What You Need to Know About Monitoring in 4K

Last updated by Freidy Goldberger on Apr 11

So you have a 4K camera and editing system. But what good is working in 4K if you can’t view it in all if it’s super high resolution glory?  For that you need either a 4K monitor or television. But since 4K isn’t standardized picking out a monitor can be tough. There are a number of things that should be considered when picking out a 4K monitor, or any monitor for that matter. This article will help with the process of selecting a 4K monitor and talk about a few of them.          

Do you need a 4K production monitor, or will a 4K TV or Computer monitor work.

 A production monitor is a vital part of any workflow. Production monitors can reproduce the entire possible color space in a video signal, so you know what you see is what you get. Without a calibrated production monitor color correction is not much more then guesswork.

Consumer TV sets and computer monitors are typically unable reproduce the entire NTSC color space and are typically limited to 8 bit color. Consumer oriented displays typically over saturate colors, crush blacks, and over brighten images to make them stand out. Because of this they should be avoided for setting things like exposure or doing any sort of color work. Computer monitors are also not ideal because computers use a different type of color space then NTSC or PAL. Even professional-grade 10-bit computer monitors’ colors will not match the final video output if they are working in a computer color space. Fortunately, some computer monitors have video inputs and can stand in as a broadcast monitor if they are being used with a video output card outputting the correct color space. Although they still will not be able to display the entire color gamut they will at least accurately show the colors that they are able to reproduce.

If you are doing color critical work then you need a professional monitor. But you don't necessarily need a 4K monitor. Since the things that production monitors are critical for are not resolution dependent. Also, 4K production monitors are enormously expensive right now. It’s currently cheaper to buy both a HD production monitor and a 4K television set then one 4K production monitor. So if you are on a budget it may be worth looking into using a 4K TV or 4K computer monitor as a secondary monitor.

Make sure the 4K is visible

One thing to remember when looking for a 4K display is that in order to see the increased resolution you either have to sit very close to the monitor or have an extremely large monitor. You have to be about two feet away from a 30” monitor or about 5 feet from an 80” monitor. Here is a chart that helps graph the distances.

As you can see from the huge monitor sizes needed to see 4K, monitoring 4K in the field is impractical so camera operators really need to master the various focus aids that 4K cameras utilize to make sure they keep things in focus. A 4K field monitor could be useful for reviewing shots but will be far too large to mount on camera.

For studio viewing it’s a different story, just remember to keep the viewing distance in mind when purchasing a monitor or TV. Five or more people will not be able to comfortably view 4K on a 30” display because they will have to be 2 feet away to see the increased pixel density.

Make sure you are outputting the correct color space to the monitor

Even the best monitor on the market will be useless if you are feeding it the wrong color space. There are a number of different digital color spaces that all have slightly different numeric values for color. Television uses NTSC or PAL based color. Computers usually operate in sRGB or Adobe RGB color. So if you are plugging a broadcast monitor into a computer graphics card’s HDMI output you will be seeing different colors then the final NTSC or PAL output.

To prevent this you must use a video output card, such as the Blackmagic Decklink 4K. With compatible editing software these cards will send out the appropriate color space and ensure proper monitoring.

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