Strategies for HDR Monitoring on a Budget

Why HDR Production Monitors Matter, Part I

Why HDR Production Monitors Matter, Part II

Why HDR Production Monitors Matter, Part III

Why HDR Production Monitors Matter, Part IV

Acknowledging that HDR monitoring for every display on-set for the entire length of a production is prohibitively expensive for most productions, Netflix proposes three alternatives:


Camera tests for hair and makeup are typically the first time images are evaluated and sent through the entire production pipeline. Some productions choose to monitor in HDR during the test shoot day or at a picture finishing facility immediately afterward. Then, they continue with on-set SDR monitoring during production. This is usually the lowest cost approach to HDR monitoring.


In a Limited Run workflow, the HDR reference monitor is only on-set for certain weeks of the production schedule (ideally the first two weeks of production). This helps key stakeholders gain a better understanding of how the final image will be displayed in HDR. Once these stakeholders are comfortable with the format, they can stop using the HDR display and continue the remainder of the production using SDR monitors.


Rather than make every monitor on-set HDR, this approach uses a single HDR reference monitor for the full run of production. Regular access to said monitor can help key stakeholders continually guide how their creative decisions will be manifested in HDR. The other monitors on-set, such as those in the “video village”, receive an SDR signal. 

Armando Salas, DP on Ozark, offers somewhat less conventional advice for monitoring on a budget:

“The technology changes every time you sneeze. So for any show, it’s gonna be about investigating and pushing and figuring it out. Because a lot of times, people just don’t have a vested interest to help you. So, on Raising Dion, I was talking to the color house and they’re like, oh yeah, the Sony is really the way to go, the X3, whatever. It’s like a $40,000 monitor. I’m not gonna put two of those on a cart and bang them around on trucks and stuff like that. So I do a little research, I reach out to Canon, and I’m like, ‘Hey, will you demo your DP-V2411s?’ I think now, those are $12,000 each. Now, that’s a big difference. You know, two $12,000 monitors versus two $40,000 monitors. And they came in on the test day, they brought monitors, they brought their technologists, they put the gun on it, and calibrated it like fifteen different ways from Sunday… and everyone could argue about, ‘Is it the white point on the camera?’ or ‘Is it an issue with Colorfront?,’ ‘Is it an issue with the AJA rack?…’ I had a representative from each of those things, because every company that makes one of these products has a vested interest to get everybody to use it, right? So, you can leverage that for your own gain, which is, ‘Hey, I want to use your Canon monitors but I’m not using them till you demo them for me and you show me that they’re reliable.’ And then they show up with the monitor, and you don’t pay for it. There’s a guy there, and he’s tweaking the hell out of them and making them be as good as possible because they want you to rent those for six months, right? And sometimes they’re willing to demo them to you longer if rental houses don’t have it. So, I don’t know if Canon is in Brazil or not, if they have a physical footprint, but you can call and make a relationship with a Canon rep in Brazil and say, ‘Hey, I’d love to look at doing a test of monitoring HDR. I heard on Ozark they were using the DP-V2411s. Can we look at those?’ And unless the guy’s terrible at his job, they will show up with the monitors and try to convert you from Sony, or Panasonic, or Flanders or whoever you’re using. Same thing with Colorfront, same thing with the AJA rack. The AJA rack, I relegate to post. To me, that’s a transform and color. I say, ‘Post-producer, this is your cost. You’re paying for the AJA rack. It’s gonna save us a lot of hours in color correction, it’s a nominal cost, it’s almost nothing, you’re gonna put it on my rack, and that’s on you.’ That’s literally the only two things that were different on Ozark: we had an AJA rack and we had two HDR monitors. Now, SmallHD is about to unleash like four HDR monitors. […] Obviously, when you’re on a really micro-budget, things get much more complicated. But as soon as you reach just enough of a threshold that you can move pieces around, you can go out there and be proactive and get stuff. I’ve done that my whole life, because generally, nobody wants to just figure it out for you. So, you figure it out. If I go back to do Ozark, or if I start another show that’s HDR Dolby Vision, I may not use the same workflow. I’m going to figure out what’s out there and what’s easiest at that time, test it, and then go, ‘That didn’t work out, so I’m going back to thing I know works, or be like, this is great and this is how we’re going to do this season’.” – Armando Salas, ASC

Why HDR Production Monitors Matter, Part I

Why HDR Production Monitors Matter, Part II

Why HDR Production Monitors Matter, Part III

Why HDR Production Monitors Matter, Part IV

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