When I began working on “Act of Valor” I was using an Asus 17” monitor to light with. When I got into the color correction bay, I noticed that I had over-lit scenes because the monitor was not seeing what the camera was ultimately seeing. Mike McCarthy at Bandito Brothers Post brought the HP LP2480 zx Dreamcolor monitor from their color correction bay to have on set with us and to replace the Asus. It was a computer monitor with a little stand for your desk. I asked, “Mike, what is this?” He said, “Trust me, this monitor rocks.” He was not lying. We immediately ripped the little stand off and crafted mounts so that it could be mounted on dollies, c-stands, and cases so that it could hold up on location.
This is when it all clicked for me. When I looked at the back LCD of the Canon 5D and then to the Dream Color, they matched more closely than anything that I had seen. I have always felt that the back LCD is the true gauge of color, contrast, saturation, etc., but it is way too small and by using the Z-finder to enlarge it to your eye, there is an unnatural contrast that is added.
It is the Dream Color for all lighting on the set for me. I take it everywhere. It has become my viewfinder into this 8 Bit compressed color space and I trust it. I have never gone to the color correction bay and seen something that I hadn’t seen when I was on the set. It has given me confidence as a Cinematographer with the limited latitude of HDSLR’s.
When I look and see a cloud clipping on my Dream color, I know that I have to take the exposure down a bit to hold it. When I see a shadow going too black, I know that I have to open up my exposure a bit so that I can gain the detail necessary. I am not a big Histogram guy. I go with my eye and not some graph that means absolutely nothing when you are shooting HD. Everyone has tried to take this still photography latitude device and pull it over to the HD video mode. If you expose your Histogram in 4 of the 5 fields which is what they say is recommended, you will be overexposing your image and making it look like video very quickly. It is all about riding the fine line of starving the CMOS chip of light and giving it just enough so that it doesn’t look underexposed. It is a balance that turns this platform from an HD video capture device to a Digital Film capture device. When I pull up an image that I have exposed using the Dream Color, I punch over to the Histogram and my levels have not gotten out of the second field.
The HP Dream Color monitor holds its calibration for 4000 hours. We have 20 in Revolution Cinema Rentals inventory and the one that started it all only has 287 hours on it with 9 months of use.
Getting your HP Dream Color ready for the field
When you look at the HP Dream Color LP2480 zx Monitor, it looks like a computer monitor that should not be anywhere other than a desk. We have disproved that with months of testing and want to give you the necessary tips to make it battle ready.
Contact Freddie Fernandez at Hurlbut Visuals at 424-653-1133 and he will hook you up with Darin Necessary, our Elite Team McGuyver . He designed a plate that will attach the monitor to a 1650 Pelican traveling case, which turns it into traveling stand.
Buy a piece of plexiglass and have it cut to the size of the monitor, you then use velcro to fix it to the screen. This will protect your screen while traveling and setting up in the field. Once you are settled and ready to light, you can remove the plexi for the best viewing.
Gaffers tape and Duvateen are your new best friends. Use the gaffer’s tape to affix a piece of Duvateen or Black Cloth onto the monitor so that you can have a dark viewing area for exterior work.
Place your HDMI splitters and repeaters in your pelican case for easy organization. Cables and other nick nacks can be placed in there also.
Kevin Anderson at Hurlbut Visuals at 888-514-0967 ext. 103 will also hook you up with Dave Kundson, my rigging guru, who has designed a baby pin that attaches to the thumb screws on the monitor bracket so you can mount it on a dolly, c-stand, etc.
Menus on your Dream Color
Go into your OSD control on the monitor: Disable warning messages and calibration limit.
Set your Monitor brightness to: 250 cd/m2
Go to Image Control on main menu, Custom Scaling set to: Fill to Aspect Ratio
Set your Color Space to: Full
Set your Video input control to: HDMI
Set your White Point/Color Temp to: 6500K
Coming from the film world where I relied on a light meter as my gauge for exposures, the most difficult adjustment in the HDSLR world has been finding an accurate lighting monitor that is fast yet intimate with the talent and the agency, so I am not in some black tent away from the action with waveform monitors and gack. The HP Dream Color was exactly what I needed as a cinematographer to finally feel at ease. What you see is what you get!
I would love to hear from you about monitors and what you choose to light with.