Monitoring Your Video: An HD Monitor Buyer's Guide

Monitoring Your Video: An HD Monitor Buyer's Guide

Editing Hi Def video without an HD monitor is like editing blind

Editing Hi Def video without an HD monitor is like editing blind

Watching your footage, while shooting or editing, on a calibrated monitor is vital for getting good video, whether you're shooting in high definition (HD) or standard definition (SD). But some HD and SD monitors can cost thousands, which can price many out of buying one of these necessary tools for video production.

We hope to help outline some good, affordable alternatives, along with the big boys. One important specification to check before getting out the plastic: make sure the resolution of your future monitor matches or exceeds the resolution of your source material. This is particularly important if you're going to be working in 1080i today (or 1080p tomorrow.)

Affordable ($229 to $500)

Finding a good affordable monitor to check HD footage isn't too hard. In this price range, you'll find primarily consumer-grade, 4:3 aspect ratio CRT (cathode ray tube)-based sets with component video inputs, though similar LCDs are getting easier to find, and prices are getting lower every day.

The one major drawback in using an SDTV to monitor HD is the color space factor. The color space of high-definition video is different from standard-definition video. Anyone who works in Photoshop has seen this when exporting a file for standard definition (NTSC) video - the colors shift in the video itself due to the differences in color spaces.

An LCD might be your best bet for an HDTV in this price range. Many of the new, smaller LCDs (up to 17 inches) support both 60Hz (Hertz, or cycles per second) and 50Hz, which is important if you're shooting with Sony's HVR-Z1u, which supports 60i and 50i. However, you should be aware that CRTs generally have greater color accuracy than LCDs.

Moderate ($500 to $1,000)

A CRT-based HDTV would be ideal in this price range, and many of this type of HDTV can be bought from a litany of major manufacturers. Prices on many 1080i widescreen CRTs have come down, and a widescreen TV is better than a standard, 4:3 model, which is the most common.

Low-end professional LCDs generally start around $800, but they are available only in SD, not HD, in this price range.

Pro ($1,000 and up)

In this price range, a consumer-grade 1080p LCD HDTV might be a good investment. There are also some excellent plasma HDTVs, though 1080p plasma displays are outside this price range. Watching your HD footage on a 37-inch and larger LCD may be great at home, but taking it on set or in the field may be too awkward. A portable, professional monitor is ideal for viewing HD and HDV footage, but you may shell out at least $3,000 for an HD display. There are also HD SDI-equipped monitors for an additional price. This is ideal if you own one of the more expensive HD camcorders that have HD SDI outputs, such as Canon's XL H1 or XH G1, or JVC's GY-HD250.


When you are selecting a monitor or HDTV, don't forget to keep in mind what flavor of HD you're shooting in, 720p or 1080i/p. For field production and editing, the smaller and more portable, the better. Consider using a small SDTV, but keep in mind the caveats of color space. Also, if you're editing native HDV .m2t files without additional hardware, you won't be able to see your footage play back on your external viewing monitor. You'll need an add-on card to convert your footage on-the-fly to HD, which will be seen and heard on your monitor and speakers.

Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and writer. He recently co-wrote HDV: What You NEED to Know, volume 2, from VASST.

Manufacturer's list

To download PDF of Manufacturer's list, CLICK HERE.


Tue, 10/02/2007 - 12:00am