2016 NAB Wrap #1

That wonderful time of year has come an gone already. Hard to believe. This year I did more educational things than floor shopping and gawking. HDR, color gamut and calibration science is all the rage these days. Virtual reality too, to a point. Although it was interesting to experience, I see some more beneficial uses over content creation. But we will let the smarter people figure that out.

Here is a rundown from my classes.
HDR or High Dynamic Range lets you see amazing detail in the shadows while not blowing out the highlights. Hard to do for production and almost impossible for mass distribution right now. It’s not because of the cameras, editing or recording codec, but rather the TVs. Monitors as we call them. They need more guts to show the content in a way that is as sensitive as the human eye. That’s difficult enough… then try show it in 4K. I understand there are only 2 working 4K production monitors in the world over 47 inches and they are laser powered. Yeah, not an upgrade I will have any time soon.

Color Gamut: Not the intensity of the color but how many different colors can be reproduced between specific hues. For example–Take Blue and Green. How many colors are in between them? A better approach might be have you ever tried to pick out paint? The sheer numbers of different colors are intimidating. The technology has moved us from 8 bit color to 10 bit and now 12 bit. It’s not a jump of 4. It’s a multiple from a few million to a billion different colors. The production questions is how to reproduce this amazing width of color options accurately.

Calibration forget the blue gun. Monitor calibration might soon be a thing of the past. Why? Because the newer monitors are given a really good baseline in the factory (and can self calibrate on start up)–and also because of the use of LOG for shooting and LUTs for viewing. In short, shooting in LOG allows you to capture data in a way that can be better manipulated in editing. While doing so your image looks grey and muddy. A LUT is a Look Up Table. Its a predetermined look than can be masked onto an image to see the end result BEFORE editing happens. Many new monitors allow you to load a single or complete table of “looks” to apply to an image in the field. This helps give the client a good boost of confidence in the final product while the raw is still being gathered.

Why is this important? I’ve been searching for a good field production monitor. With the better understanding from my classes I was able to shop smarter on the floor and compare important engineering issues rather than just looks. The verdict–Flanders Scientific is the place to be. Flanders has a good reputation for color fidelity. This was the first time I was able to see them in a comparative setting. There are a lot of good products out there, Sony, TVLogic, Bon and Panasonic, including the $1500 Atomos HDR monitor/recorders. For my needs in the field, the Flanders CM171 is it. So functional, easy to navigate, loads and loads of options like 18 scopes, 10 BIT screen, side by side for 2 camera shoots, pixel zoom, gamma correction and LUTs. Lots of LUTs. You can load a few and change them out as needed. The monitors also have great diagnostic tools when you want to play engineer.

The best part–Flanders sells a genius field case that incorporates a viewing hood that has Kevlar for added protection, kickstand, battery case and cable storage in a package the size of a brief case. With 12V DC power and supreme portability and protection, I will be investing in this monitor and case package. I only wish my 8 BIT cell phone did the images justice….