The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) set up an exhibition in their clubhouse in Hollywood on an afternoon that coincided with the SMPTE 2022 conference. There were several demonstrations of note including a shoot out of grading monitors used for post-production and on-set monitoring.
We first talked to IMAX about a project the ASC has been working on for some time. It is called the ASC Framing Decision List (ASC FDL) and is similar in concept to the ASC Color Decision List (ASC CDL) that ASC developed around 2005. The ASC CDL is created under the direction of the Cinematographer and is designed to preserve the color grading choices made on a scene-by-scene basis throughout the production and post process. This data is a simple group of 10 numbers and travels throughout the production workflow helping to preserve creative intent.
The problem that the ASC FDL addresses is the need to communicate framing decisions that are made on-set and preserved them through post-production. During the filming of a scene the DP or cinematographer will frame the shot in a certain aspect ratio per their creative intent. Such aspect ratios can vary widely as do the sensor sizes and formats of the capture cameras as well as target exhibition. Currently, this information is captured manually by shooting a framing chart, prone to errors and with no automation capabilities. The ASC FDL would standardize how this data is captured, formatted and stored so it can become as well-adopted as the CDL. The FDL profile is not quite finished and it is unclear if it will be issued as a best practice or submitted to SMPTE for standardization.
Also on display was the STeM2 film that the ASC, volunteers and various sponsors (including the 8K Association) helped put together. The idea is to create free-to-access content that can be used by anyone in the film production, distribution or display ecosystem for testing or evaluation purposes. The script was written specially to use all of the latest tools, equipment and filmmaking techniques to see how all these elements play on ecosystem devices. The film, along with the behind-the-scenes commentary video, were being shown in the ASC clubhouse.
Finally, we had a chance to look at the many monitors that were set up in a darkened room. I was unable to document all the monitors, but a close summary is below:
X4K27HDR5 – JOLED 27”
X4K22HDR3 – JOLED 22”
X4K16HDR5 – not JOLED 16”
DP-V2730 – LCD full array local dimming 27”
DP-V1830 – LCD full array local dimming 18”
27EP50 – JOLED 27”
Flanders Scientific Inc. (FSI)
DM220 (HD) – JOLED SDR – SDR in PQ wrapper 22”
PVM X1800 – LCD global dimming 18”
PVM X2400 – LCD global dimming 24”
X310 (Reference Display) – Dual LCD 31”
LUM 181G – LCD High Bright, Static Backlight 18”
LUM 181H – LCD High Bright, Static Backlight 18”
OLED22 – JOLED 22”
OLED27 – JOLED 27”
VISION 24 – LCD full array local dimming 24”
VISION 17 – LCD full array local dimming 24”
The point of the demo was not to see which monitor was better than another. Instead, the idea was for film crews to better understand the capabilities and performance of the various brands and technologies. The concern is that there is a crew member who orders the on-set monitors and when the director, DP or cinematographer gets on set, they have not had a hand in the selection of the monitors. They won’t necessarily be able to evaluate the monitor on-set, so by providing this forum, they can be better prepared to deal with a good choice or not-so-good choice.
The pictures below were taken from one end of the room with the Canon monitors in the foreground and SmallHD monitors on the far right (Boland monitors not visible and picture follows monitor list above). What is clear from these images is that the OLED displays – all based on panels from JOLED – are very black while the LCD-based monitors exhibit various levels of elevated blacks. Some also have a lot of haloing with bright objects on black backgrounds.
Both OLEDs and LCDs can also exhibit changes in hue and luminance with viewing angle, but LCDs are generally worse. Recognizing this, Canon said they developed special optical elements to reduce this effect in their LCD monitors.
Some of the OLED panels made by JOLED are also only SDR but I am not sure which monitors contain these SDR-only panels.
Bram Desmet from FSI also made the point that evaluators need to also consider the dynamic range of each monitor and how they handle the lowlights and highlights. “With the OLEDs the low-end (first ~100nits) can track exactly like an HDR mastering monitor with zero artifacts. That is where cinematographers are often most concerned about the image because they want to know precisely what is happening in the lowlights,” explained Desmet.
“For the highlights the most important thing is to know whether the camera is clipping information. If clipped, that information is lost but if not, that information can be recovered in post,” continued Desmet. The next question to ask is how the monitor handles the highlights. OLEDs are luminance limited so a monitor can clip these highlights or tone-map them with a soft roll-off allowing the content creator to verify the highlights are in the camera file. “If the OLED is setup to clip instead of tone-mapping then you can’t tell whether it was the camera or monitor clipping. My entirely biased opinion is that the combination of an OLED panel and a soft-roll HDR function provides a much more useful and pleasing HDR image for on-set production than global dimming, static backlight, and perhaps even FALD LCDs (though this last one depends on the quality of the FALD display and algorithms).”
These findings are not surprising, but it is important to show these differences in a shoot-out environment to better drive home these differences for those not as familiar with display technology.