Interview with Bram Desmet of FSI – When to Buy a Reference Monitor and Trends in Display Calibration and Display Technology for 2014

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If you fancy yourself a digital creative, video editor, special effects person, colorist, producer, or filmmaker (or maybe all of these together), then sooner or later you come to the question – When should I purchase a reference display monitor? Why should I even bother? Bram Desmet, CEO of Flanders Scientific Inc., answers these questions along with some enlightening conversation around his insights in the rapidly changing area of display technology and display calibration trends for 2014.

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If you have a professional emphasis to constantly improve your craft, then improving the quality of your post-production work is critical, and using a calibrated reference monitor is one of your keys to success. Even if most of what you do right now is create, edit, or color content for the web, there are compelling reasons to use a reference monitor.  Sooner or later you will be touching content destined for cable, broadcast, and theatre audiences. Your confidence in the color accuracy of your work is closely tied to the reputation you’re building. I hope you find this conversation helpful. I learned a lot myself.

Here are the questions I asked Bram, though the actual questions on the podcast may vary slightly:

1. Bram, I believe your dad started FSI originally, yes? You’ve grown the business quite a bit, it appears. What would your dad think now about the industry?

2. As a colorist I’ve seen a huge change in the last 24-36 months, as undoubtedly you have too. But I’m not just talking about hardware; I’m talking about things like DaVinci Resolve’s releasing the free Lite version, and Adobe is now including SpeedGrade in their editing suite. I think a shift is occurring around the awareness of the use of color as a key factor in raising the production quality of a wider range of media products. What are you seeing in the way of trends in the media production industry with regards to a heightened focus on color as it relates to reference monitors?

3. When and why should a person buy a reference monitor?

4. Does size make a difference?

5. Let’s talk about display calibration. What does FSI do to ensure their monitors are calibrated? I think the listeners would find this fascinating.

6. I’m also seeing a lot of change in calibration tools. I simply sent back my FSI monitor for calibration. That’s quick and painless, but now I’m wanting to check the display color periodically myself and, if necessary, create and install a special display LUT. Are you seeing more clients interested in calibrating their own displays? What are the right tools for that?

7. Here’s a question I hear from people – Why can’t I just calibrate my iMac or the monitor attached to my PC or Mac laptop using something like CalMAN RGB or other similar tools? From what I know you can do that, but what are the pros and cons from your perspective? Where is the point when you acknowledge what you’re doing is just not going to cut the mustard and you invest in a reference monitor?

8. Let’s talk display technology for 2014. Where do you see displays going with regards to UHD and 4k (or higher) displays? What about the higher dynamic range of display technology, in particular, given that cameras sensors are capturing 14+ stops of light these days?

ADDENDUM:

After the interview I had a follow-up question I wanted to ask Bram regarding his perspectives on using BT.1886 standard for setting gamma on their displays. He wrote me back and offered the following:

“As both LightSpace and CalMAN offer BT.1886 as an export option for 3D LUTs, all FSI monitors with CFE or CFE2 boards can already be easily set to BT.1886. There is certainly a shift taking place in the industry with more of our customers slowly transitioning to BT.1886, but I still can say with confidence that the vast majority of people are still not currently using BT.1886. This is not a judgement on whether they should or should not be using it, but its adoption is not nearly as widespread as some people tend to believe.

“What you will likely see in the future, though I can’t specify an exact time frame, is the addition of a gamma response actually titled 1886 in our gamma selection list on the monitors. The way we do calibration, our 2.4 gamma selection will actually get you essentially to 1886 already, but an actual menu selection for 1886 is on our to-do list for the future.”
Thank you, Bram.