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With new shows coming in the door for Pink Sneakers Productions, Bob Zelin looked to Blackmagic Design's new SmartView HD Monitor and Pocket UltraScope to make the configuration upgrades while maintaining a sense of budget.
When I read about the release of the Blackmagic Design SmartView HD 17" monitor
, I was very anxious to get my hands on one as soon as possible, because I needed to assemble a new color grading station for my client, Pink Sneakers Productions, in Orlando, FL.
Because they were on a budget, I had previously set up Pink Sneakers with cost effective equipment -- a Panasonic BT-LH1700 HD Monitor and a Leader LV7700 waveform monitor/vectorscope, which is a rasterizer that uses a DVI monitor for its display.
Senior editor JJ Johnson used this configuration in the past to color grade numerous shows for Pink Sneakers Productions, that included Miami Social
on Bravo, Most Eligible Dallas
on Bravo, Ultimate Travel/Grannies Gone Wild
on Travel Channel, Country Crazy
on Travel Chanel, and My Big Redneck Wedding
With new shows coming in the door, I wanted to do something much better -- without spending a fortune. So, I looked at the new Blackmagic equipment released at IBC 2011, and asked for a pre-release.
Blackmagic Design Pocket UltraScope
The first item I used was not new, but it was my first time installing it. It was the Blackmagic Design Pocket UltraScope
. I was "gun shy" of the Pocket UltraScope, because of its requirement for a USB 3 port -- which is impossible to find on a Mac, and difficult to find on a modern PC. But on a visit to Adrenaline Films in Orlando, FL., studio manager Tim Bartlett showed me their new UltraScope rig.
It was installed onto the fully self-contained Sony VAIO Touchscreen 24" PC
. Think of it as an iMAC that runs Windows 7, but has built in USB3 ports. There is no "PC Tower" -- everything is built into the monitor, including the USB 3 ports. And because it's touchscreen, you don't even have to use the keyboard or the mouse. Everything can be done via the touchscreen!
Adrenaline was using the VAIO for the Pocket UltraScope, AND to control a Blackmagic Videohub router. The native graphics card for the Sony VAIO Touchscreen the Nvidia GeForce GT540M. Since it's built into the VAIO, you don't have to go searching the internet for the correct "qualified" graphics card.
Both monitors are mounted in the rack.|
Click image for larger view.
What really impressed me was that it was RACK MOUNTED. The oversized 24" screen was mounted to the rack using a Middle Atlantic RM-LCD-PNLK mount, that allowed the oversized monitor to mount to the front of a standard rack, using the VESA screw mounts on the back of the display. All of a sudden you had this big beautiful display that was rack mounted -- with no PC tower sitting on the bottom of the rack.
When I built the Pocket UltraScope for Pink Sneakers, I was a little intimidated by the fact that I had to go to the web and find a generic web site to download updates for the USB 3 drivers in the PC. This was not on the Blackmagic Design website, nor was it on the Sony website, but the instructions on where to download these drivers and firmware updates were in the Blackmagic installation packet. Once that was done, I plugged in the Pocket UltraScope (which is powered by the USB 3 port on the Sony VAIO), ran the install software, and I had an incredible new waveform/vector display.
I anxiously awaited the arrival of the Blackmagic SmartView 17" HD Monitor. When I received it, I was shocked to see how lightweight it was. I was also confused that it had
no controls, buttons, or knobs on it. Everything is controlled by software, which I loaded on the Sony VAIO Touchscreen computer. I used the Ethernet port on the Sony VAIO to connect directly to the Ethernet port on the SmartView. Additionally I had to use a USB cable from the Sony VAIO to the SmartView. Again, running the installer from Blackmagic was seamless, and the controls for the monitor popped up right away on the PC.
SmartView HD 17 inch monitor. Click image to zoom in.
When I delivered the system to Pink Sneakers, we installed the equipment side by side with the older gear from Panasonic and Leader Instruments. I wound up looping the output of the Panasonic BT-LH1700 monitor to the SmartView. Instantly, everyone was surprised at the clarity of the image on the Blackmagic monitor, compared to the Panasonic. The Blackmagic is 1/3rd the price of the Panasonic, and produces a much better, and more accurate image.
As for the scopes, the Blackmagic Pocket UltraScope offers six simultaneous extremely sharp displays of waveform monitor (both Parade and composite at the same time), vectorscope, histograph (with optional error logging), eight channel audio meters, audio phase, and picture display. In contrast, the Leader LV7700 -- great for its day -- is a simple waveform monitor/vectorscope with "too many buttons". I was able to build the entire Pocket UltraScope with the Sony VAIO Touchscreen PC for half the price of the Leader scope.
JJ Johnson of Pink Sneakers Productions. He is the senior editor and does most of the color grading. Click image to zoom.
This new monitoring rig from Blackmagic will now be used by JJ Johnson at Pink Sneakers to color grade The Amandas
on Style Network, and My Big Redneck Vacation
on CMT. Pink Sneakers has requested a second identical rig, as soon as Blackmagic can get me a second SmartView monitor.
SmartView HD monitor back view. Click to zoom.
SO, was I completely thrilled with the new Blackmagic monitor? Well, for the price, it can't be beat. But it is missing some critical features, which I hope appear in future models. There is only one looping HD-SDI input on the monitor. So if you have to monitor the output of your editing system, and then go to a "B input" to check your VTR output -- well, there is no "B input". The controls that are accessed via software are currently very limited -- there are adjustments for brightness, contrast, and color. Nothing else. There is no B&W mode or "blue only" mode. There is no safety function, or cross hair function. There is no de-embedded audio. But for $895 retail, maybe I should just shut up and be happy, that its image quality is better than a monitor 3 times its price.
With the realization of these two products at these price points, there is no longer an excuse for not owning true broadcast quality monitoring products that are fully qualified to color grade and finish a show for a major cable network.
Blackmagic Design has done it again.