EXTERNAL OR FIELD MONITORS
What and why
Why do we need external monitors, and what size should they be in for best results? Loaded questions, but I’ll still try to answer them. We use external monitors for:
- Checking Colors and Exposure
- Testing video quality with Waveforms
- Satisfying clients
The built-in LCD monitor on the Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E is 3.2″ at a resolution of 1280×720. It’s great for still photography in live view mode, but hardly makes the grade if you really need critical on-set monitoring of video.
Your monitor must ideally:
- Have the same resolution, frame rate and aspect ratio as your video feed
- Have compatible connectors
- Have a separate battery/power supply
- Be visible in sunlight
- Be rugged and at least 6″ in diameter to be better than the in-built LCD
Suggestion for focusing only:
To focus accurately, you need resolution. A lot of people opt for small-resolution monitors but then pay the price later. If you’re thinking of going cheap here, you’re better off not using an external monitor at all!
This is what your focus puller could use while you looked through a viewfinder.
Suggestion for focusing and basic color exposure checking:
Suggestion for critical monitoring
Suggestion for critical monitoring, waveforms and best quality
These monsters can’t be clipped on to the cage or attached to the shoe mount. Ideally, you’d want to position them in tents or a shaded area so your eyes can see the colors well. It has to be a big monitor with full colors – no compromise. I prefer:
EXTERNAL MONITOR ACCESSORIES
Most external monitors come with their own battery kits or packs. Two often overlooked pieces of gear are:
The LCD/LED Arm
If you don’t have a cage, you can still attach an LCD monitor on a camera with a arm attached to the hotshoe.
The LCD Hood
The cheaper ones might not come with a hood, so be careful when buying 3rd party hoods – they need to fit perfectly.
When in shoulder mount or handheld mode, the operator needs a Viewfinder to look at what he or she is shooting. The back of the LCD isn’t good enough, since your eye will be too close to it and can’t focus on it properly. There is one company that makes a perfect viewfinder:
The viewfinder might need an adapter plate to fit securely on the rig, with something like this:
This is an optical viewfinder that can take many configurations. Zacuto also makes an electronic viewfinder:
The Electronic viewfinder (EVF) has the advantage of being positioned in a different place – they don’t have to be fixed on the back of the camera LCD. This is helpful if you want an viewfinder in tripod-mode – a regular scenario in filmmaking and broadcasting.
If you’re using the camera’s optical viewfinder, especially for photography, you might find these helpful:
As you can imagine, there are hundreds of options when it comes to monitoring your footage, and you need to make an educated guess on the kind of scenarios you are going to encounter, your rig configurations, and your health before you zero in on the perfect solution.
If Part 7 I’ll cover external recorders and cables.
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