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Old March 24th, 2010, 08:26 AM   #1
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The best monitor for the money

I'm presently editing a documentary on a macbook pro using imovie 9 (which I really really like for doing the rough edit phase). But I would like to be able to occasionally play back using the DVI output to an external monitor rather than the laptop screen. Has there emerged over time a "crowd favorite" alternative to the apple monitor? Or is there a clear and definite reason why one should always go with the 24" or 30" apple monitor?
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Old March 24th, 2010, 08:43 AM   #2
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If you have a current model MacBookPro then I would recommend the Apple 24-inch LED display as it has the Mini Display Port output that your MacBookPro has and it even has a power cable that you can plug into you laptop to keep it charged while you're working. Slick!

But I'm sure there are much cheaper solutions, you just might have to purchase adaptors for the mini display port and you'll loose the convenience of the power cable to charge your MBP.
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Old March 24th, 2010, 09:24 AM   #3
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My laptop is 2 years old. It has the standard DVI output.

I guess what I'm particularly interested in knowing is if there's a "cheaper" monitor that many hard-core apple users have discovered and settled upon to the point where it has become known as THE "better alternative" to the pricey apple 24" or 30" monitors. Or is there nothing better than apple's for the money?
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Old March 24th, 2010, 10:51 AM   #4
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The color on Apple monitors usually is very, very good. You can adjust them to very close to TV color space if you have a good TV monitor for comparison (but it's still not spot accurate).

I have a couple of very cheap widescreen HP DVI monitors that have great image quality but are glossy. Of course they are not color accurate for TV but they are close enough for first pass editing. They are at home so I'll post the model number tonight.
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Old March 24th, 2010, 11:28 AM   #5
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Personally, I don't really care for the anti-glare finish on many LCD monitors, including many Apples...the blacks are pretty washed out and I find it difficult to get a feel for what is actually there. I like the Apple monitors that have gone to the "glossy" (really just not covered in an anti-glare finish) screen. While glare isn't desirable, unless you have your back to a panoramic set of windows, an angle change can get rid of most incidental glare without much problem.

The key with any monitor you'll employ through DVI will be that it will be RGB. You won't have a very dependable reference monitor as far as viewing proper television palette is concerned.

That said, Apple monitors haved a very good image and I have found them to be very good at scaling an input to full screen vs. any other brand of monitor I've tried. The Apple 30" is the only 30" I know of that you can feed a single link DVI signal to and it not only displays it, but scales it to fill the screen very nicely.

An option would be the HP Dreamcolor (though you'll be feeding a 10 bit capable monitor 8 bit...may be overkill unless you want a good enduring investment), and it has several different inputs for different applications.

Another option...depending on what you'd consider expensive vs not expensive, would be any of the JVC professional LCD monitors. They do a pretty good job of giving you an impression of what something will look like on a television even though you'll still be feeding DVI...

Something sort of unconventional...what about a nice, used but well-maintained, big, heavy (but likely inexpensive) VGA CRT? I have a beloved Mitsubishi Diamondtron that I use with my laptop as a playback monitor occasionally and while you'd have to sort of approximate some adjustments, a CRT can look just beautiful (unless you're looking at it knowing you have to carry it somewhere), and different resolutions scale really fluidly on a CRT being fed VGA analog (you'd convert your DVI to VGA). These are available pretty widely as they get retired for LCDs to take back desk space.

...it's a thought anyway. If it doesn't have to be portable, it certainly wouldn't be expensive to give one a shot.
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Old March 24th, 2010, 11:49 AM   #6
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I'd love a good reference monitor, but the reality (for me) of being a solo filmmaker is that that there are too many other expenses. So I've got some pretty cheap Viewsonics and adjust my projects to the limitations of my monitors.

The truth is that tv's & comp monitors are all different, so what people see is not necessarily what it is anyway.

For an end output to DVD, I'm used to what the difference is between my monitor & TV's, so I can usually get it to what I want on the first try, though sometimes I will make adjustments after viewing it on a few different TV's.

For a dance studio that I work for, I make a special DVD for them to project on a big screen, as their projector is very dull & dark, so I up the overall brightness, contrast & saturation just for that viewing.

For broadcast, FC has filters to keep you in broadcast limits, so as long as you are in those limits, that's 50%, the other 50% is getting the "look" that you want, on your doc.

Watching docs on TV, it's easy to see that there is no real standard "look" and you can see everything from washed out, poor footage to highly polished and manipulated footage. In film what comes to mind is Cloverfield, which took a lot of work to make it look "bad/amateur".

My local PBS station has offered me some funding (as long as they have it) for my next 3 projects and I can safely say that the quality (look) of my stuff is superior to a lot of what they show. Certainly not their high end productions, but even a high end production is a certain "look".

I know this isn't giving suggestions for a certain monitor, but I hope it helps.
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Old March 24th, 2010, 12:35 PM   #7
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All input is appreciated! I don't want to side-track the discussion but this ties in...to adjust a monitor to "broadcast specs," is it an eyeball process where you're trying to, say, match color bars from the laptop to color bars on the monitor? How does one know if the green you start with in the computer is going to translate to green on the screen? Is this what makes an apple monitor different from the rest?
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Old March 24th, 2010, 01:06 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynne Whelden View Post
to adjust a monitor to "broadcast specs," is it an eyeball process where you're trying to, say, match color bars from the laptop to color bars on the monitor? How does one know if the green you start with in the computer is going to translate to green on the screen?
Colour bars are an ABSOLUTE reference, not a comparative one.

The colours in colour bars are exact and especially with a monitor with Blue Only mode, there is a very easy but specific methodology to NAIL adjustment. I can eyeball without Blue Only and be absolutely close enough. As well, the Pluge at the bottom of SMPTE bars sets brightness and contrast when used properly.

Improper bars set up means improper colour, period.

Do a Google search of DVi. The method for setting up monitors is well covered here.
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Old March 25th, 2010, 03:59 AM   #9
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With monitors as with most things you get what you pay for. If you can afford it then the Apple screens are superb as are similarly priced monitors from HP & Dell. At one time the low end LCD monitors were pretty nasty but there has clearly been a technological breakthrough in terms of price & performance in the sub-24" screens. 30" screens are still expensive & there are few models available (Apple, Dell & HP are all good ones). For less than the equivalent of $200 I found a really nice Acer H223HQAbmid 22'' 1920x1080 with VGA & DVI & HDMI inputs that is very sharp & has good contrast & colour. If you just want a larger screen to see your video playback on then this or any similar monitor will do a good job for the price. I suggest that you take your MBP along to a store & plug in a variety of monitors to see what looks good for you.

Last edited by Nigel Barker; March 25th, 2010 at 07:26 AM.
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Old March 25th, 2010, 07:24 AM   #10
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That's a good suggestion, taking along the laptop. Makes alot of sense.
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Old March 25th, 2010, 05:03 PM   #11
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I personally kinda like the Dell U series. These are the ultrasharp ones, hence the U.
Setting them up correctly can be a pain, but it is widely coverd on the internet.
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Old March 25th, 2010, 07:15 PM   #12
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The 26 and 30" LCD's from NEC are leagues above the Apple displays for not much more money. Specifically the NEC LCD3090W-BK-SV with the included Colorimeter for about $2350. I have two 30" Apple displays in the studio (and of course some NEC's) the NEC's are far more adjustable in every way and much wider gamut. Many of the NEC's also have integrated LUT's that the software can adjust based on the colorimeter data, so that alterations to the LCD image are made without manipulating the computers internal graphics card, which data is usually only 8-bit output because of the OS. Other systems that cannot alter the monitor LUT, alter the graphics card LUT, and you are always sacrificing some output levels in order to implement the corrections as calculated by calibration and profiling software. With this 8 bit output, one can ill afford to loose precision. This is why you will often see a lousy graphics card and/or monitor that exhibits severe banding after calibration and profiling.

You can also calibrate and profile these NEC monitors to various specs, as the Spectraview software is very configurable.

I forgot to mention that these displays also have a very nice feature that ensures even luminance distribution across the LCD panel, so that the entire 30" screen has a beautiful even luminance via this built-in hardware correction capability. Unless Apple has dropped the price of their 30" model to around $1200-$1400, I wouldn't ever buy another one. The 26" NEC also has these features and might be better suited to a laptop monitor.
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Old March 25th, 2010, 07:24 PM   #13
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Also, I would opt for something like a Matrox MXO2 Mini and a good 24-26" HDMI LCD for any kind of monitoring. It is best to bypass the influence of the internal graphics card for making decisions about what the video might look like on a TV broadcast. Of course it would be nice to have a broadcast grade LCD, but the MXO2 is pretty cool. You can calibrate the LCD with the Matrox color calibration utility, and for about $850 for both the MXO2 and a decent 24" LCD you could have a nice little setup where you could make some good judgements. The only caveat is that you will probably need full Final Cut Pro, I doubt FC Express supports external monitoring, but I dont know that to be the case since I have not used FC Express since version 1.0!
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