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NAB 2007

Jun 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By D. W. Leitner, Jan Ozer, Dan Ochiva, and Jeff Sauer

Impressive new offerings at reasonable prices.


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High-impact LCDs

Sony BVM-L230

High-impact LCDs

By Jeff Sauer

Over the last couple of years, display technology has taken an increasingly important role at the NAB tradeshow. Sure, displays are ultimately minor pieces of the puzzle at the world's premier assembly of production and postproduction technology (as well as transmitters, video servers, and IPTV). However, as the technology has improved, digital displays are tempting even NAB attendees — who have some of the keenest eyes on the planet — and are thus becoming more prevalent on the NAB show floor.

There were several LCD technology introductions, and none was bigger than that of Sony's new LCD-based master reference monitor. After a couple of years of modest display news at NAB, Sony stepped forward in 2007 with a new brand, TriMaster. Sony introduced the 22.5in. BVM-L230, and it's no coincidence that the new TriMaster carries the same “BVM” prefix as those old Sony mastering CRTs.

Sony calls the new BVM-L230 a “hybrid” monitor because it uses both LEDs for the backlight and traditional LCDs, but it's really a marketing attempt to differentiate it from traditional fluorescent-backlit LCD displays. Sony uses an array of more than 1,000 LEDs, clustered in groups of four (one red, one blue, and two green), to achieve a whiter light. And because of the subtractive nature of LCD technology, which filters red, green, and blue out of the white, a whiter backlight directly corresponds to more colors. Without a 100-percent white light source — a common shortcoming of fluorescent lighting — it is impossible to achieve 100 percent of other colors. Sony has even equipped the L230 with several internal sensors that continually monitor color temperature, and the display automatically makes adjustments as necessary. The configurable LEDs also makes switching color gamuts as easy as clicking a button on the unit's front. Twelve-bit internal image processing and a 10-bit driver, able to produce 1,024 levels of gray, are also critical to achieving accurate color.

Lack of accurate color is just one of the awkward stereotypes of LCD technology. The TriMaster BVM-L230 also follows the LCD trend of doubling the frame rate to 120Hz and inserting a black frame between fields, thereby helping eliminate any perception of image ghosting. A proprietary liquid crystal presentation also blocks more excess light to achieve deeper blacks. Sony's booth featured a blind side-by-side shoot-out between two new TriMaster BVM-L230s and one CRT-based BVM-F24U CineAlta mastering monitor, the erstwhile reference standard. Differences were tough to spot, and they were ultimately more subjective than qualitative. Sony did not announce a formal price for the BVM-L230, but it's expected to be available this fall for roughly $25,000. Sony also expects to expand the TriMaster line with other sizes, including a 42in. panel, by year's end.

Sony also revamped its Luma series of professional LCD monitors, adding three new models that now feature a new one-piece design rather than a separate module for connectivity, as with past Lumas. The LMD-2030W and LMD-2050W are both 20in. models with native 1680×1050 resolution. The more affordable (prices TBA) LMD-2030W will offer HDMI, composite, Y/C, and component inputs, with an option for SDI. The LMD-2050W and the 24in. LMD-2450W will use DVI-D as well as analog inputs, but they will also offer pro features such as built-in waveform monitoring, audio level meters, and closed-captioning support. These three new LCDs use traditional CCFL (fluorescent) backlights, but they will use Sony's ChromaTru color processing, which compensates for differences in LCD color levels by adjusting chroma coordinates, color temperature, and gamma on the fly. And although the Lumas can't match the full color of the LED-backlit TriMaster, Sony claims the screens come pretty close and still allow a user to manually select color gamut.

ECinema Systems also introduced a new LED-backlit LCD panel at NAB. The DPX24 (price TBA) was so new, in fact, that it didn't arrive at the show until the third day of the four-day show. It was backlit by an array of thousands of LEDs to produce a perfect white light. Like Sony's TriMaster, it's designed to be an effective CRT replacement. The DPX24, and its future 40in. sibling the DPX40, will both be automatically and manually configurable to specific color temperatures and color gamuts. Indeed, even small areas of the screen will be able to be calibrated without loss of grayscale range. Interestingly, the DXP24 will have a somewhat computer-centric native resolution of 1920×1200, while the DPX40 will have a more standard 1920×1080 resolution.

Panasonic's 2007 booth featured the production-quality BT-LH2600 26in. LCD reference monitor that was introduced at last year's show, as well as the slightly older 17in. BT-LH1700. Panasonic's new entry for the product line went smaller: the 7.9in. BT-LH80W, designed for in-the-field or production rack monitoring. It has a native resolution of just 800×450, but it shares the LH2600's pixel-to-pixel mode for scrutinizing images, as well as Focus on Red for live camera work. The LH80W will be available in June either separately (for $2,700) or in a multi-monitor production-rack configuration.

JVC added the new DT-V20L1DU 20in. LCD ($3,495) and DT-V24L1DU ($4,695) 24in. LCD to its line of professional broadcast monitors. Both monitors have SDI and HD-SDI video inputs, control of the backlight's color temperature, and blue-check and grayscale modes. The 20in. version has a somewhat odd 1680×945 native resolution, while the 24in. is a more standard native 1920×1080 panel.

Barco and Astro Systems were showing the largest LCD panels at NAB, both in terms of form factor and native resolution. Both showed a new 56in. LCD panel, OEMed from the same Asian manufacturer, with a native 4K (3840×2160) resolution that had to be fed by a tandem of parallel media servers in order to display content with full 4K resolution. Interestingly, Astro Systems showed the 4K panel as the ultimate reference monitor for post and broadcast, with the two media servers driving two halves of the same high-resolution images. Barco, while still seamlessly marrying two halves of one entire image, actually used the 4K pixel real estate as the canvas for several feeds at once — as would be seen in a control-room monitoring environment. Amazingly, that leaves room for up to four simultaneous 1080p feeds at full resolution.

To comment on this article, email the Digital Content Producer editorial staff at feedback@digitalcontentproducer.com.

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