LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

The Importance of Monitor Calibration

CreativeCOW presents The Importance of Monitor Calibration -- Adobe After Effects Techniques Editorial


Orlando Florida USA
CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


In this article from The Creative COW Magazine, Bob Zelin discusses the imporance of monitor calibration, different monitor options and how to execute the calibration on these monitors.



If I told you that monitor calibration was not only important but critically so, I am sure that some at the Creative COW forums would argue that point. The question some might ask, is why bother? Good question. And there's really only one reason to bother with scopes: If you want anyone else to see your pictures.

Wait a minute, you say: "My HD pictures look fantastic! I've tweaked the monitor in my room to within an inch of its life and the color is stunning!"

And that's the problem. I don't care one bit if the picture is "stunning." We need to observe accurate color, color that will not get rejected, color that will be consistent at other professional facilities, over the air, or at your client's place.

That's why a consumer plasma TV whose chroma is cranked way up, and whose colors are jumping off the screen - "Wow, look at the colors! I can get a suntan from that screen!" - is worse than useless. It doesn't project an accurate image, no matter how nice the picture looks. A set-up like this will eventually get you into trouble.

We do this for a living, so we need to see what others see and I'm not talking about your mom's 42" DLP.

The most important thing that accurate monitors can do for us is to show us noise and other defects in the pictures. We can't afford to mask problems.

The whole point of all this techno mumble jumble is standards: ensuring a consistent viewing experience for everyone who sees your images, regardless of the setting. You can accomplish this by setting up a proper viewing experience in your studio.


MONITOR SET-UP

The absolute cheapest "very good" quality HD-only monitor is the Dell 2407WFP, that sells for around $700. You use the analog HD YPbPr signal from your video card to feed the RCA inputs of this monitor. It works just fine.

There are other great monitors out there and more coming all the time. But for now, you won't get 1920 x1200 resolution HD monitoring any cheaper than this.

In the Gear Round-up in the May-June '07 issue of the COW Magazine, I talked about the new VidScope HD software from the UK company, Hamlet. The software is PC-only, but even die-hard Mac users shouldn't hesitate to jump in. The total of the software, a video card from AJA or Blackmagic to feed the video signals, and the computer to run it in, combined costs a small fraction of less-flexible standalone HD scopes. The least expensive HD monitoring ever? More features than anything else? Throw in a free 30-day trial for the software, and this one is a no-brainer.


CALIBRATION

These are the general principles that will apply whether you're using Hamlet or an outboard monitor. They also work equally well for SD monitor calibration.

Start with the SMPTE Color Bars.

Switch to the "Blue Only" mode, which will make your image look black and white. Adjust your hue or phase adjustment so that all areas match in intensity.

Here's a close-up of the lower left area of your color bars in "Blue Only"
Blue Only Monitor Calibration

Adjust your chroma level so that the colors in the thin stripe that separates the top color bars from the bottom match in intensity. You want them to look the same.

Get out of blue only, and look at the bars in color. If you turn up the brightness, you will see in the blacks on the lower right, two different levels of black. This is called "pluge." It rhymes with Scrooge, and it stands for, what else? - picture line-up generation equipment.

Adjust your brightness by eye, so you can just barely see the "brighter" black signal, but not enough so that it disappears. Since we're in print, we've goosed the "brighter" black, which you'll find in the lower right section of your bars.

Black and White AdjustmentsThis is called "blacker than black," which you don't want. Otherwise, you lose detail in the black parts of the image, also known as "crushing" the blacks.

The Contrast, or white levels, adjustment is purely subjective. The old rule of thumb was to increase the contrast while looking at the 100% white bar, until an old CRT would "smear." Except that modern CRTs, and of course LCDs, don't smear. So turn it to whatever looks correct to you. This will be the brightest your monitor will get.

Forget the specific "black and white" adjustments you see on many scopes. These were for setting RGB Gain and Bias for an old CRT monitor, to make a black and white image look black and white, without any pink or blue hue. There's no Gain or Bias controls in LCD, plasma and DLP monitors.


THE REAL WORLD CHALLENGE

As you can see, calibration isn't super-difficult. It has a few steps, but they're each easy enough to take. If you do, you wind up with an accurate picture that will hold up through the whole production process all the way out to broadcast or your client's office.

Of course there are complications. There are always complications. One of the most common is when you're dealing with BetaSP and Digibeta machines. These are still a huge part of the broadcast scene, and an even bigger part of the film festival scene. You may also wind up using BetaSP and Digibeta archive tapes in your mixedformat projects in Avid, Final Cut or Premiere Pro.

So whether you shoot primarily in SD or HD, you're going to run into the problems. The good news is that you can overcome them.

Not that you're going to get any help from the SMPTE committee in the US. When setting up the SMPTE 259 and associated standards for serial digital video (SDI), they made some assumptions about the relationship between analog and SDI signals, and how they'd be used together. The basic assumption was that they'd never be used together. But of course they are! Every day! And the SMPTE standard can cause problems when you do.

Here's a simple example. The color black as definined by the National Television Standards Committee (NTSC) has a setup level at 7.5 IRE if you look at an analog waveform monitor. IRE is a unit of measurement for video signals defined by - you guessed it - the Institute of Radio Engineers. Don't ask.

Now, imagine that you take a tape that shows 7.5 IRE on your analog BetaSP deck. The same tape will play back with a black level at zero IRE in a DigiBeta deck. You can see this especially clearly if you have a TV monitor that can show SDI and analog (like a Sony PVM-20L5/1) and a Waveform Monitor that can show SDI and analog (like a Leader LV5100D).

The same tape showing 7.5 on one deck and zero on another? What's a normal person supposed to do with something as ridiculous as this? The good news is, nothing. Don't do a thing.

Because if you set the black on your BetaSP deck to 7.5 IRE, that tape played through SDI on a DigiBeta deck will be dark at both your place and at the broadcast station and film festival where your tape plays.

Again, audio is a whole article in itself, but note that the same thing is going on. You know that your BetaSP levels should come in at zero dBFS ("decibels full scale").

Take the same tape to a DigiBeta machine, and those levels will shows up as minus twenty on a Digibeta machine. But if you set the analog BetaSP levels to -20, they'll get pushed down even further by the digital VTR.

The solution once again: set your analog levels properly, and leave them alone for playout through a DigiBeta machine.

Aren't standards fun? At least it's easy to do nothing.


ONE MORE CHALLENGE

While we're talking about monitoring the same tape in different formats, here's a word about trying to monitor HD and SD on the same monitor: don't.

I just installed a Panasonic BT-LH2600W LCD to replace to replace the Sony PVM CRT for an Avid customer who does primarily SD (not HD). Four hours later, they called me to get it out of their edit room because the SD was simply unacceptable.

I've already told you my favorite choice for a cheap HD monitor. But the SD on that one is unwatchable too. The best bet for SD monitoring is to head down to Walmart and buy a cheap old CRT TV.

Even though most of us will need high-quality SD monitoring for the foreseeable future, it ain't gonna happen on LCD. No one's even trying to develop a fantastic new SD LCD monitor. You're best off using separate monitors for HD and SD.

Now if you have the bucks, there is one • and only one • choice that actually does a good job with both HD and SD monitoring, the Panasonic BT-LH series.

Panasonic BTLH900
The Panasonic BTLH900 does a very good job displaying accurate color for both HD and SD Images

The 900A has a street price just under $4000...for a screen with an 8.5 inch 4:3 diagonal? Eight and a half inches! That's something like $470 per inch. But in fairness, this monitor really does do every broadcast format from 1080/60i to 480 i/p - even automatically switching the monitor setting to match your input signal.

Now, if you really have the bucks, you should get two 30" LCD monitors. This will give you a 5-foot span between the two ends of your monitors. You'll get a chance to exercise your neck muscles while you're eating cheeseburgers and French fries all day long. And with that 60" span across both monitors, your arm will get a workout, dragging that mouse back and forth all day long, instead of barely moving it on a 20" display. And if you use reading glasses, believe me, with two 30" monitors, your fonts will look real big. Who needs glasses?

See? Nobody looks after your health like your old pal, Bob. And hey, if you still need help with calibrating your monitor, drop by the COW's Broadcast Video forum - there's help there.


Bob Zelin Bob Zelin
Orlando, Florida

Bob Zelin is an old cranky video engineer that got his start in the professional audio business in 1977. By 1981, he was fired so many times, that no one wanted to hire him, so he started his own company in 1982. Today, Bob resides in Orlando, Florida, terrorizing southern editing facilities. He is nevertheless one of the industry's most respected systems contractors. You won't have to look hard to find him at The COW: he posts around 10 times per day across over a dozen forums.



Find more great Creative COW Magazine articles by signing up for the complimentary Creative COW Magazine.

Comments

Re: The Importance of Monitor Calibration
by Jan Gallasch
Dear Bob,

i'm not sure that you are going to read this reply to an article you wrote three years ago, but i'll give it a shot.

First off, let me give you a little inside on who i am what i do. I study 'TV & Film Production' at a college in Munich, Germany, but i have a little bit of experience in the post production field. I do not (by all means) consider myself to be a professional editor nor a proffesional Grader, but i have edited and Color graded a handfull of short movies.
At home i have a workstation running an Intel Core I7 2,66 GHZ, 16 MB Ram and a consumer grade Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT graphics card, with HDMI/DVI/VGA outputs and two no name 21" Monitors.

Since i am planning on doing some light Grading work at home (only HD Material), i want to get myself a new monitor, but of course my budget is VERY limited. I know that unless i use a professional broadcast monitor i will never able to view a correct image, and that is not what i expect from a monitor in my price range. What i want and what i need is just some safety that what i see is at least close to what i would see on a broadcast monitor - which means that i need to get myself a monitor that i can calibrate properly.
In your article you talk about the Dell 2407WFP (calling it a 'cheap very good HD Monitor', which is exactly what i need) which i can get for around 300$ (used). But that recomendation is 3 years old - so my question is:

knowing what i want to do, and knowing the fact that i'm a poor bastard ;-), which monitot would you recomend today?

Thanks in advance,
Jan


Related Articles / Tutorials:
Adobe After Effects Techniques
After Effects: Animated Guitar Strings with Plexus

After Effects: Animated Guitar Strings with Plexus
  Play Video
Using Rowbyte Plexus (the 3D particle system plugin for Adobe After Effects) and Trapcode SoundKeys in After Effects, Gardy Raymond demonstrates how to create animated guitar strings that distort in time with the music.

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Gardner Raymond
Adobe After Effects Techniques
IK Character Animation: Walk to the Beat 2: The Walk Cycle

IK Character Animation: Walk to the Beat 2: The Walk Cycle
  Play Video
In this second tutorial on animating an IK character Andrew Devis shows us how to create and refine a walk cycle with our IK controlled character such that it walks in time with the music we had set up in the previous tutorial.

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Andrew Devis
Adobe After Effects Techniques
Character Design and Animation in AE: Part Two

Character Design and Animation in AE: Part Two
  Play Video
In part 2, Rob Mize presents the After Effects work flow he uses to bring to life the character created in part 1. By keyframing shape paths, Rob demonstrates how we can not only animate the character's features, but her speech as well.

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Rob Mize
Adobe After Effects Techniques
The Beauty of AE Shapes: Top 10 Features Countdown

The Beauty of AE Shapes: Top 10 Features Countdown
  Play Video
Rob Mize offers his Top 10 Countdown of the features that make AE shapes such a versatile compositing tool. Rob highlights the functionality of these features and demonstrates just how practical shapes can be in your production efforts.

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Rob Mize
Motion Graphics
Neat Video: Removing Noise and Grain from your Footage

Neat Video: Removing Noise and Grain from your Footage
  Play Video
In this video tutorial you will learn how to use the Neat Video plug-in for multiple applications. Although demonstrated in After Effects, the work-flow is essentially the same for all these applications: After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Motion, Nuke, Fusion, Vegas Pro, etc. This powerful but simple to use plug-in can clean up noisy footage by applying a sophisticated and advanced algorithm to work out what's noise and what's details in your footage and then remove just the noise. This is done by profiling the noise properties in an area of a video frame without visible features. Once the noise has been profiled, Neat Video is guided by this profile to reduce and eliminate noise while not touching the video details. Although mostly automatic, Neat Video still leaves you with total control over the amount of filtering you apply and even offers optional sharpening (without sharpening the noise) should you wish it.

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Andrew Devis
Motion Graphics
The Modern Guide to Nonlinear Editing and Living

The Modern Guide to Nonlinear Editing and Living

In this article from the Creative COW Magazine, Tim Wilson discusses nonlinear editing and our ability to create meaning from our experiences that changes everything.

Editorial
Tim Wilson
Motion Graphics
A Non-Linear Career

A Non-Linear Career

An FX veteran's unexpected, non-linear career path, from puppetry to painting, to ILM and beyond, offers insights into the art and business of film creativity - and a killer reel.

Feature, People / Interview
Tony Hudson
Adobe After Effects Techniques
Creating Interactive Games - Cine Bingo

Creating Interactive Games - Cine Bingo

The team at Psychic Bunny worked on whatever interested them - perfect preparation for a job that even the client couldn't describe. In this Creative COW Magazine article Rick Castañeda gives you a behind the scenes tour of how they made cine bingo and teaches a few tips on interactive game making.

Editorial, Feature
Rick Castañeda
Adobe After Effects Techniques
Media Management Nightmares? Game On!

Media Management Nightmares? Game On!

Here's how one team turns 14 hours of raw footage on the latest games into a 30-minute TV show every week, 40 times a season. In this Creative COW Magazine article Dustin Lau discusses some tricks for high end digital media management.

Editorial
Dustin Lau
Adobe After Effects Techniques
Improvising Visual Effects

Improvising Visual Effects

On-set circumstances changing fast? Improvise! In this Creative COW Magazine article Mark Allen discusses how he overcame the complications in a recent short film production by improvising the visual effects.

Feature, People / Interview
Mark Allen
MORE
© 2016 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]