Nab a Monitor at NAB

The National Association of Broadcasters’ annual New York meeting (NAB Show NY), held this year October 18-19 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York, is actually not the most obvious show to look for displays. The emphasis is much more on cameras, mixers, cables, and remote production trucks. (One truck connected with its home studio via 4G cellular and compact cellular antennae instead of the more common and more cumbersome satellite dish.)

But if you looked carefully, you could see some very interesting monitors for production, post-production, and mastering, with very different cost/performance trade-offs than consumer displays.

Before we get to the displays, bear with me for a moment . The first thing I saw was a presentation by award-winning cinematographer Douglas Spotted Eagle. He talked about using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) for cinematography. Spotted Eagle made the point that you need to be both a pilot and cinematographer, or have one of each working together very closely, to make this work. He showed examples of what happens when one skill or the other is lacking, and how effective the results can be when everything comes together. In particular, he showed a 50-second single-take introduction for Dancing with the Stars, in which the movements of the drone had been choreographed along with the movements of the dancers. The effect was stunning, and it required days of planning and rehearsal.

JVC On Air over IPFig. 1: JVC showed a remote set-up that transmitted its video signals via 4G cellular rather than a bulky satellite dish. (Photo: Ken Werner)

LEDs Compete for Brightness

Several true LED screens were on display, primarily as “behind-the-talent” monitors. Unilumin showed a FHD example with 1.5mm pixel pitch, 800 cd/m², and 138 inches on the diagonal. (All of these LED monitors are modular, so a wide range of diagonals can be assembled.)

Leyard/Planar was showing its TVH series of LED video walls. Minimum pixel pitch is 1.6mm, and Leyard was proud of the fact that its cabinet is just 19.5 inches thick and that modules are fanless.

SiliconCore’s Camelia FHD LED display had the finest pixel pitch of the show at 0.95mm and a maximum diagonal of 84 inches, and was impressively bright with a maximum luminance of 1200 cd/m².

SiliconCore Rot and CropFig. 2: SiliconCore displayed its Camelia LED monitor with 0.95mm pixel pitch and 1200-nit luminance. (Photo: Ken Werner)

Monitor Makers Positive about OLED

Sony was showing its BVM OLED reference monitors, with a net price of about $32k; and the PVM line, which contains somewhat less expensive OLED monitors. But the posters in the Sony booth were also pushing LCD production monitors at prices under $5k, and saying they were only slightly less accurate than the BVM monitors. But in its enthusiasm to hype the LCD monitors, Sony may have made more of a case for them than they intended.

For clarification and more depth, I spoke with Sony Senior Product Manager, Gary Mandle, by phone after the show closed. LCD technology has developed remarkably over last couple of years, Mandle said. Sony wanted to indicate this in their booth by saying the LCD monitors came very close to the OLED monitors, but they are by no means suggesting that the LCD monitor should be used as a mastering monitor.

Sony received lots of pressure to produce a 30-inch OLED monitor with the advent of HDR, Mandle said. The 30-inch has been out for the last couple of years, and sales are “crazy.” Sales of the 25-inch better than projected. The 30-inch is the standard for HDR work, Mandle said. Amazon and Netflix require it for mastering, and Technicolor has adopted it.

The 30-inch will do 1000 cd/m², which is high for OLED, said Mandle. Obtaining this luminance is expensive. Sony uses RGB OLED, which is more expensive than WOLED, but WOLED doesn’t produce the brightness or uniformity, he said. Part of the cost is their 350 quality control steps and careful calibration. The professional market requires zero dead pixels and very high uniformity.

I asked about the blue aging problem. “We’ve worked on [that].” Sony makes their own R, G, and B OLED emitters (from purchased raw materials). They do not use UDC or Merck materials, Mandle said. The company quotes a 30,000 hour life with the “same accuracy as new.” Is there a ?(x.y) attached to “same”? They don’t quote anything, but they do promise the “same accuracy as new.” There are six-year-old OLED monitors still operating in post-production.

Panasonic has an OLED production monitor available in Japan but it is not available in the U.S. and it was not on display. A rep said he wishes he had it to sell. “I could make a lot of money with it.” Although it is not yet official, industry sources tell me that it will be coming to the U.S. late this year.

In both its own booth and in the booth of distributor Alt Systems, Canon was showing its new LCD-based DP-V2420, which qualifies as a Dolby Vision Mastering Monitor. The monitor does HDR metering, which indicates with false color when luminance in a certain area is about to exceed the specified peak, said Michael Venaski, the Canon Account Manager for Strategic Sales. The monitor contains a 4K, 10-bit IPS panel with 200,000:1 CR and a 17:9 aspect ratio. It supports the SMPTE ST-2084 gamma curve and the HLG broadcast HDR standards.

Canon DP V2420Fig. 3: Canon introduced its LCD-based DP-V2420, which qualifies as a Dolby Vision Mastering Monitor. The two halves of the screen show HDR vs standard dynamic range. (Photo: Ken Werner)

HDR ready for prime time

In the Calman/Portrait Displays booth, Calman founder L.A. Heberlein said that Calman can now handle calibration of sets supporting HDR10, DolbyVision, and other HDR formats. Not everybody does tone mapping the same way, he said, so there are still some loose ends to tie up, but “HDR is ready for prime time.”

Portrait Displays’ Martin Fishman reminded me that the 2017 Samsung Q7, Q8, Q9, and entire MU series use Calman to make calibration much faster and easier. After speaking with industry sources, I’m inclined to ask, “If Samsung is doing this for the 2017 model year, can others be far behind?”

That would be a good question to ask at CES. – KW

Ken Werner is Principal of Nutmeg Consultants, specializing in the display industry, manufacturing, technology, and applications, including mobile devices and television. He consults for attorneys, investment analysts, and companies re-positioning themselves within the display industry or using displays in their products. He is the 2017 recipient of the Society for Information Display’s Lewis and Beatrice Winner Award. You can reach him at [email protected].