Guide to Video Monitors

Guide to Video Monitors

  1. An introduction to video monitors
  2. The choice: computer display, consumer TV or professional video monitor
  3. Selecting the right video monitor
  4. The Holdan range
  5. Beginner's Guide: why monitor?



1. An introduction to video monitors

In theory, any modern screen can be used for video monitoring purposes. Indeed, with cost-effective format converters readily available, virtually any screen can be adapted to fit a modern digital workflow. But despite significant improvements in television and computer screen techNology, broadcasters rely almost exclusively on dedicated panels. Why is this the case? This guide aims firstly to weigh up the pro's and con's of computer displays, consumer TVs and professional video monitors. It then assesses the main features of dedicated video monitors, before highlighting the products represented by Holdan from the likes of Blackmagic Design, Panasonic, Datavideo, HP and TV One. If you are new to video or simply curious about monitoring, click here for our quick beginner's guide.

2. The choice: computer screen, consumer TV or professional video monitor

Computer monitors

Computer monitors based on professional In-Plane Switching techNology (IPS) screen are increasingly popular for video monitoring. Many are Now equipped with HDMI connectors that allow connection with cameras or broadcast equipment either directly or via an inexpensive converter. Available in all screen sizes at an affordable price, they are a tempting proposition in production and in post.

However, for video monitoring have major issues: computer monitors have a reduced colour gamut: the primaries are Not the same as those used in TV. That is to say the images appearing on the computer screen will be different on the TV screen. This misleading effect is exacerbated by the necessary conversion from YUV video sources to the RGB computer screen: any small issues in the video may be emphasised on computer screens, giving an erroneous impression of the true quality of the video. Signal errors are common with computer screens where YUV content is converted to an RGB computer display, a process that can cause banding or Noise to be suspected where None actually exists. Also many computer monitors only run at 60HZ, which makes them problematic for viewing PAL and 50HZ footage.

Consumer televisions

Consumer televisions also benefit from HDMI ports and are thus potentially studio-ready. Moreover, they have a number of advantages over computer monitors. Firstly, their gamma curve (between 2 and 2.4) is closer to the ITU709 broadcast standard of 2.4. This compares with gamma curves for computer screens that vary from 1.8 to 2.2. Certainly, recent 10-bit televisions have the edge over professional computer monitors for video work. An issue to consider with consumer techNology is that some manufacturers will set up their equipment to give the best experience, to enhance the broadcast signal and to put its own interpretation of what makes an attractive picture. Using these screens for monitoring means first setting the display to render a neutral image. Where this is possible, each particular set will have its own means of achieving this and there is unlikely to be any calibration assistance tool, such as blue-only. Many screens also scale or crop the image, and don't allow this scaling or cropping to be turned off.

Video Monitors

Where all Non-CRT (tube-based display techNology) falters is in the handling of interlaced pictures; as this recording and broadcast format is dominant in video and TV, this is critical. Only professional plasmas and broadcast-specific video monitors come close to rendering an interlaced picture correctly. This is the key to broadcast monitors: they address every shortcoming of consumer television techNology and computer monitors and deliver superior performance in every aspect: colours are more faithful to the original, motion is rendered smoothly, colour gradations are accurate and displayed naturally, signal conversion errors are minimal and, importantly, the monitors are set up to reflect broadcast standards - wysiwyb (what you see is what you broadcast!).

Importantly, video monitors are built to last Not just in terms of their build quality but also in terms of their visual performance. Many screens are intended for very heavy use over prolonged periods and are designed to maintain their colours and brightness for tens of thousands of hours, even during extended live broadcasts.

Video monitors fall into one of 3 grade categories...


The EBU (European Broadcast Union) has a three-tiered standard for monitors. Engineers may find the EBU paper of interest:

The finest panels housed by grade 1 appliances cost many tens of thousands of pounds and are typically found in post production grading suites that work with content destined for the big screen. As well as SD and HD television support, they can often handle 4K resolutions, digital cinema formats, and 12-bit codecs. Colour accuracy, extended dynamic range, smooth gradation and motion performance are all exemplary.

Many of the larger Panasonic professional LCD and BT300 plasma screens fall into grade 2 category: their image quality is consistently superior to domestic televisions with long life panels exceeding 50,000 hours. Colours are accurate, blacks deep, gradations are natural and moving images are represented fluidly. There are No visible pixel defects. Typically these devices are used for control rooms, HD switching, editing, camera preview and composition, lighting control, camera viewfinders, editing and graphics generation.

The requirement for grade 3 monitors are more relaxed and prices reflect the lower technical requirements. Viewing angles may Not be as good, the image may Not be uniform across the screen and colour control less impressive. As they are able to emulate TV standard colours (REC 601 and 709), they are widely employed for continuity, audio production, signal presence monitoring and video switching.

3D Monitors

There is No consensus about capturing and displaying 3D. Terms and formats surrounding 3DTV are evidence of the confusion: Anaglyphic 3D (with passive red-cyan filters), Polarization 3D (with passive polarized filters) and Alternate-frame sequencing (with active shutter filters), Side-by-Side and Top-and-Bottom. To handle this diversity of signals, 3D broadcast monitors need a wealth of input terminals, a range of markets, 2-input split screen functionality and management of a wide colour space.

Currently, few professional monitors are 3D-enabled. Panasonic's BT300ER 42" and 50" plasmas are compatible with Frame Packing, Simultaneous, Side-by-Side and Top-and-Bottom methods, with the addition of an expansion board. Their dedicated 3D LCDs are also on the market are stereoscopic-ready.



3. Selecting the right video monitor

It is safe to assume that most broadcast monitors can be calibrated to deliver superior pictures and motion fidelity than consumer and computer-based kit. The selection of the right monitor will be down to the size required and the intended environment. Other key features of broadcast monitors are worth considering, including:

- Calibration tools Such as blue-only for colour accuracy
- Pro connectors Including HDMI, composite, DVI, component and SDI, often with loop through to other equipment
- Fast 50Hz / 60Hz switching For use with Pal or NTSC equipment - Tough build quality Industrial casings for reliable performance
- Mounting options: camera, wall, rack and desktop Many models have multiple mounting options
- Power options AC, DC and battery options
- Screens dedicated to all environments Designed to cope in sunlight and adverse conditions
- Aspect ratio markers Defined markers for different screen sizes
- Long life continual usage panels For years of extended usage, with No detriment to image quality
- On screen timecode For syncing video and frame-accurate editing
- Multiple input display Essential for monitoring multicam set-ups
- All-format 3D monitoring Side-by-side, top-and-bottom, frame packing and anaglyph
- Tally light indicator Key studio communication tool
- Built-in waveform monitor Signal analysis at the flick of a switch



4. The Holdan Range

Holdan represents a significant range of monitors. The following tables set them out by size and configuration...

Small portable, on-camera monitors | 15 - 25" Monitors | Multi-display monitors | Large Screen Grading and Gallery Monitors


Small portable, on-camera monitors

Manufacturer Model Size Rack / desktop Resolution Analogue inputs Digital inputs Pass thru Other features
Datavideo TLM-700HD 7" Tripod mount 800 x 480 Component, composite video HD-SDI, HDMI No Battery mount, Tally
Panasonic BT-LH910GE 9" Rackmount / field mount 1280 x 768 Component, composite HD-SD, HDMI No Battery mount, waveform monitor, tally


Monitors 15 - 25"

Manufacturer Model Size Rack / desktop Resolution Analogue inputs Digital inputs Pass thru Other features
Datavideo TLM-170P 17.3" Desktop 1920 x 1080 Composite, component HDMI, HD-SDI Yes Tally, speaker
Blackmagic Design Smartview HD 17" Rackmount     3G-SDI Yes Lan control
Blackmagic Design Smartview 4K 17" Rackmount     12-SDI Yes Lan & local control
Panasonic BT-L2170 21.5" Desktop 1920 x 1200 Component HD-SDI, HDMI, DVI yes Tally, speaker, RS-232C, RS-485
TV One LM-1750HD 17" Wall mount / rackmount 1400 x 900 Component, composite, s-video, VGA HDMI, hd-sdi Yes Tally
TV One LM-1520R 17" Rackmount 1024 x 768 Composite x 2, s-video, VGA DVI-D Yes Speakers
TV One LM-1920R 19" Rackmount 1280 x 1024 Composite x 2, s-video, VGA DVI-D Yes Speakers
Panasonic BT-3DL2550 25.5" Desktop 1920 x 1200 Component HD-SDI, DVI-D No 3D monitor


Multi-display monitors

Manufacturer Model Size Rack / desktop Resolution Analogue inputs Digital inputs Pass thru Other features
Datavideo TLM-702 7" x 2 Rackmount 480 x 234 Composite   Yes Tally
Datavideo TLM-433 4.3" x 4 Rackmount 480 x 272   HDMI, HD-SDI Yes Tally
Datavideo TLM-434 4" x 3 Rackmount 480 x 234 Composite   Yes Tally
TV One LM-404HD 4.3" x 4 Rackmount 800 x 400 VGA, Composite, Component, S-Video HD-SDI Yes  
TV One LM-702HD 7" X 2 Rackmount 1040 x 600 VGA, Composite, Component, S-Video HD-SDI    
TV One LM-503HD 5" x 3 Rackmount 1024 x 768 S-Video, Component, Composite, VGA HD-SDI Yes Tally
Blackmagic Design SmartView Duo 8" x 2 Rackmount 800 x 400   3G-SDI, Ethernet Yes LAN Control, tally


Large Screen Grading and Gallery Monitors

Manufacturer Model Size Rack / desktop Resolution Analogue inputs Digital inputs Pass thru Other features
Panasonic TH-50BT300ER 50" Desktop / wall-mount 1920 x 1080 Component, VGA HDMI / SDI option No 3D-ready, waveform, 100,000 hours
Panasonic TH-42BT300ER 42" Desktop / wall-mount 1920 x 1080 Component, VGA HDMI/ SDI option No 3D-ready, waveform, 100,000 hours



5. Why Monitor - a beginner's guide?

At each stage of the production and post production workflow, monitoring needs are very specific:


  • In a production environment, the use of a monitor alongside a camera will help the operator to check such essentials as framing, lighting, white balance, exposure and focusing with a far greater degree of confidence than with a small viewfinder alone.
  • Live feeds from a number of different sources must be viewed centrally to ensure that cameras are shooting the required angles and that the colours and lighting on each unit match.
  • Previewing the output from a production switcher on an output screen is essential.

Post Production

  • Maintaining natural-looking colours throughout the post-production process and seeing the effect of a particular filter in the editing stage requires monitoring tools that give true and realistic results.
  • Judging the quality of video motion can only be accurately judged on a full resolution screen that works at the video's native refresh rate and with panels that work effectively with interlaced footage. Failing to monitor properly can result in moving pictures that look unnatural to audiences.
  • Effective monitoring ensures that video created in post-production stands the best chance of being accepted by broadcasters and of looking as the producer intended by the time it reaches viewers.

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