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Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope

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CreativeCOW presents Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope -- Blackmagic Design Review


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When I read about the release of the Blackmagic Design SmartView HD 17" monitor, I was very anxious to get my hands on one as soon as possible, because I needed to assemble a new color grading station for my client, Pink Sneakers Productions, in Orlando, FL.

Because they were on a budget, I had previously set up Pink Sneakers with cost effective equipment -- a Panasonic BT-LH1700 HD Monitor and a Leader LV7700 waveform monitor/vectorscope, which is a rasterizer that uses a DVI monitor for its display.

Senior editor JJ Johnson used this configuration in the past to color grade numerous shows for Pink Sneakers Productions, that included Miami Social on Bravo, Most Eligible Dallas on Bravo, Ultimate Travel/Grannies Gone Wild on Travel Channel, Country Crazy on Travel Chanel, and My Big Redneck Wedding on CMT.

With new shows coming in the door, I wanted to do something much better -- without spending a fortune. So, I looked at the new Blackmagic equipment released at IBC 2011, and asked for a pre-release.

Pocket UltraScope
Blackmagic Design Pocket UltraScope
The first item I used was not new, but it was my first time installing it. It was the Blackmagic Design Pocket UltraScope. I was "gun shy" of the Pocket UltraScope, because of its requirement for a USB 3 port -- which is impossible to find on a Mac, and difficult to find on a modern PC. But on a visit to Adrenaline Films in Orlando, FL., studio manager Tim Bartlett showed me their new UltraScope rig.

It was installed onto the fully self-contained Sony VAIO Touchscreen 24" PC. Think of it as an iMAC that runs Windows 7, but has built in USB3 ports. There is no "PC Tower" -- everything is built into the monitor, including the USB 3 ports. And because it's touchscreen, you don't even have to use the keyboard or the mouse. Everything can be done via the touchscreen!

Adrenaline was using the VAIO for the Pocket UltraScope, AND to control a Blackmagic Videohub router. The native graphics card for the Sony VAIO Touchscreen the Nvidia GeForce GT540M. Since it's built into the VAIO, you don't have to go searching the internet for the correct "qualified" graphics card.

The pictures show both monitors mounted in the rack. He will keep the Panasonic in there, because there is no B side to the SmartView, and he needs to playback the output of the VTR for delivery requirements (to make sure that there is a picture there !).
Both monitors are mounted in the rack.
Click image for larger view.
What really impressed me was that it was RACK MOUNTED. The oversized 24" screen was mounted to the rack using a Middle Atlantic RM-LCD-PNLK mount, that allowed the oversized monitor to mount to the front of a standard rack, using the VESA screw mounts on the back of the display. All of a sudden you had this big beautiful display that was rack mounted -- with no PC tower sitting on the bottom of the rack.

When I built the Pocket UltraScope for Pink Sneakers, I was a little intimidated by the fact that I had to go to the web and find a generic web site to download updates for the USB 3 drivers in the PC. This was not on the Blackmagic Design website, nor was it on the Sony website, but the instructions on where to download these drivers and firmware updates were in the Blackmagic installation packet. Once that was done, I plugged in the Pocket UltraScope (which is powered by the USB 3 port on the Sony VAIO), ran the install software, and I had an incredible new waveform/vector display.

I anxiously awaited the arrival of the Blackmagic SmartView 17" HD Monitor. When I received it, I was shocked to see how lightweight it was. I was also confused that it had no controls, buttons, or knobs on it. Everything is controlled by software, which I loaded on the Sony VAIO Touchscreen computer. I used the Ethernet port on the Sony VAIO to connect directly to the Ethernet port on the SmartView. Additionally I had to use a USB cable from the Sony VAIO to the SmartView. Again, running the installer from Blackmagic was seamless, and the controls for the monitor popped up right away on the PC.


SmartView HD 17 inch monitor
SmartView HD 17 inch monitor. Click image to zoom in.


When I delivered the system to Pink Sneakers, we installed the equipment side by side with the older gear from Panasonic and Leader Instruments. I wound up looping the output of the Panasonic BT-LH1700 monitor to the SmartView. Instantly, everyone was surprised at the clarity of the image on the Blackmagic monitor, compared to the Panasonic. The Blackmagic is 1/3rd the price of the Panasonic, and produces a much better, and more accurate image.

As for the scopes, the Blackmagic Pocket UltraScope offers six simultaneous extremely sharp displays of waveform monitor (both Parade and composite at the same time), vectorscope, histograph (with optional error logging), eight channel audio meters, audio phase, and picture display. In contrast, the Leader LV7700 -- great for its day -- is a simple waveform monitor/vectorscope with "too many buttons". I was able to build the entire Pocket UltraScope with the Sony VAIO Touchscreen PC for half the price of the Leader scope.



JJ Johnson of Pink Sneakers Productions.  He is the senior editor and does most of the color grading.
JJ Johnson of Pink Sneakers Productions. He is the senior editor and does most of the color grading. Click image to zoom.


This new monitoring rig from Blackmagic will now be used by JJ Johnson at Pink Sneakers to color grade The Amandas on Style Network, and My Big Redneck Vacation on CMT. Pink Sneakers has requested a second identical rig, as soon as Blackmagic can get me a second SmartView monitor.



SmartView HD monitor back view. Click to zoom.
SO, was I completely thrilled with the new Blackmagic monitor? Well, for the price, it can't be beat. But it is missing some critical features, which I hope appear in future models. There is only one looping HD-SDI input on the monitor. So if you have to monitor the output of your editing system, and then go to a "B input" to check your VTR output -- well, there is no "B input". The controls that are accessed via software are currently very limited -- there are adjustments for brightness, contrast, and color. Nothing else. There is no B&W mode or "blue only" mode. There is no safety function, or cross hair function. There is no de-embedded audio. But for $895 retail, maybe I should just shut up and be happy, that its image quality is better than a monitor 3 times its price.

With the realization of these two products at these price points, there is no longer an excuse for not owning true broadcast quality monitoring products that are fully qualified to color grade and finish a show for a major cable network.

Blackmagic Design has done it again.

Bob Zelin


Comments

Re: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Seth Thy
Hi Bob,
first let me thank you for this review. I'm in a process of ordering SmartView HD and DaVinci but I just wont to ask you few things to be sure.

I used to work in Apple Color on configuration you can see in my signature. As you can see I'm using old SD monitor but, since most of my work ends up on TV (which in my country is still mostly SD) he was quite accurate and I'm satisfied with him.

Soon I'll be color grading short movie and a few TV commercials.
So I decided to buy this configuration I've been working on from production facility (completely with SD monitor) and to upgrade it and switch to DaVinci.
Since I have AJA and ATI they told me I need to get:

BMD HD Extreme 3
nVIDIA Quadro
DaVinci Resolve
+ HD broadcast monitor.

Since I'm on my own right now and I don't have a lot of money, SmartView HD for that price is a life savior. In a year, if I'm still working on TV commercials I'll be more than happy to spend more money on equipment if needed.


So here's my questions:

1. how correct is color and contrast on SV? Can it be calibrated (since everything is software based) and if so, how can I calibrate it?
I'm asking this cause I have a really bad expirience with HD monitoring. On my old job they used to have Panasonic HD monitor (not sure which one) and JVC SD monitor connected. The problem was that picture on HD monitor looked really bad! Black was gray and all colors were pale. And I couldn't fix that with calibration.
I'm always using waveform monitor and vectorscope so I see correct image. But when I tried to make 'looks' for commercial it was huge problem. Especially when clients came to see, they were just confused. So, at the end I unplugged HD monitor and show them everything on SD.

2. I'm not sure about Ultrascope. Do I need to buy it or can I use DaVinci scopes?

Thank you very much

Regards

Seth

Mac 2x2,4 GHz Quad-Core / OS 10.6.8. / FCP 7.03
10 GB 1066 MHz DD3
ATI Radeon HD 5770
AJA Kona LHi
Broadcast monitor: JVC TM-H1950CGE
Re: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Bob Zelin
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/848397-REG/Sony_VPCL23BFX_W_VAIO_L23_...

This will work fine, and yes, you can run the Ultrascope and control the Videohub on the same computer.
It works great.

Bob Zelin

@Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Doug Farris
Hi Bob,

Just wondering if you've had any recent experience with the current gen Sony Vaio's as the model you link to in the story above, VPCL236FX/W, is no longer an active model. Have you installed the pocket ultrascope on a one of their current models like the SVL2411AFYB or SVL24116FXB? Like the idea of running the video router and scopes from the all in one, but was trying to not be super brave and purchase one of the latest models on the hopes that it will still work.

Thanks!

Doug
Re: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Pierre Paré-Blais
Ha! "How come I cant record uncompressed 2K dpx files on my MacBook internal drive" I love it! I think you should be able to do uncompressed 10-bit 4K dpx on a macbook air too while we're at it! ;)

seriously though, your review was very helpful to me in choosing an entry level solution for accurate monitoring for my new post suite. As someone who at this point only does occasional colourgrading work, I couldn't justify the expense of higher quality monitor just yet, and this will do for most of my needs in the nearby future, it's not like I'm grading for cinematic release anyways! I have one question though, did you find the smartview had a bit of a blueish temperature, or is that just me, or is that normal and I'm just not use to it because I've never ctually owned an accurate monitor?

Pierre P. Blais
Multimedia performance and VFX artist
Pierre P. Blais Productions
Perception Films
http://www.vimeo.com/user1771129
@Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Shlomo Hazan
Dear Bob,
I have just created an account here in purpose of thanking you for this article. I was very sceptical about the Smartview HD's capabilities when I saw it on their site (because of the amazingly low cost, of course). But now, after reading your insights, I have no doubt which monitor I am going buy for color grading. Thank you so much!

Shlomo Hazan
Director and editor
Re: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Kevin Minderhout
Hey Bob,

Love reading your reviews and comments. Was wondering what your thoughts are on using a SmartView HD vs. 27" Apple Cinema Display for an ATEM multiview? I believe I read elsewhere that your opinion on the matter was to just throw the cheapest television available at it and call it good.

We did that for one event (we do live sports) and the resolution of our 32" tv just didn't cut it for us. Our switcher couldn't really make judgements on exposure from his monitor. For a portable system that gives us good image sharpness with multiview would you recommend the 27" Cinemas Display or the SmartView HD or something else entirely? We're probably not looking to go over $1000 for this monitor.

Thanks a lot!

Kevin
Re: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Kevin Minderhout
Anyone?
Re: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Bob Zelin
the Apple Cinema is a DVI monitor, not an HD-SDI monitor.
The Blackmagic SmartView is a SPECTACULAR monitor, and it is in your budget - under $1000, and you don't need a HD-SDI to DVI converter to get this to work.

There is no question that the SmartView is a better choice for your application.

Bob Zelin

Re: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Kevin Minderhout
Cool. Thanks Bob.
Re: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by jj johnson
I would like to weigh in and say that this monitor is only a tool. Not the best tool in the shed but still a quite usable tool. As long as your colorist knows what to look for, and how to interpret what is seen, it is an adequate cost effective monitor.

But the human factor must be accounted for. The eye/brain is an essential part of the equation.

Bob is right and the scope is the important part.
Re: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Aleksander Steffensen
Bob,

Thanks for this useful insight. I'm interested in knowing if the SmartView Duo is also suitable for colour grading? If I reckon correctly, these are 8-bit. Do you have any experience with these?
Re: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Bob Zelin
I use the SmartView Duo all the time. It is a wonderful 8" monitor for rack systems, field production systems, etc. No matter what my answer is - how would ANYONE "color grade" on an 8" monitor ? Do you have special glasses ?

The answer to your question is no. But I know the real reason you are asking - you want a great monitor for $660. Well, for $660, this is a great monitor.

Bob Zelin

Re: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Aleksander Steffensen
Fair point, I do agree that 8" is in general too small to use for colour grading. I'm asking because I would like to know whether the SmartView Duo is reliable for monitoring video, along with the UltraScope PCI version, in a small TV control room.

Aleksander Steffensen
Steffensen Multimedia
Re: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Bob Zelin
the SmartView Duo is PERFECT in a small TV control room, or in a remote truck. There is nothing close to this pricepoint that can do the same job.

bob Zelin

Re: Article: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Bob Zelin
as a side note, today, I just set up the edit rooms for the Nascar Rolex 400 in Daytona, FL. All monitors were the Panasonic BT-LH series, as used by Pink Sneakers featured in this article. While the Blackmagic SmartView is no competition to the new Sony OLED monitors, I think that Panasonic, JVC, Marshall and the others are in for a big surprise once Blackmagic does a full release of this product. And if a "gen 2" SmartView comes out, with A/B inputs, blue only, safety, and cross pulse - well, it's game over for most of these companies.

Bob Zelin

Re: Article: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Shaun Roemich
So the 6 bit colour on the SmartViewHD ISN'T a limiting factor for colour correction, if I read your article correctly?

THAT in and of itself is interesting and changes a LOT of things...

Would you still recommend a more traditional "colour accurate" 8 or 10 bit monitor for specific circumstances and what would those be, in YOUR estimation?

As I've said before, my intent was to use it as a MultiView monitor for my ATEM 1M/E but I'm wondering if I shouldn't rethink some of my monitor allocations...

Big Dog - Technical Director - Switcher
Road Dog Media - Vancouver, BC Canada
roaddogmedia@gmail.com
Re: Article: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Bob Zelin
Look Shaun,
this is not a CineTal. This is not a TV Logic. This is not a Sony
OLED monitor. And I have not seen this side by side with the wonderful FSI.

But MOST PEOPLE want to spend the LEAST AMOUNT OF MONEY to do their job - and if you compare the SmartView to a Sony Luma, a JVC Vetere,
or a Panasonic BT-LH series, the image is as good or better than these monitors which are significantly more expensive.

This is not a miracle - it's just a real good deal - a real good value.

Same applies to the Ultracope. Compared to most of the pieces of crap that people try to pickup on ebay, the Ultrascope blows these products away. Is the Ultrascope an OmniTek, or a $12,000 Tektronix scope - OF COURSE NOT.

I am sorry for being cranky, but when I discuss products I discuss them for the masses. I am the worlds biggest fan of the Blackmagic Videohubs, but you can't compare the Videohub to a 1200 crosspoint NVision router.

Bob Zelin

Re: Article: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Shaun Roemich
Sincerest apologies if my inquiry came off wrong. I meant NO offense or snideness in it. I was just honestly surprised to hear that a broadcast client was using one as a correction monitor and wanted to know more about where it falls and where it excels.

If my response came across as smarmy, that was not my intent. You have been incredibly kind in sharing your professional wisdomw with me as well as the community at large and for that I am truly grateful.

Big Dog - Technical Director - Switcher
Road Dog Media - Vancouver, BC Canada
roaddogmedia@gmail.com
Re: Article: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Shaun Roemich
Additionally, please allow me to point out that my retailer has had the money allocated for mine since mid October and your reviews and input are the SOLE information I have right now on a purchase I have been waiting over 3 months for..

Big Dog - Technical Director - Switcher
Road Dog Media - Vancouver, BC Canada
roaddogmedia@gmail.com
Re: Article: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Bob Zelin
Hi Shaun -
it's not you - it's me. I come from a linear video background. It is inconceivable that ANYONE can work without a waveform montior and a vectorscope. But countless people do. People on these forums and ALL THE forums have only one thing in mind "what is the cheapest thing that I can do" - this is their only concern. (How come I cant record uncompressed 2K dpx files on my MacBook internal drive).

So you are surprised that people color grade on crap ? Many people simply don't color grade at all, and release for "broadcast delivery" . Nothing surprises me. Most of the outbursts you see me have on these forums is due to my frustration. When I see Blackmagic release an absolute miracle of a product for $995 (the ATEM Television Studio switcher) - at an impossible low price, and then you see the waves of complaints "how come I can't put analog audio into it - how come I need a converter" - I just want to strangle these people.
But don't worry, in a few weeks someone will ask if they can avoid buying the Sony 24" OLED monitor and instead buy the SmartView instead. And of course, the answer will be yes, because real TV shows are done on the SmartView - is it as good as the Sony OLED - of course not - but when did that matter ?

No matter what I say on these forums, I know that companies like Miranda, Harris, Evertz, Cobalt Digital and other hi end companies squirm when they see these amazing Blackmagic converters being sold for almost nothing. I know the game.

bob Zelin

+1
@Bob Zelin
by Dara Yem
Hi Bob, my boss been upgrading our post house MC room reference monitor with a lots of the TVLogic 24LVM series..replacing Sony CRTs. I love the TVLogic series really good monitors for a good price compare to all the other more expensive brand.I been looking into getting one for my studio at home for Resolve work. But after I read about this monitor (smartview) when BMD announce it, love it on the price and stuff..except the 6 bit color dept. Now after seeing this review I might pick one up. I will be working in Rec709 mostly..but have to wait till after NAB going there to see new toys :). I come from a video background also...an Editor/DIT now I start out as a Tape Loader around 96.....1" was still being use, but in the transition to Beta was the post industry back then..Avid AVB75 and Quantel PaintBox anyone? haha
Re: Article: Blackmagic Design’s SmartView HD Monitor & Pocket Ultrascope
by Shaun Roemich
VERY much appreciate your insight, Bob. EXTRA excited to finally get mine when it ships. And then order a UltraScope.

Big Dog - Technical Director - Switcher
Road Dog Media - Vancouver, BC Canada
roaddogmedia@gmail.com


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