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Old October 23rd, 2010, 06:49 PM   #1
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Display calibration/profiling

I'm currently working with FCP 6.06 on a Mac Pro with two 24" Cinema Displays and a Sony Studio Monitor but I can't figure out how to get a reliable display of my footage. I'm shooting presentations in a studio setup using a DVCAM camcorder - I'm using the zebras in the display in the camcorder as my reference, but from that point on I'm not sure about how everything really looks.

On the Cinema Displays in FCP everything looks pretty dark and contrasty, the Sony monitor (connected via a Sony HDV tape recorder) is much brighter but the contrast is way too low. However I think the monitor is not the newest and it can't really be trusted.

The final format is an MPEG2 program stream which looks different in every player... when I watch it in Quicktime Player, the luminance is much too high (like at least one stop), in VLC it looks okay (a little bright though) but the contrast is low, in Real Player it looks fine, just like in FCP.

I don't think calibrating the monitors would really help because the final MPEG2 file looks so different in all the different players...
I'm inclined to think the FCP playback should be the most trustworthy, but it looks really dark, when in camera it's just the opposite - the 70% zebra is all over the face, usually I'd stop down a bit to get less zebra, but then it looks even darker in FCP...
Then again the camera zebras in a pro camcorder are usually a good tool - but when I set the zebras perfectly right in camera, then I can't show my edit to anyone because it looks much too dark in FCP.

How can I get a reliable display in FCP? One that matches the camera display and the final MPEG2 stream? I have a Spyder 3 that I could use to calibrate the monitors but I don't see how calibrating the monitors would do any good, because all the programs show really different results.
For calibration/profiling to work, the programs need to support reading a profile (I know it works well on my home PC for editing photos in Lightroom and Photoshop), and I just don't see that...

*edit* I forgot to say that I really need the FCP window to show the right brightness/contrast, because I'm working with different editors who want to see perfect footage. I think it is less than unprofessional having to explain them that what they're seeing in FCP is not really the end-product...
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Old October 24th, 2010, 10:30 AM   #2
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You need to buy a capture card and a broadcast monitor, then monitor everything through them. You must ignore the computer displays, they are designed to not give you an accurate picture.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 11:00 AM   #3
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The most affordable way to get a calibrated display is to use the Matrox MX02 system. Matrox have a bunch of different products in the MX02 line. Probably the MX02 mini would suffice for your needs. But read up on it. The product offer A LOT more than the ability to calibrate a computer monitor for video production.

Matrox MXO2 Family for Mac - Overview

Matrox MXO2 Mini for Desktop Systems MXO2/MINI/D - B&H Photo
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Old October 25th, 2010, 06:52 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arnie Schlissel View Post
You need to buy a capture card and a broadcast monitor, then monitor everything through them. You must ignore the computer displays, they are designed to not give you an accurate picture.
Oh come on, you can't say ALL computer displays are designed to not give you an accurate picture. How would grafic designers, web designers and print people be able to work if there weren't any accurately profileable computer monitors?

I know it works just fine for photography - I have a 800 Euro Dell monitor and a 150 Euro Spyder 3 at home and the results are so good that even a professional photographer could live with it.
But with video I absolutely need a class-A broadcast monitor for 20x that money, only to get the right gamma?

If that's so, then I'm screwed, because right now there is no budget for a high class broadcast monitor...
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Old October 25th, 2010, 09:02 AM   #5
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Yes, you can get a computer monitor to be very accurate for graphics & photography. But video is a very different beast, and exists in a totally different type of color space. That's why I said the displays are designed to not be accurate for video.

There's some information about this in your FCP manual, you may want to look through that.
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Old October 28th, 2010, 07:52 AM   #6
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How are your finished productions going to be viewed? If destined for the web then grading on a good computer monitor is OK. If it's going to DVD then a regular flat screen TV can be fine. If the video is going to be broadcast then is the time you will need to think about getting a calibrated monitor.
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Old October 28th, 2010, 08:51 AM   #7
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I'm having similar issues. I just upgraded to a new Mac Pro running Snow Leopard (my old system ran an earlier version). Now video in FCP 6 appears significantly darker than the same clip appears if I open in QT Player, outside of Final Cut. I'm thinking it could be a gamma issue. Snow Leopard defaults to a 2.2 gamma setting and the gamma on my previous system was 1.8. I've read that Final Cut 6 and earlier assumes you're working on a monitor set to 1.8 and adjusts the picture inside FCP to 2.2. If true, then maybe Final Cut 6 is doing that on Snow Leopard, which is already at 2.2. Thus the video looks too dark in the program. Anyone know if this might be the issue? True, a broadcast monitor and scopes are the sure fire way to ensure proper color/levels, but I'd like the image within FCP to at least be in the ballpark.
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Old October 29th, 2010, 04:22 PM   #8
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A low cost way to check is to get a FireWire to Analog device (camera, A/D converter) and send the FCP output to a decent broadcast monitor. Preferably a tube monitor, color accurate flat screens are still expensive. While editing HD projects you might not get live output on all computers (and it will be very low res at that) but you will get still frames when you stop the playhead. That's enough to know if the image is looking good (and to perform filter adjustments) as long as the monitor is trustworthy.

The best any of us can do is to be sure that we are finishing with a quality that we are sure about. There are sometimes so many variables by the time a viewer gets to see your work it's impossible to control it.
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Old November 3rd, 2010, 10:33 PM   #9
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I was quite shocked! (But in a good way)

Just to add to this thread something which happened this morning which gave me an extremely pleasant surprise with regards to display calibration.

Since the miserable results I obtained 2 years ago with a Matrox MXO box (very expensive and never improved despite many tech support calls to Canada in the middle of the night) I'd been quite apathetic about obtaining a "reasonable" display calibration (without having to lash out for a Mac Pro/expensive capture card/broadcast monitor scenario).

I edit in a client's offices a few days per week with my MacBook Pro and two weeks ago I bought a Dell UltraSharp 1920 X 1080 (23") plus a Spyder 3 Elite. I connected a cable from the Mac Mini-Display Port to the Display Port on the Dell. Then I used the Spyder to calibrate the UltraSharp to Rec 709. I'm shooting and editing in 1080p25 (on a Sony EX1R), so 709 is what I need right now (although the Spyder also calibrates to the SD standard).

Anyway, I'd finished grading a section of a corporate video and the subject came in to have a look and sat down next to me. His face has very distinct and exotic coloring. I used the full-screen cinema desktop to play it back on the Dell, and I was gobsmacked as I looked at the screen, back to him, back to the screen and so forth. To my eyes, it was perfect. I wasn't expecting a result this good! I'm aware that I wasn't getting a "broadcast signal" through the Mini-Display Port. But, gee whiz. It was like looking at him through a window or off-set in a mirror.

It was much more than a "reasonable" result. That's all I'm sayin'.

Now, I'm seriously thinking about purchasing an Eizo ...
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