The decisions that you make when it comes to color and contrast on a project are largely driven by how you are seeing shots represented on your screen. You need to trust the monitor that you are looking at. In this video, author Robbie Carman discusses the importance of calibrating your reference monitor.
- The decisions that you make in a project when it comes to contrast and color, are largely driven by how your scene shots on screen. And that screen can be a computer monitor, it could be a television, or it could be a professional video display. The point is, is that you have to be able to trust the monitor that you are looking at. And perhaps more importantly, your clients need to be able to trust the monitor that you are looking at. In a professional color suite, the key monitor, the monitor that everybody trusts, is often referred to as the reference monitor, or the hero monitor.
These monitors adhere to known standards. The monitor pretty much is the most important thing in the room besides you, the person who's operating the color controls. And without proper monitoring, you can't ever really be sure that the choices that you make when it comes to color, and contrast, are really the truth. And that's a good way of thinking about monitoring, is that you wanna be sure what you're looking at, is the truth, not just a slight representation of it.
So, when it comes to monitors, think about the quality of the monitor as being a really important factor for the decisions that you're going to make. Now, a reference monitor in professional color suite costs a lot of money. The truth is you can spend anywhere from five to $40 000 on a professional reference display. And what I mean by reference display, just to be clear, is a monitor that adheres exactly to the standards that you're working in, like Rec 709, or P3, or any other, sort of, standard color space and gamma.
But a lot of users are gonna ask about, hey, can I use a computer monitor? And my answer used to be, absolutely not. And to a certain degree that's still sort of true. You can't expect to go to your local big box store and buy a monitor for $79.00 and expect it to perform at a known standard, or at least perform really accurately to a known standard. The fact is, low cost monitors should not be used for color critical environments. And I used to say that these monitors were no good because they had poor contrast, and poor color, and that's still true.
But monitors have gotten a lot better over the past three, four, or five years. Monitors from companies like HP, and Dell, and ASUS, and others, are really getting good. They're hitting 100% of known color gambits like Rec 709, and P3, and even 2020 to a certain point. They're using 10-Bit panels with a lot of good contrast ratios, good angles of view. Specs matter when looking at a computer monitor. And unfortunately when it comes to reference level monitors that you might find in a dedicated color suite, versus computer monitors, to get even close to the reference level monitor, you're gonna have to spend a lot of money on a computer monitor.
Also, keep in mind that computer monitors are probably not gonna have professional connectivity like you would find on a dedicated reference monitor or even t.v. Things like SDI, for example, compared to HDMI, or a mini display port on the computer monitor. The other thing I wanna mention is that a lot of people think that they can get good results with color just plugging in a monitor to their computer graphics card. That may be true if everything is set up properly, but, depending on how you OS is managing color, and that varies by the way between Mac, and PC, and Linux, you might get different results depending on the operating system that you're using.
So generally speaking to get good results or professional results at color correction, it's a good idea to use a video I/O device in combination with a reference level monitor. And what I mean by video I/O device, is a tool from, say, Black Magic, or Matrox, or AJA. These devices, which come in all sorts of different flavors and all sorts of different price points, allow you to pipe out video out of your system at a known frame size, frame rate, and adhere to color science standards, like Rec 709 and P3, for example.
Many of the applications that you're probably already using, like Premier Pro, or Resolve, or Final Cut Pro, support video I/O devices. And finally, when it comes to the monitor that you're using, whether it's a mid-grade computer monitor or a $40 000 reference monitor, calibration of that monitor is key. Don't fool yourself. You cannot calibrate a monitor simply by looking at it. There's kind of this old cliche of a, you know, crusty old video engineer walking into a room, looking at a monitor with color bars on it, adjusting a few knobs, and going, that's calibrated.
That's not calibration. That's basic set up. These days, modern calibration is more affordable and easy to access than ever before. Companies like SpectraCal, and Light Space, and others, provide software that allows you to quickly calibrate a monitor. And the meters, like you see in this image right here, are more affordable than ever. Modern calibration lets you adhere to standards with exacting accuracy. And if you're doing color critical work, you also have to consider not just the monitor that you're using, but how you calibrate it as well.
So when it comes down to it, having reference level monitoring is a great thing to have. You need to be able to tell your clients, and you need to be convinced yourself, that what you are looking at is the truth. And that's what reference level monitoring gives you. But sure, reference level monitoring isn't affordable for everybody. In those cases, if you're gonna be using a computer monitor for your monitoring, just make sure that the computer monitor you choose is not an el cheepo that you might get from a big box store, but rather is a color critical monitor.
And those are more available than ever.
- How people see
- Creatively and technically evaluating a project
- Interpreting your client's direction for a project
- Estimating how long a project will take
- Six stages that happen in a color correction workflow
- Timeline level grading
- Building a correction and look toolkit