will definitely look like this"; you can however achieve "it looks OK".


The idea that some sort of calibration procedure is available that will make all monitors look precisely the same is fantasy in any case; it can just about be done, but even the best systems (Truelight, etc) need manual tweaking to make two displays look really identical.

sRGB and rec.709 have the same primaries; the red, green and blue is the same red, green and blue. The gamma curve is different.

This is definitely one of those situations where getting the last few percent costs an absolute fortune and often isn't necessary.
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