In Part One we started classifying our professional display monitor. In this part, we will complete our set of classifications, and then move on to learning how to read monitor specifications.

Size vs Resolution

The size of the monitor has nothing to do with the resolution of your video, as strange as it may sound. People choose sizes based on convenience, and the size of the display environment.

Today, technology has so advanced that we can view the same 1080p footage on a smartphone as well as a giant cinema screen.

You might be wondering why I haven’t even talked about resolution or color so far. It has its place, but not yet. Typically, for 1080p, the minimum diagonal size I recommend for a professional display monitor is 24 inches. Why?

At this size you can sit at a comfortable ‘workstation’ distance without straining yourself. For laptops, I feel 17″ is a good size, even though that adds considerably to the weight. If you absolutely need to carry around a 13″ laptop, there’s a good example of how size takes priority in the real world over resolution!

Typically, you should view your footage on a professional display monitor of the same size as the monitor your end user would view it on. Since we already tackled that problem head on in the beginning, we know exactly what size will suit us. Everything else must toe the line.

Monitor Grade

This is a controversial subject. You’ll find as many exceptions as there are rules. But in some cases, like broadcast or cinema delivery, clients expect this specification to be followed, whether or not they know what the heck they are asking for.

There are two ways to grade monitors: By their ‘use scenario’ or by their panel quality.

By use scenario, I mean whether the monitor is consumer or commercial, medical grade or military grade, and so on. Since we already know we need a professional display monitor for video applications, we can let this be.

It is panel quality that we are more interested in here. How are video monitor panel grades determined?

According to this document by the EBU, professional panels are classified as Grade 1, Grade 2 or Grade 3.

Grade 1

  • State of the art, with zero compromise. The monitor must show the image as-is in its full dynamic range and color without introducing any artifacts of its own.
  • Luminance – 70 to 100 nits (Usually viewed in a dark calibrated environment, so doesn’t have to be very bright)
  • Black level – below 0.05 nits
  • Contrast Ratio – 2000 to 1 (11 stops)
  • Gamma tolerance of less than 0.10 from 10% to 90% of the signal
  • Greyscale tracking/deviation delta – 0.5
  • Color primaries deviation delta – 4
  • White point D65. tolerance 1.3 delta
  • Viewing angle: Horizontal 45 degrees and Vertical 20 degrees – deviations should not be visible to a human observer
  • Resolution: The same number of pixels (or more) as input video, with 1:1 mapping
  • Ideally less than 10ms delay
  • Must show both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios

 
Grade 2

  • Does not have to be as perfect as Grade 1. Can be used only for previews or edit suites, where ‘changes’ are not made. An important criterion is that Grade 2 panels must be good enough to be used side-by-side with Grade 1 panels. It must hold its own – sort of makes you wonder why we need Grade 1 panels then, doesn’t it?
  • Luminance – 70 to 200 nits (Minimum brightness to simulate home environment is 200 nits, which is why this needs to be brighter than Grade 1)
  • Black level – below 0.4 nits
  • Contrast Ratio – 500 to 1 (9 stops)
  • Gamma tolerance of less than 0.10 from 10% to 90% of the signal
  • Greyscale tracking/deviation delta – 1.0
  • Color primaries deviation delta – 7
  • White point D65. tolerance 4 delta
  • Viewing angle: Horizontal 45 degrees and Vertical 20 degrees – deviations should not be visible to a human observer
  • Resolution: The same number of pixels (or more) as input video
  • Ideally less than 10ms delay
  • Must show both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios

 
Grade 3

  • Grade 3 – These monitors can be professional quality or even high-end consumer quality, with professional connection options to interface with cameras or computers. However, they are not intended for close scrutiny. The EBU says they can be used for audio dubbing, audio production and for audiences.
  • Luminance – 70 to 250 nits
  • Black level – below 0.7 nits
  • Contrast Ratio – 300 to 1 (8 stops)
  • Greyscale tracking/deviation delta – 1.5
  • Color primaries deviation delta – 7
  • White point D65. tolerance 4 delta
  • Ideally less than 10ms delay
  • Tiled displays are Grade 3 but depending on quality might be able to get entry into the Grade 2 club
  • Must show both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios

 
It seems simple and naive enough, until you look at how each manufacturer defines monitor grades. They have their own system, and interpret these terms at will.

Even if you don’t understand some of the terms above (I’ll explain them soon) what you will notice is that consumer grade displays most likely won’t fit even under Grade 3. But don’t worry, the system is often relaxed. Who’s coming home to check, anyway? You must remember that these grades are meant for professional use scenarios only.

Also note that I haven’t listed all the specifications. For a full list, read the document.

This classification system provides a guideline that will help you place monitors to a general standard, rather than believe what the manufacturer wants you to believe. Mind you, the information they provide is also important to a certain extent, as we shall see in the next part.

Budget

Budget is last. If you can’t find a monitor within your budget that meets your stringent requirements, you are only fooling yourself by going for a monitor which does not meet your requirements. There’s nothing wrong with that, but

  • You might need to reevaluate your goals, or
  • If your budget still can’t afford the monitor you need for the project, then at least you know what’s missing

 
In Part Three we’ll look at some of the terms, charts and numbers you’ll get from the manufacturers. Once we know the rules, we can play the game better – maybe even come out on top.

 

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