The monitoring process is a crucial element of any production―it offers directors and cinematographers a glimpse of what the end product will look like and allows them to make necessary adjustments efficiently and effectively. Without proper monitoring, frame composition will suffer, and mistakes made in the filming process will be more prevalent during post-production. It isn’t uncommon for inexperienced filmmakers to fall short of providing themselves with adequate monitoring solutions during the filmmaking process. Be it from budgetary constraints or from the overreliance of onboard camera LCDs, some sets will inevitably fall victim to poor monitoring.
If you’re a budding cinematographer who would like to break into serious productions, you’ll soon come to realize the importance of proper monitoring gear, such as external monitors and video transmission systems. Proper deployment of this equipment can make a world of a difference because they display aspects of your composition―shot blocking, exposure values, color luminance, focus, and many more vital aspects of your image. Here, we’ll consider a variety of examples of on-camera monitors and video transmission systems and their invaluable assets that can help you.
Low-Priced On-Camera Monitors
Arguably the most important trait of any monitor, high end or low end, is its ability to give you a better view of your image than your camera’s viewfinder or onboard LCD. By utilizing a monitor that’s bigger than the one that’s built into your camera, you’ve already enhanced your shooting process.
A great choice for those who want a monitoring solution without breaking the bank, this 7" monitor from FeelWorld provides you with a significantly larger view than your typical camera LCD. Its wide viewing angle of 178° will allow you to see the display from awkward angles, its lightweight body makes it gimbal- and handheld-friendly, the HDMI lock removes accidental un-plugs, and the Sony L-series battery plate allows for power solutions from commonly used NP-F batteries. Its 400 nit screen is not the brightest, and in sunlight it could be difficult to see. To combat this possibility, FeelWorld has included a sunshade in the package. The contrast ratio isn’t going to be the greatest either, sitting at 800:1, so if the accuracy of your luminance values is paramount, refer to your camera’s LCD in conjunction with the FeelWorld monitor.
Another great budget option would be the Lilliput A7S monitor. It provides a contrast ratio of 1000:1 and a brightness of 500 nits. There is a great deal of information to be had from these specs, such as focus peaking, false color, histograms, and much more. With the implementation of an HDMI loop-through you can also output a video signal to any other HDMI-compatible device. The 500 nits of brightness will not be the most efficient in bright environments but, like the FeelWorld FW759, there is an included sun hood.
Stepping up with another FeelWorld, but at a slightly higher price point, is the LUT7S HDMI/SDI edition. Right out of the gate, this monitor boasts a hefty brightness rating of 2200 nits, letting you view your imagery easily, even in bright environments. All of the basic amenities such as peaking assist, histograms, and false color are available. In addition to having HDMI in/out, the LUT7S also features 3G-SDI inputs and outputs for those who prefer to work with BNC SDI.
Some monitors come with external recording capabilities that bypass and, in some cases, exceed your camera’s internal recording modes by recording directly to a hard drive you pair with the monitor.
Packed with a vast array of functions and filmmaking tools, the Ninja Ultra captures your videos in ProRes RAW in up to 8K30. Thanks to its use of 2.5" SSD drives, you can effectively produce exponentially higher read and write speeds than traditional internal recoding media options such as SD cards. Varying codecs include DNxHD, DNxHR, and gamma support exists for all the major logarithmic formats that are found in ARRI, Canon, FUJIFILM, Nikon, Panasonic, and Sony cameras. With the 5.2" touchscreen IPS-type LCD, users can seamlessly alternate between imaging controls such as anamorphic de-squeeze, false color, peaking, waveforms and much more.
The Blackmagic Design Video Assist is another recording monitor with which you can film externally. It boasts a very bright 2500 nit screen, as well as HDMI and 12G-SDI video inputs for recording. There are also two balanced 3-pin mini-XLR inputs and it provides 48V phantom power, suited for any pro-audio needs. Record in either Blackmagic RAW, Apple ProRes, DNxHD, or DNxHR.
The CONNECT is a 2000-nit monitor with HDR and the monitoring capabilities found in the Shogun line from Atomos. With a loop-through 12G-SDI and HDMI connections, you can record seamlessly and transmit 4K video. Unique to the CONNECT is its cloud connectivity; transfer footage between a variety of devices wirelessly, livestream to various platforms, and upload proxy files simultaneously alongside recording for immediate editing, with many other functions available.
Wireless Video Systems
To produce the same image on your monitor that your camera is capturing, you need to connect the two somehow, typically either with HDMI or SDI. However, with that come the limitations of cable usage, like the conundrum of your camera being tied down to a monitor. Wireless transmission and receiver systems let you have more modularity and freedom with your monitoring setup by eliminating the physical connection between your monitor and camera.
With this kit, you can transmit UHD 4K30 video wirelessly at a range of up to 450 feet (line of sight). The transmitter and receiver feature switchable HDMI and SDI connections and they boast low latency of only .06 second. You can also transmit your image not just to the receiver, but also to your smartphone or tablet. When used in conjunction with the receiver, you can additionally transmit up to two other devices with the Hollyland transmission app (iOS and Android compatible). If the receiver is not being used, the number of apps to which you can transmit jumps up to 4.
For filmmakers who don’t require 4K transmission, the Accsoon CineView HE is a great option to consider. It provides a respectable 1,200 feet of transmission range while retaining a .06-second latency. You can use up to four devices from receivers, tablets, and phones―all from one transmitter. The transmitter features an HDMI input and loop output, as well allowing you to daisy-chain other monitoring devices via HDMI cable.
This combo is unique in the fact that the receiver is a fully equipped 1500-nit monitor, as well. The High-Bright Remote RX Monitor comes with waveforms, frame guides, false color, and even custom LUT support. With this combo you can transmit an HD signal for more than 3 miles. This range can be further extended if you opt to purchase additional high-gain antennas from DJI.
Of these monitors and video transmission systems, which would you see yourself using? Do you already have one, and if so, how do you like it? Let us know, below!