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Sunday, May 08, 2011

I Want NTSC Back, I think. Asus P264 and Spyder3 Elite Ponderings

Monitors monitors on the wall, who's color is most accurate of all ?

At least in the days of SD NTSC, you bought a Sony CRT of the PVM or BVM series, setup bars, did a little minus green on it, and you were good. Yes Sony CRT's tended to be a little green from the factory, and it was a quick consistent fix to adjust. Sure you could go crazy with a monitor probe to tweaking the RGB drives, but in general these monitors were very consistent. Setup bars and you knew you generally had a trustable consistent reference standard. Those where the good old days.
Enter LCD panels for HD. While any given panel from a given manufacturer can be pretty consistent from panel to panel, once you start comparing even different models built using the same screen panel they will be different. Its not so much overall color, but critical color. Once you start looking, especially with two panels next to each other everything is out the window. You'll start to notice one panel may be a little bit red, another green, and a third blue when looking at grays and "pure" white.
You can stare at bars all day long and come to the conclusion they match, however watching real pictures is another story. The first thing you'll notice is varying gamma between panels. This is generally most evident in the dark areas of the picture from just above black to 50% gray. Some, in fact most LCD monitors I"ve used tend to boost dark areas of the picture. This means when shooting in lower light levels, the monitor makes you think you've got more then you really have. They certainly don't match what you are used to seeing on a CRT monitor. 
The entire area of LCD color can be a nightmare really. Some displays are only 6bit, but do some tricks to try to eack out 8bit actual colors. There are some true 10bit displays, but they are often in the mid 4 figures or higher. There are some cheaper panels claiming 10bit, or even "true" 8bit NTSC color gamut. Maybe.
I recently bought a Asus 10bit P246 display. Its claim is full 10bit NTSC / Adobe RGB color space.  When I first got the display, I spent several days messing with it trying to get it adjusted. It proved to be completely futile because I have NOTHING to reference it to. Any on screen visual calibrations led to disappointing results. I came to the conclusion that I really needed some sort of color calibration tool. Some research showed that the unit of choice that wasn't a serious 4 figures was the Spyder3 Elite. I bought one.
From here I expected that the Spyder would give me its own perfect internal reference, and get the monitor adjusted with a LUT in the video card so that I know had "reference color".  Well is didn't work that way.  The first panel I had in fact had a dead pixel, so I eventually warranty exchanged it, but not before putting a color meter on it.. The meter claimed it did indeed have NTSC color gamut. Now as I mentioned, I did exchange it and the second one metered out as having sRGB color space, even when in the same picture setting as the first screen i had.
I need to quit right here for the moment ,  more in the next day or two as I give you the rest of the story since I'm still in fact trying to sort it all out.