Part I: The iPhone 12 Pro Max as a Consumer Reference Monitor
Part II: iPhone 12 Pro as a Consumer Reference Display (cont’d)
Part III: iOS Devices as Client Reference Monitors
Part IV: Consumer Displays: When Your Client is David Fincher
A few years back, when a younger, more handsome Vincent Theo of HDTVTest declared in his review of the Sony BVM-X300 reference monitor, “When I say that something is reference, it means that you know this accurately reflects the director’s and producer’s intention because this is in fact the monitor that is used in post-production studios when they are actually doing the production and grading and mastering, so you can’t get any better than this,” little could he have foreseen that just a couple years later, mobile devices with picture quality rivaling the X300 would be within the reach of millions of consumers around the world.
Regarding the picture quality of the Sony, he remarks, “Once I took some measurements, I was just gobsmacked. I’m just totally floored by the accuracy […] this monitor is producing. If you look at these common charts here the grayscale is so flat and the gamma is so linear […] It’s hitting the grayscale accuracy and also the gamma linearity that consumer displays just cannot achieve. […] It is a revelation, it is an eye-opener.”
Continuing ruefully, Vincent laments, “I’m really, really upset because I know that I will never be able to afford this. This is 30 thousand [British] pounds! I wish I could afford it. I wish Sony would loan one to me long term but that is never going to happen so I am just really, really upset that the sort of picture quality cannot be seen on a consumer display that I can afford or even anyone else can afford but hopefully we’ll get there one day.”
Fast forward to 2020 and his glowing review of the iPhone 12 Pro. Regarding screen uniformity, Vincent observes the virtual absence of dirty screen effect, banding or color tinting. Concerning color accuracy, he notes that “Apple has nailed the DCI-P3 color tracking within [the] Rec.2020 container, putting the vast majority of consumer TVs to shame, even after calibration.” After playing a selection of HDR movies on the iPhone 12 Pro, Vincent exclaims that “its HDR presentation looked wonderfully close to the 30 thousand pound Sony BVM-X300 professional reference OLED monitor,” adding that “if the iPhone 12 Pro had an SDI or HDMI input and a larger screen and a way to force engage HDR mode, I may even be tempted to use it as a grading monitor.” Vincent’s findings are corroborated by DisplayMate’s in-depth test of the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
For the first time in history, consumers may very well be carrying in their pockets mobile devices with displays that not only have color accuracy virtually indistinguishable from the reference monitors used by high-end post-production houses to create feature films and Netflix Originals, but also higher peak brightness! Apple sold upward of two million iPhone 12 smartphones in the first 24 hours of preorders alone. Shouldn’t content creators also be availing themselves of this technology? While we may not be able to grade our projects with the iPhone 12 Pro, nothing prevents us from using one as a consumer reference display. My own iPhone 12 Pro Max helps me determine such things as whether my videos have enough separation in the shadows; whether highlights sparkle; or if I need to boost saturation a touch. There’s no denying that larger images look more vibrant, and for sure, videos watched on a 55″ LG OLED appear more colorful than they do on a 6.5″ smartphone.
In response to Vincent Theo’s comparison of the iPhone 12 Pro to Sony’s BVM-X300, Aaron Hayden, colorist and owner of Color Monkey, a post-production house located in Los Angeles, California, adds the following:
“No joke, in the current Covid environment and everyone working remotely, Netflix recommends producers review HDR color/online on the latest iPad Pro with the XDR display. I have a HX-310 to grade on, but all my producers review my work on iPad Pros via frame.io. It’s not a perfect solution because there’s no easy way to pro calibrate the iPad Pro’s display, but it’s the best off-the-shelf solution for a remote team have a consistent viewing experience.”
Frame.io’s video review and collaboration platform is built right in to DaVinci Resolve and supports viewing HDR on iOS and HDR-capable TVs, meaning it can be played back on an iPhone or iPad as well as through AirPlay to an AppleTV 4K or an AirPlay equipped HDR TV. Enterprise customers can play 10-bit HDR proxies on iOS only, while other plans and playback on the web support 8-bit proxies. Since we don’t have paying clients, we just review clips on an iPhone 13 Pro Max once they’ve finished processing on YouTube, but prior to hitting the button to make the videos public.
Aaron Hayden has color graded and finished over 1000 hours of prime time content for Netflix, Facebook Watch, YouTube, FOX, ABC, CBS, Discovery Channel, A&E, Spike TV, Animal Planet, TBS and SiFy networks.