Evaluating Video Monitors


Video monitors have always been a critical component in any broadcasting operation — but they have evolved significantly as the industry-wide migration from analog broadcast to digital SD and HD has placed new demands on the monitoring function. Current products include feature sets that mirror the complexity of today’s monitoring operations, with richer functionality, smarter design, and greater flexibility for different types of inputs and for handling and analyzing those signals. For mobile broadcasting, these attributes come packaged in a lightweight, rugged construction that stands up to the extreme temperatures, excessive moisture, and rough handling that often accompany OB productions.
Innovations in flat-panel display technologies are also impacting monitor design. To succeed in today’s challenging economy, vendors are employing new materials and manufacturing techniques to expand feature sets while maintaining or lowering price points. As a result, next-generation video monitoring displays and their benefits are now within reach of the full range of broadcasting operations.
Robust functionality for today’s digital operations
Thanks to these innovations, it’s now possible to find cost-effective video monitoring solutions that offer the robust, sophisticated functionality required to effectively monitor the complexity and variety of today’s digital signals. A display should be capable of handling multiple formats and sources and offer detailed information about the content. In addition, the unit should provide markers and visually-oriented analytical tools to complement this data, as well as capabilities for evaluating accompanying audio signals. For multiple inputs, the operator should be able to select and view images in color, blue-only, or monochrome.
For audio signals accompanying the video feeds, state-of-the-art monitors typically provide an integrated display of audio level meters and a built-in headphone jack. Other on-screen display features should provide valuable at-a-glance data, such as markers that allow the user to highlight a 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio with safe areas according to user-configurable settings, and key identifiers that indicate video format, source, and time code.
Monitor manufacturers are placing greater emphasis on units that save space, reduce external device costs, and enhance convenience — with features such as a waveform display of the input signal within an in-monitor window — which provides a complementary monitoring tool. An on-screen vectorscope is another newly introduced feature that adds additional value to the video monitoring system.
OLED: the green and cost-effective option
Display vendors are also emphasizing “green” features such as OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display technology, which uses a set of thin organic films, placed between conductors, to emit bright light when electric current flows through the conductors. Since they can operate without a backlight, OLED displays offer significant power savings — and an “off” OLED element produces no light and consumes no power. This very low power requirement makes OLED displays ideal for any cost- and green-conscious broadcast facility. For the mobile market where power, heat, and weight issues are always a factor, OLED technology’s lightweight and much thinner design make it especially appealing.
In addition, the display quality of OLED is superior to any other type of screen currently on the market. OLED technology offers a better contrast ratio, and since it emits light directly, OLED provides a greater range of colors, gamut, brightness, and viewing angles than does LCD. The incredibly sharp colors of an OLED display yield a visible difference that is clear to the professional and to the untrained eye. In addition, the response time for OLED displays is significantly better than that of standard LCD and plasma monitors.
When first introduced, the shorter usable life of OLED materials limited their use. This is no longer an issue, however, since advances in manufacturing have significantly increased life expectancy. The size of OLED displays is also increasing, making their use in OB vehicles as well as fixed broadcast facilities ever more attractive.
Making a future-proof choice
It goes without saying: the best investment in video monitor technology (or any other production equipment, for that matter) is one that will stand the test of time. One way to future-proof your monitoring operations is to choose systems with 3G capability, since the transition to HD operations is paving the way for 3Gb/s infrastructures requiring 3Gb/s-ready or 3Gb/s-capable devices.
Systems that can be easily adapted to the higher-bandwidth requirements of a rapidly evolving industry are critical in today’s operations — and video monitor manufacturers are cooperating by striving to keep prices level while introducing features for improved efficiencies, greener and more cost-effective operations, and compatibility with new IT-based broadcast systems and infrastructures. After evaluating their own specific needs, broadcasters should be able to find the functionality they require and the value that their budgets demand.
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Jeff McNall is director of product development for Wohler Technologies, a San Francisco Bay-area manufacturer of confidence monitoring and signal management solutions for the broadcast and pro audio/visual markets.

Tags: wohler | iss050 | monitoring | monitors | oled | N/A
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