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Old June 6th, 2013, 11:42 PM   #1
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Decent studio monitor on a budget

Hi all,

I'm looking for some advice on a decent monitor for colour grading (and general editing). I'm currently editing on a cheap LG monitor, and I'm quite often finding that when I view my finished videos on TVs, different monitors, etc, the colours are far different to how I graded them.

I'm looking to spend the least amount possible while still getting a reasonably decent monitor.

Any advice appreciated!
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Old June 7th, 2013, 12:06 AM   #2
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

If you find a solution, let me know! I researched this pretty extensively for a while and long story short, you're in the hole $2500 or more for a professional quality solution. Needs to be able to display the REC709 color space and must be calibrate-able. Plus you usually need a box to take the video signal from your computer to the monitor, you don't simply send it via HDMI etc. like you're cloning the screen.

Best I came up with in the somewhat affordable range that will work was an old Sony CRT 14" monitor that's an actual HD monitor (don't recall model now but I can look it up if you're interested) and one of the i/o boxes (blackmagic, matrox). This setup is around $800 or so depending on if you get the SDI card on the monitor (monitor can only be found used on ebay, ones with SDI card several hundred dollars more expensive than the ones with component in only).
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Old June 7th, 2013, 12:24 AM   #3
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

Hrm interesting. Thanks for that.

So would something like the Dell Ultrasharp not suffice? I should mention that my work isn't ever for broadcast, so I think I can live with "good enough" rather than "the best".
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Old June 7th, 2013, 01:47 AM   #4
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

Those come highly recommended. . .for some things.

I think for web work/work viewed on computer screens, supposed to be great.

Accuracy not necessarily just for broadcast, also for whatever your destination medium is. Want to show at festivals? You'll want the color space that matches projectors. Going out to film? Ditto. For DVD/BluRay? Want to be able to make sure you're accurate for those color spaces as well.

There doesn't really seem to be a "good enough" for color correction, from everything I've read. The solutions that get you 90% accuracy are still really expensive. Seems with CC you're either very close or miles off. . .no "prosumer" version of a CC solution. Unfortunately. Would love to be wrong as I'm in the same boat as you.
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Old June 7th, 2013, 01:53 AM   #5
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Bass View Post
Those come highly recommended. . .for some things.

I think for web work/work viewed on computer screens, supposed to be great.

Accuracy not necessarily just for broadcast, also for whatever your destination medium is. Want to show at festivals? You'll want the color space that matches projectors. Going out to film? Ditto. For DVD/BluRay? Want to be able to make sure you're accurate for those color spaces as well.

There doesn't really seem to be a "good enough" for color correction, from everything I've read. The solutions that get you 90% accuracy are still really expensive. Seems with CC you're either very close or miles off. . .no "prosumer" version of a CC solution. Unfortunately. Would love to be wrong as I'm in the same boat as you.
Frustrating isn't it?

I had a short film screened at a festival last week, and the colours were terrible on the projector! Which is what has sparked this quest to get a better monitor.

I guess it's back to Google. There must be something affordable out there that does the job!

Thanks for the info again.
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Old June 7th, 2013, 02:05 AM   #6
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

Now hold on there, sonny Jim (or daughter Jane),

As far as what you're describing, one way to keep yourself from getting in trouble (bad screening experience) without a proper monitor (and even if you get one, you want to do this anyway) is using your scopes like the waveform monitor and vectorscope built into whatever software you're grading in (everything should have 'em these days). These will tell you when your white is too white, your black to black, your colors too saturated (for broadcast legal limits anyway, which I would stay inside to be safe even if, as you said, your material is not for broadcast), and how accurate your colors are generally to certain standards (if skin tones are supposed to generally look true to real life, there's a diagonal line that those should line up on on the vectorscope, for instance).

Of course this is less helpful if you're going for a "look" like "The Matrix", "Saw", "Underworld", etc., something with a strong stylized bias in a certain direction. But for at least getting a normal natural look it can help you (or get you to a nice neutral starting point from which to apply your "look", since, I BELIEVE, you're supposed to correct first and THEN grade; correcting being making everything look "right", grading being giving it the stylized look). With matching as well (e.g. if blacks are at x percentage in a certain shot you like, and you want to make that a uniform look throughout, scopes can help you match that stuff objectively).

So in lieu of a proper monitor, trust the scopes. If the scopes say your red is at its legal saturation limit but it still looks dull on your screen, it's probably your screen.

Also, many of those projectors super suck donkeys and you'd have to err really conservatively when grading to keep stuff from getting crushed or blown out. Maybe wasn't you at all.
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Old June 7th, 2013, 02:49 AM   #7
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

Yeah that's the thing, I did go by the scopes. Maybe it was just a bad projector? I think I'll go with that theory, it'll make me feel better :)
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Old June 7th, 2013, 03:12 AM   #8
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

Hmmm. What was the specific problem you had?

I remember seeing a feature film I DP'd that looked more or less correct on the projector, but whites were blown out all over the place. I'll take that as a failing on my part since we had a lot of outdoor footage with blown out skies that may have looked less awful on my small SD CRT monitor as I was "grading", but I didn't go by the scopes. On the other hand someone else there a feature that had a small budget (ours had none) And looked great even on the projector. Later found out shot with the same cam (XL2). I'll give 'em that they lit better and probably took more time in the grade.

Maybe it's your original footage? I dunno. Test it on different monitors and see if looks good on most, bad on most, or somewhere between.
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Old June 7th, 2013, 09:33 AM   #9
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jody Arnott View Post
I guess it's back to Google. There must be something affordable out there that does the job!
You can hope, but hope won't change reality. The reality is, the market for production monitors is orders of magnitude smaller than the general monitor market. Tiny volume = high manufacturing costs. Then, the requirements for production monitors are far higher than for general monitors. Again, this means higher manufacturing costs.

IOW, You're going to have to spend the money to obtain a decent color correction / grading solution. The only other option is using the tools (waveform monitor, rgb parade, vectorscope, etc.) blind (talk about frustrating!), and iterate. You know, make a change, burn a DVD, take it down to the TV, fire it up, look at it, curse a while, tromp back upstairs, and try again. Rinse and repeat.

It comes down to just this: What's your time worth to you?
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Old June 7th, 2013, 10:10 AM   #10
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

Jody,

You mentioned a Dell Ultra Sharp Monitor. While that might be a good monitor for your computer screen you need a true tv video monitor for color grading. The color space is different in computer monitors than tv's. You want to look at your edit on a video monitor that used the rec709 color space rather than a computer's RGB.

This is a very difficult subject I have not found a good answer for. We do wedding and event videography. My solution is to use a name brand consumer HDTV calibrated with a calibration Blu-ray to be the best it can be.

We then test each final edit by burning a Blu-ray and playing it on all of the HDTV's in the house which include;

Mitsuibhshi HD1000 projector (720p)
Vizio 42: 1080p HDTV
Hitachi 39" 1080p HDTV

If our finished product looks good on the 4 different HDTV's we believe it will look good on any HDTV. This is a poor man's solution but has worked well for us.

Our primary 2nd montior used to display the video while editing has been a 22" LG that is 720p. Just upgraded to a 24" Samsung LED 1080p. $219 at Sams Club.
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Old June 14th, 2013, 03:28 PM   #11
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

I think DJ has the best solution along with Bruce's trial and error method. I got lucky and found a JVC 20" component production monitor pretty many years ago for $900. It has a beautiful image. I run it from a component output card for Edius (NX Express). I also try things on TVs etc...

If you can not get a production monitor then a nice television will work provided you have a proper output card from your editor. Jody, I think you use Edius is that correct? Maybe a Storm card with a nice HD television would be affordable enough to get you ot a better place?

For internet correction I just look at the preview window in Edius as it is on the computer, not the external feed.
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Old November 6th, 2013, 06:13 PM   #12
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

Hi all. I'm dragging this thread back up because I've been thinking about this again recently and I still have a few questions.

So I understand that for broadcast work, a broadcast quality monitor is critical. And for work going onto DVD and Blu-ray, an editor needs to use an HDTV to check their work.

But the majority of my work goes on the web, so I can assume that the majority of people viewing my work will be using either a tablet, a smartphone or a computer monitor to view it.

In this case, would a reasonably accurate monitor (like the Ultrasharp, as mentioned above) not be sufficient?

I've also read that plugging a monitor directly into the computer's HDMI or DVI port will not get accurate results, and some form of hardware is required to sit between the computer and the monitor. Is anyone able to explain a bit more about this?

Thanks in advance :)
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Old November 7th, 2013, 03:03 PM   #13
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

A big problem is LCD. You can calibrate it, but if the on-axis position of your head changes, so does the apparent contrast.

There is nothing wrong with using hdmi as long as your software is configured for working in 16-235, it will look exactly the same played from a blu-ray or from your editing suite on a video monitor.
If you do edit on a LCD panel, keep your eyes in the same plane.

Windows has a calibration utility for sliding the grayscale curve up or down. You move the curve until the small circles and the big circles are the same shade of gray. But remember, moving your head is the same as moving the curve, so once locked in, so should be the angle you are viewing from.

You also need to make sure the graphics driver hardware settings aren't overriding your software 16-235. You should now be able to use your editing software waveform monitor and be good.

If you do use an LCD display, larger is better because it's easier to maintain a consistent on-axis viewing angle.
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Old November 8th, 2013, 09:16 AM   #14
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

I use a 24" ultrasharp calibrated with a spyder, and also a lg tv calibrated with its own set up and connected with a matrox mini. I use the scopes religiously and try to also balance the image so it looks good (though unavoidably different) on both the monitor and tv. Not sure if this is the best method, but it seems to work for me. Maybe both images are a compromise, but I would hope the image translates more universally...
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Old November 8th, 2013, 09:21 AM   #15
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Re: Decent studio monitor on a budget

The matrox monitor calibration tool is a lie, by the way, and a lie that made me spend hard earned money for a feature that does not do what is advertised. That said, the matrox mini is great at what it actually does do...
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