When you are investing in film gear and you do it all yourself, a colorist monitor is not something you want to skimp on. You spent all that time setting up lights, looking for locations, set design, etc. and the last thing you want to do is ruin it by not being able to see all of your beautiful work.
But we also don’t want to break the bank right? So today, I am going to show you the three best color grading monitors for film colorists.
Why You Should Get a Color Grading Monitor
Have you ever watched a movie, or someone else’s and realized that the way you saw it on the computer now looks completely different on another device? I have. It happened at a film festival, and I was not happy. I was different back then.
But whether you are working on your own film or working on something for a client, you want color accuracy to be as close as possible. Especially if the client wants a certain look. You also want something that is going to give you the highest quality for all of your efforts.
What to Look for When Buying a Color Grading Monitor
The first thing you want to do is figure out what your needs are. Most of us just want a robust one-stop shop that can get the job done without breaking the bank. That being said, there are still a few key things that are absolutely essential to your monitor.
Tip 1: Bit Depth
Lots of monitors still have an 8-bit display panel. Which would be fine if technology didn’t advance as quickly as it does. With all of the upgrades coming out and higher resolution footage, you need to have a 10-bit display monitor. Think of it this way, an 8-bit display gives you approximately 16.7 million different colors while a 10-bit gives you over 1 billion. It’s kind of like RGB vs CMYK.
If you were to purchase one that’s 8-bit and display some high res footage on there, you’ll get artifacting. Artifacting is essentially video distortion, but it will be color distortion. I can say from experience, it’s not great. This is not to be confused with bit processing. Some companies will say, “we have 10-bit processing!” Which is entirely different than the display bit depth. So make sure you are focusing on the display.
Tip 2: Color Gamut
You want a monitor that has the widest array of colors to go along with your 10-bit display panel. This is where it’s important to know what color space you’re working in. If you aren’t sure, you usually want to go with something that covers the broadcasting colorspace. Usually, the rec 709 color space is a safe bet.
Tip 3: Contrast
You will see a ton of different contrast ratios on products ranging from 1000:1 to 1000000:1. The higher the numbers, the better. On average, monitors will sit around 1000:1 or 1300:1. It’s not great, but it gets the job done. Your tv will average around 4000:1. This is how you are going to see your true blacks so it’s important to make sure it’s not any lower than 1000:1.
Extra tip: Size matters
People love big screens. It’s just a fact. There is something truly special about seeing movies in a theater or watching movies at a friend’s house whose parents splurged and bought a 70-inch tv. This is all good and well unless you’re color grading. You don’t want the screen to be too small that you are squinting to see fine details.
However, you also don’t want it to be too big that your neck has you looking left and right like a cat chasing a laser pointer. To help save your eyes and neck, it’s smart to have a monitor around 24-48 inches in size. A lovely in-between is around 32 inches. This is just me being picky, but you can’t have it all.
Color Grading Monitor Reviews
1) Flanders Scientific DM241 Monitor: (My Top Recommendation)
Oh, Flanders. They are at the top of their game and easily the best color grading monitor you will find. Coming in at a whopping $4095.00. I know it hurts but hear me out.
This monitor is your gold. As someone who spends a lot of time on set, it’s always nice to be able to see certain color or LUTS. Not only is this built to be a field monitor and for at-home use, but you can upload up to 32 LUTS right into it.
So for example you could be on set and in real-time, without ruining your log footage, with a click of a button you can have one of your favorite LUTS right over the footage. You also get a ton of information like your histograms, RGB parade, luma scopes, and so many other features to show you the accurate color.
It also has an SDI and a display port option so you know you can throw high res footage through here and it can handle it. All that being said, and the fact that you won’t get anywhere near this quality of color reproduction at this price is why this is my top recommendation.
For a more in-depth details on the DM241, check out my Flanders Scientific DM241 Monitor Review.
- Color reproduction is incredible and the closest you can get at this price point
- Free calibration
- Comes with a 2-year parts and labor warranty
- It is expensive
- A little small (screen size is 24″)
2) BenQ SW321C Monitor
This is a nice in-between monitor. Sitting at $1999.99 for 32” of screen and HDR compatibility makes this my second recommendation. It also covers 100% rec 709 and sRGB color space and covers most of Adobe RGB and DCI-P3.
This covers most color spaces and has 4k native resolution which we all love. It’s not necessary, but it’s a nice perk. This monitor also uses AQcolor technology for accurate color reproduction and videographers and photographers alike agree.
I also love when a product comes fully calibrated right out of the box with a color report. BenQ does just that! Another cool thing about this monitor is that it has GamutDuo mode. So if you want to preview an image or footage in two color gamuts side by side, you can do that.
- 32” screen
- HDR compatibility
- 250 nits for brightness
- It’s not quite 10-bit but uses 8-bit + 2bit FRC system to accurately represent the Adobe gamut
- Changing your sources for footage can be a tad slow
3) EIZO ColorEdge CS2420 Monitor
This monitor is going to be your jack of all trades. Color calibration is so important and this one already has a calibration sensor built in. You don’t have to worry about it, just let it do its thing while you prep your footage.
It also covers 99% of the Adobe RGB color space as well as almost all of the CMYK and web-coated color spaces. So if you aren’t working within a super crazy color space, this will work just fine. What is cool about this one is it has a safe marker option on it. Think of it like bleed safety marks.
So if you are adding in any subtitles or any text, you know they will be displayed properly if you follow those guides. Even though this monitor is priced at $956.00 you have full-color accuracy across the entire screen.
When you just have a regular LCD monitor the brightness and color can fluctuate on different parts of the screen. But since this is ColorEdge, they guarantee that the color is accurate. And it is! For all of my budget-friendly people out there, this is the one for you.
- Built-in calibrator
- Easily accessible presets
- Good (not great) color reproduction
- Not a great color contrast as far as true blacks
- A little small (screen size is 24”)
FAQs About Color Grading Monitors
Do all color grading monitors come calibrated?
No, they do not! A lot of them come with calibration reports right out of the box but there are definitely some out there that don’t. So before you purchase one, make sure you have that information and purchase the right calibration tools for your monitor.
Is 4k necessary?
The short answer is no. You really only need the display to be at 1080. As long as you can export in whatever final format the client is asking for, 2k 4k etc, then the display monitor doesn’t need to have a 4k resolution.
How often should I calibrate my screen?
On average you want to calibrate your screen at least once a month to make sure that it’s in good working condition. There are some people that say technology has advanced so much that you don’t even need to calibrate your screen. But, I would always recommend airing on the side of caution and calibrating once a month.
And The Best Color Grading Monitor Is?
No matter what, you get what you pay for. I know that sounds very cliche but it is very true with color grading monitors.
The Flanders Scientific will always be my best color grading monitor with the most accurate color reproduction, its robustness and its ability to be brought on set, and being able to import your own LUTS.
If you ever have any questions or concerns about their products their support team is easily one of the best. They really want you to be happy with your product. I hope this has helped you on your way to finding a monitor that is right for you. As always, happy filmmaking!