Thursday, July 29, 2010

Colour calibration probes for less than a grand?

I'm often asked if the kind of colour calibration gadgets you can pick up on Tottenham Court Road are of any use in setting up monitors for film or TV grading – I’ve played around with a couple of those sub-£1k colour probes and although they are OK for getting your monitor in the ballpark for print-prep they aren’t suitable for film and TV usage for the following reasons;

  • Luminance level – Computer displays tend to sit white at 200Cd/m2 or even higher so the probe must be able to work over that range. The white level we use in TV is 80Cd/m2 and some film guys prefer 60Cd/m2 (delta-E increases a luminance goes down). This means the probe which (at best) is a ten bit (but probably eight bits) is operating over a fraction of it’s range when used for setting up a monitor for TV grading which means it’s now only a five or six bit probe. There is no way on earth it can measure better than the ½ GND that you need for calibrating for TV & Film.
  • Metamerism – Photometers (of which this is one) rely on the relative metameristic performance of the display – CRTs are different from LCDs in this respect. That’s why our £5k photometer (Phillips PM5639 in case you’re asked) says on page one of the manual “...only for CRTs, not for LCDs” – I’ve sat a CRT next to an LCD and had quite different colours on both displays and the probe says they’re the same – it’s a limitation of photometers but the Huey claims to be able to do both CRTs and LCDs – not sure how it gets around this as it’s not a calibration issue, it’s physics baby! You need a spectroradiometer to be able to accurately measure both kinds of displays and they start at £15k!
  • Colour space – computers monitors tend to be set up for RGB working and not for the colour-space we use in TV (rec 709) with a white point at 6500k.
So I think these things are worse than useless – they give you a false sense of security for no actual worth.

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