What are the latest innovations in monitoring?
For both film and broadcast work, in addition to the fact that the picture must be true, without motion artifacts or aliasing, for a lot of applications you can also add that the picture must be processed in real time - less than one frame or one picture in progressive mode – so the main innovations are in the tools associated with the monitor.
Today we have access to a veritable toolbox to display the metadata coming from the camera, such as lens information with focus, focal point and depth of field, as well as embedded audio monitoring, a time code reader, waveform monitors with measurement tools, and vectorscopes or histograms to qualify the video signal. There are also frameline generators of virtual horizons for body-rig operators.
On the side of pure monitoring we now have wireless HD monitors, providing up to 300ft of clear, interference-free, pristine HD pictures in real time without compression or artifacts. The wireless capability allows directors, ADs, DPs, script supervisors and many others to remain near the camera, rather than being tied to a power source away from the action. It is also ideal for live broadcasting and DSNG operations.
What are the latest innovations in display technologies?
In the 25 years that Transvideo has been in existence, a lot of new technologies have appeared in the flat panel display domain. The Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) is certainly one of the most promising developments for the next five years; the current low brightness displays, which sustain non-reversible damage and suffer overheating issues and a short life span, remain a major handicap for most matrix manufacturers.
The Thin Film Transistor (TFT) technology has continued to improve since its inception, with higher resolution, faster response time, wider viewing angles and now 10 bit matrixes, plus 1024 levels for each colour, which gives excellent smoothness in shadows and gradations.
Today’s most impressive innovations are certainly in the backlight management for TFTs, which are transparent displays. LED backlight generally reduces the power consumption for higher brightness, and allow startup even at very low temperatures down to -40°C. The use of coloured LEDs in the backlight increases the possibility of reproducing more colours. Some displays also use active lighting - thousands of LEDs behind the display with a light modulation that reproduce a low-resolution picture behind the high resolution one; it provides high-dynamic and high-contrast pictures.
Do you need different monitors for studio work compared with location work? Or for different types of work, eg film vs live sport?
A good field monitor will offer high brightness to work in full sun and a colour calibrated mode to work in a studio environment. It should also be an ‘all-weather’ product with water resistant housing, no noisy fan, and no holes where dust or water can get in. The power must accept a wide range of voltage levels and be protected against wiring mistakes. The picture must have no motion artifacts and be displayed with the shortest processing time to allow focus pulling and fast camera action.
The needs of live sport and film are actually more or less the same – the key features of monitors are real time processing and no motion artifacts together with a high brightness picture to preserve the blacks.
What are the key issues to monitor HD on the field?
The key issue here is to have a picture you can trust, with no motion artifacts. To reduce the motion artifacts it is best to use a display showing pictures with the same frame rate as the camera. This is not always the case, as a lot of low end monitors use home theatre processors that display with a variable frame rate from 60 to 70 hz, which means that it is very difficult to determine if the artifacts come from the camera or the monitor. It is important to have native resolution to avoid scaling artifacts, or if we are talking about small screens, then a display that shows details and transitions. A Focus Helper might be useful, especially when using long focal lenses; it must discriminate clearly what is in focus and out of focus. A good test to perform is to shoot some content that includes vertical and horizontal lines and to see if the system processes both identically.
Enough brightness is essential for a lot of outside takes. However, it must also be possible to reduce the backlight brightness enough so that if you are shooting in a dark environment, you do not blast everybody with the light of your monitor! A good hood is often useful for night conditions.
What about monitoring for stereoscopic 3D?
The challenge of shooting pictures in 3D is to have a clear view of what we expect on the target screen, and a clear understanding of how to proceed to get it in the best condition for the majority of the audience in the theatre. From our point of view it seems impossible to work without the advice of an experienced stereographer.
The needs of a stereographer to make 3D pictures are very specific and it is why we created the “3DView” monitors. A good approach of the requirements comes from with the work of Alain Derobe, a French researcher, filmmaker and teacher of stereography, with whom we enjoy a good relationship.
3DView is a global concept of tools for stereographers. In 2007 we met some stereographers trying to shoot in digital, which was not so easy for them. We designed the 3DView monitors to give them an all-in-one tool allowing them to shoot everywhere without heavy equipment. The conjunction of the 3DView with the development of some methods like “Natural Depth™” from Alain Derobe, allow the audience to be comfortably immersed in 3D without the legendary headaches from the 60’s. The best result we have seen on screen so far is certainly the magisterial work of Wim Wenders on his new 3D film, Pina.
The 3DView family also covers HD transmission. In December 2010 we did three days of live, worldwide Steadicam transmission, with all pictures shot in 3D through the TitanHD 3DView, transmitted by Eutelsat with the technical resources of the RTBF (National Belgium TV). It was a great team success, producing perfect pictures composed live with the 3DView RF monitors.
Do I need polarized glasses to use the 3DView monitors?
No. It is simple to explain. We are not in the home theatre or postproduction business, but in making products for those making the pictures.
When you shoot a 3D movie, the WYSIWYG concept (what you see is what you get) doesn’t exist. If you are the stereographer, what you see on a small screen is not at all what you are hired to obtain for the target screen at the theatre or on TV. The stereographer should see an abstract picture to evaluate the global rig settings, the fringes, the far plane separation and the screen plane location. You cannot do that on a conventional polarized display. This is why 3DView uses false colours and other representations.
There is sometime a confusion with the anaglyph term: yes, we can preview the depth with anaglyphic or shutter glasses but the product is not designed for that.
Transvideo is very specialized in monitors for the Film Industry, isn’t it?
As mentioned before, the needs of film and broadcast work are not dissimilar.
Our background in the traditional Hollywood film industry has given us some good comportment in design. Basically, products must work when you need them and be rugged enough to last for a long period of time! If you buy an Arri camera, you can expect to use it for the next 20 to 30 years. Our main customers are rental houses, they expect to invest their money in trustworthy companies and products, it is what we give them and what makes our reputation. We service some Transvideo monitors which have been used every day during the past 20 years, though fortunately for us some new video formats are coming on the market to push our first users to replace their products!
We are very close to outside broadcast teams with our field monitors and HD/SD transmission systems. To give you an example, many Japanese broadcasters have had access to our products to compare the performance with what they generally use and to experiment with how we improve their working conditions with the CineMonitorHD. We are also extremely present in the High-Speed digital for scientific, security and advertisement market segments.
The growing stereoscopic market is a good opportunity as TV channels and advertising agencies are really looking at this new media. We are also known worldwide and respected in the Steadicam™ market.
Something you might not know is that a significant part of our turnover comes from avionics, for example the cockpit of the Airbus A380 includes several Transvideo displays - not at all the same style as for filmmaking of course, but with a lot of similarities with the technologies developed for field use in harsh environments.