Just a few years ago, when HDR was still in its infancy and VESA had not yet even published standards for HDR monitors, Atomos, along with Mystery Box and several other influential content creators, were advocating the use of production monitors for grading HDR video on a budget – with some even going so far as to liken the results to those obtained by reference monitors like Sony’s BVM-X300, the industry standard. At the time, consumer priced HDR monitors simply did not exist and $3,700.00 was still considered a ridiculously cheap entry point into the world of HDR grading – and even as of this writing, the least expensive monitor rated DisplayHDR 1000 retails for a whopping $4,000.00.
However, production monitors aren’t consistent enough from unit to unit to be relied on for any serious grading without calibration. In the case of Atomos, their monitors must be calibrated with an X-Rite i1Display Pro with a proprietary Atomos calibration cable; and if by chance you already own an i1Display Pro, you’ll need to part with an additional $100.00 for a USB to serial LANC cable. Once you’ve finished calibrating your display, because Atom HDR is utterly useless for grading, you’ve got to load a custom LUT (for all I know, no longer available, unless Mystery Box is in the process of updating their website). Then, you’ve got to toggle back and forth between the custom LUT and Rec. 709 for the black levels or something… and it helps if you’ve got a $35,000 reference monitor lying around to check it against: but to their credit, Mystery Box never recommended trying this with a 7″ monitor!
While the above photo of the display is only a dim representation of the horrific image I’m really seeing, the blotchy, coarse tonal transitions, inaccurate color, excessive contrast and greenish tinge around the cheek and forehead make grading anything with the Shogun pointless.
Between the time Mystery Box began their blog and now, the landscape has changed enormously as far as monitors, NLEs, video sharing platforms and display technology go. We’ve got $5,000.00 1,600 nit 32″ displays; OLED laptops (though only a few hundred nits), and by the end of this year, we’ll have the very first miniLED DisplayHDR 1000 laptops; uploading HDR to YouTube couldn’t be easier and no longer requires being able to write long lines of code; there are dual panel LCD reference monitors and in a few years, maybe even affordable microLED monitors (or maybe not!); most NLEs now support HDR; and of course, there’s a whole lot more HDR content available. At the same time, MysteryBox were something of pioneers when they embarked on HDR, and arguably no one worked as tirelessly to ignite interest in shooting and grading HDR video.
My beef with Mystery Box is that not only was OLED TV a less expensive and far superior option three years ago – it remains the best value today for those wanting to grade HDR on a dime. But I’m sure they helped sell a ton of Atomos recorders!