Color Correction and Grading Monitors for Small Post Houses (Part One)

In The Best Monitor for Post Production and Critical Color Grading, I outlined the top-of-the-line options that high-end post houses use.

But what if you’re not a high-end post house? Are there professional display monitors within the $6,000 to $20,000 budget that might be viable alternatives and still impress your clients? This article explores this budget range.

Panasnic Plasma TH-85PF12U

The State of the Business

The best color correction and grading monitors aren’t cheap, at about $30,000 a pop. Add something like a DaVinci Control surface and you’re at $60,000 already. Then there’s the overhead, the probes, and everything else that goes into setting up and maintaining a facility. You’re looking at something in the region of $100,000 in investment, plus monthly overheads, before you have turned one color knob.

High-end post houses can justify these costs because they charge about $1,000 or more per hour. If you’re charging $100 to $300 an hour (or about $1,000 to $2,000 a day), it might take you a year to just recover the initial investment. By the time the damn thing starts earning well, the technology and industry will change!

So, if you’re looking at being a top post facility in your city but can’t afford the big boys, you still need to impress your clients with your color correction and grading suite to make them stay. If you’re into 1080p broadcast work and the odd film, you will need a really good monitor that can show accurate LUTs to approximate color spaces beyond your budget.

Depending on your city, circumstances and clients, you might have a budget of anything from $6,000 to $20,000 for a color correction and grading monitor.

If you had a $15,000 to $20,000 budget

For a client-impressing plasma display, look no further than the 85″ Panasonic TH-85PF12U, which costs about $18,000. Of course, this looks uber-cool in your living room, too, if you can afford it.

Sony Trimaster OLED

If you don’t want or like a plasma display, the OLED ‘equivalent’ is the 17″ Sony BVM-E170, which costs about $15,000. OLEDs are extremely expensive to manufacture in large sizes, so the 85″ plasma vs 17″ OLED isn’t a problem I want to solve.

Monitors in the $6,000 to $10,000 budget

JVC Verite

If you can stretch your budget to about $13,000 you can have the 24″ Sony BVM-F250 OLED. If you absolutely cannot go above $10,000, then you will still be happy with the 17″ Sony BVM-F170 OLED.

If 17″ is too small then go LCD with the Sony PVM-L3200, which costs about $9,000.

If you’re at the lower end of the $6,000-$10,000 budget, then look at the JVC Verite DT-3D24G1 LCD, which costs about $6,500. This is a 24″ monitor, and if that is small, take a look at the 42″ Sony LMD-4251TD LCD, which costs about $7,500.

At these price points, it really boils down to the ‘image’ of your facility, and the type of clients you deal with. 1080p is the most ‘cut-throat’ region of the color grading business spectrum. You’re in the eye of the storm. There are no rules.

Don’t forget to read How to choose a Professional Display Monitor Series to know the differences in specifications, or if some of the terms used in this article don’t make sense to you.

In Part Two we’ll look at monitors in the $2,000 to $5,000 range.

Do you have a post house with monitors in the $6,000 to $20,000 budget? What models do you use, and how do you make them pay?