Lets Talk Monitors: What You Should Be Saving For

This is the second part of the series Let's Talk Monitors. Part one, an introduction on what makes a good display, can be found here.

First the unfortunate truth: there is no way to get around eventually buying a true grading monitor. There are plenty of "this works in a pinch" or "good enough, I guess" options, but when it comes to doing pro work for paying clients, you owe it to yourself and them to invest in your tools. This means that the sooner you buy your true grading monitor, the less you'll spend on upgrading "almost there" alternatives.

Flanders Scientific

When it comes to best bang for the buck in the pro world, you are going to be hard pressed to beat Flanders Scientific (FSI). The Georgia based company not only makes some of the best displays in the world, they do it for less than just about everyone else.

The cornerstone of their product line are their CM series all of which sport 10bit panels, 12bit processing, and a myriad of 3D LUTs and other features. These monitors are capable of every major color space including P3 and come precisely calibrated from factory. In fact, Flanders will calibrate your monitor with their top of the line probe setup once a year for free minus the cost of shipping your display (this is not a replacement for periodic calibrations in the suite). FSI's customer service is also stupendous with constant updates to add requested features and address issues people encounter.

The CM171 ($2500 17" LCD) and CM240 ($5000 24" LCD) are the mainstays and can be found both in suites and on set thanks to their low weight and relative portability. They've recently released OLED versions of both monitors (CM172 and CM250) for far less than other OLED offerings ($8000 and $6500 respectively).

Dolby

The extreme high end of pro displays comes from Dolby. Designed to perfectly meet reference standards including P3, their displays (namely the PRM-4220 which boasts an MSRP of $40,000) are the gold standard of color reference panels. With that price tag, however, these are generally out of reach of freelance colorists and mostly fill the suites of high end post houses.

HD2line

HD2line is another company focusing on professional video displays. Their HD2line Pro series all boast 10 bit panels with 16 bit drivers and the standard array of features any high end display should come with. They tend to be more expensive than FSI, but are a far cry from Dolby.

Sony

Sony has offered a line of color critical monitors for many years now. Their 32" CRT (Sony BVM-D32E1WU HR Trinitron 32") is still lovingly remembered as having one of the best images of any monitor ever designed.

Recently, they've introduced a line of OLED panels replacing their high end LCD's completely. Within this Trimaster OLED EL line, they have two tiers: PVM for all but the most color critical of jobs and BVM which is designed for high end color correction.

The BVM OLED series are very well reviewed and carry a correspondingly high price tag (~$23,400 for the 25" model).

Sony also is working at the forefront of quantum dot display technology which promises enormous improvements in gamut (and the age of rt.2020 consumer displays). I imagine their advancements in the field will soon trickle down into the refresh of their BVM/PVM panel lines.

Panasonic

Many facilities use Panasonic BT series Plasmas as client displays. These televisions (TH-50BT300U and TH-42BT300U), while relatively affordable (sub $6,000) boast SDI inputs and can be calibrated to very close to much more expensive color critical displays.

Unfortunately, Panasonic recently discontinued producing plasma televisions and it seems their pro series were also impacted.

Wrap Up

A high end display is an eventual must for every colorist. The sooner you purchase one, the less time you'll spend upgrading. The confidence boost from knowing you can trust your monitor (after proper calibration) will produce a dramatic improvement in your color work.

A Note

There are several other brands knowledgeable readers will notice I have left out. Companies like Cine-tal (which seems to have been broken up and bought by Ikan, THX, and a few other groups) and foreign companies Boland (which I know little about). I've tried to only discuss panels and brands I have experience with, but if you think I've over looked a critical monitor or company, please let me know.