Eizo CG318-4K Review

Over the past month or so, I've had the pleasure of having an Eizo CG318-4K display in my hands for some real world evaluation. During my use as a reference display for color grading projects and calibration, I was continually pleased with the performance of the display, not only by its excellent resolution and pixel density but also by its accurate DCI-P3 color rendition. As a colorist and finishing artist, the quality and accuracy of our "reference" display is of incredible importance and often under appreciated, as we can only fix what we can accurately see. Without any doubt, I give the Eizo CG318 my whole hearted approval if you are looking for a high resolution wide gamut display for creative video and photo use. At a MSRP of $5999, it may appear a bit pricey but it provides a huge amount of bang for your buck when compared to other wide gamut reference displays, especially when the high UHD & DCI 4K resolution is taken into account.

One of the first things you tend to notice with a large display, such as the CG318, is how flexible it is in your work area. I was impressed by the variety of movement & adjustments offered. The monitor easily moves up and down, allowing you to set its height perfectly to your eye level. You can also rotate via the base and column to align with your other displays. The thinly design column supporting the display allows you to place it without losing too much precious desk real estate, needed for other devices such as a color grading panel, keyboard and mouse. It comfortably sits right at the edge of my desk without being at risk of falling off. I greatly appreciated the ~62mm back of the base, which allowed it to sit VERY close to the edge of my desk. Wherever you can fit this massive 31.1" display, it will sit comfortably and secure. On the backside, you will find two DisplayPort 1.2 Connections and two HDMI 1.2 connectors. I'm sorry to see they didn't include HDMI 2.0 connections, which would allow for 60hz viewing, but you can still get 60hz out of the DisplayPorts (which you likely won't find on your output card sadly). Also missing are SDI connectors, which are a commonplace on typical reference displays and a bit of a disappointment, in the eyes of this video professional. I have no problem using HDMI but I would have really liked to see either HDMI 2.0 or SDI as a possibility. 

 

One of the crucial aspects of any reference display is its ability to display 10 bit images and allow for color calibration via a 3D LUT, or look-up-table. Any display being used for color accurate work should be regularly profiled and calibrated. The CG318 comes equipped with a built-in colorimeter and Color Navigator NX software for those not extremely invested in calibration equipment and software, and supports direct calibration LUT upload from both Calman & Lightspace for those who prefer a more manual and intensive calibration with a third-part spectrometer \ colorimeter. For those working with video color correction, I highly recommend looking into either Calman or Lightspace along with a supported calibration device (such as an i1 DIsplay Pro for entry level) for the most accurate and consistent calibration performance. The built in calibration is great for the average user, but for professional use, the external solutions are significantly more accurate and detailed in ensuring the CG318 is displaying exactly what it should, as any bias will be visible in your work. If you have any questions, I recommend getting in touch with Steve Shaw at LightIllusion, who is a fantastic source of guidance and advice in the areas of display calibration and profiling. Also, Mixing Light has created an excellent series focusing on Display Calibration & Profiling (how to do it, why, when, etc). I highly recommend you check out both of these resources.  

 

If you are wondering what resolution and color gamut this monitor supports, I'm fairly confident you won't be disappointed. Out of the box, the display supports 4K DCI, which is 4096 x 2160, UHD, and HD. I very much appreciate the nod to professionals by supporting true 4K, which is commonly confused as UHD in the consumer market. Whether you are working with color correction or high-end video editing, your eyes will not be disappointed by the extra resolution offered by true 4K DCI support. Also, if you need to do video finishing, you can be assured that you can view pixel-to-pixel 4K DCI (4096 x 2160) without a problem. Just be sure your video output card or display card supports the resolution before you complain about a no signal error, as some output cards only support up to UHD, but still say "4K". Color reproduction was also very impressive, supporting 100% sRGB, 100% Rec709, 99% AdobeRGB, and 98% DCI P3. Now I personally wouldn't rely on this monitor to verify your P3-based video work, as most P3 is typically in the XYZ color space and generally difficult to quality check outside of a theatrical environment, but be assured the monitor supports almost all of the colors used within the standard. I had no trouble calibrating the monitor to Rec709 (the most common video display standard) with acceptable Delta-E levels for video QC. The monitor is rated at 1500:1 and my own tests got as high as 1250:1, although my calibration was based on "accuracy" and not "Max Contrast". I found the black levels to be VERY good for an IPS display,  but you will be disappointed if you are expecting OLED-like black levels. Panel wise, the display uses a white LED IPS display, capable of a 9ms grey-to-grey refresh rate. I was a bit disappointed by the refresh rate, as very fast moving action scenes show a small bit of tearing, but unless you deal with those constantly, it likely will not be a huge issue for you. It isn't a huge issue but really depends on the type and speed of content you typically work with. Overall, I found both the resolution, pixel density and color reproduction to be excellent for a monitor of this range.

Software wise, the monitor sports some great built in features, such as broadcast\cinema presets, safe area markers, & auto calibration with the built-in colorimeter. I personally use a third party probe and software for calibration, but it was nice to see this feature included for those who don't remember to calibrate the display regularly.  ColorNavigator was very easy to use, even for someone not familiar with calibration so you can quickly & easily get up and running right out of the box. While Eizo does state that each monitor has a Delta-E rating of <3 from the factory, I highly recommend running SOME type of calibration when the display is installed and in the exact lighting you typically use during work. Remember that your environment has a huge effect on how you perceive color and contrast, so be sure you have an appropriate environment in your viewing area. Eizo does support a neat 6500K bias light that can be purchased as an accessory. 

Last Words: Now I'm not saying this display will best a high end Sony OLED reference display, but it certainly doesn't cost anywhere near as much at $5999. For typical color correction and video editing, this display provides excellent color reproduction, resolution support, and some great built-in features, so it comes highly recommended. I also appreciate the 5 year warranty & included monitor hood. I'm a bit disappointed by the lack of SDI connections, older generation HDMI 1.2, and 9ms refresh rate, but I'm being a bit picky especially when you consider the price, built-in 3D LUT support, and other high end features. If you are in the market for a high quality, wide gamut 4K capable display, be sure to check out the Eizo CG-318

Wipster : The next generation of video review & delivery?

 

SPECIAL FOR BLOG READERS: Wipster has been kind enough to offer Cinetic Studio blog readers a special coupon code that extends the trial period by an ADDITIONAL MONTH. Use code CINETICSTUDIOS and check out why we love them.  

   Driven by the latest "cutting-edge" technology, our methods of working, collaborating, and communicating seem to change on a daily basis, especially in the field of video production. While that innovation brings a consistent stream new hardware, software, and workflows that can contribute to our efficiency, I do not feel it always does. How efficient it can be is based on how well that technology is implemented, in my opinion. Working in freelance requires both your work and your tools to be smart and efficient, so the search is always on for the next great tool \ service.

When I started working as a freelance colorist, I was surprised regarding the number of clients that were perfectly happy & satisfied to work completely remotely, with some type of accurate review (of course!). In fact, my first job as a professional colorist was acquired through a conversation on Twitter, and everything was handled remotely. With my background in IT, I've had plenty of experience working with clients remotely, but working with computers is a farstretch from the creative work of color grading or editing. With something as subjective as color and editing, communicating effectively and efficiently remotely is absolutely crucial to avoid issues and miscommunication(s) when it comes time to final delivery. Uploading a client review  to YouTube \ Vimeo with a password not only looked unprofessional, but wasn't efficient aside from getting an overall opinion. I would get feedback such as "It's looking good" or "it needs a little more work", but I did not get those crucial shot or scene specific notes and timecodes, unless I asked for them or they happened to provide them.  I was then introduced to the video review service, Wipster.

I was immediately impressed from the moment I logged in for the first time. It's unique and friendly user interface was very appealing,  and the "pop-up" style FAQ guides you through the entire service immediately upon logging in for the first time. It was more than I personally needed, as it was simple enough to figure out within a few minute, but it's nice to see the effort to be so approachable.

Once signed in, uploading videos for review and delivery is simple. You can upload video files directly from your local computer or connect to Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, Amazon Cloud Drive, and even FTP (which opens up the possibility of a neat "render to Cloud, auto upload to Wipster" workflow), . Once uploaded, videos can be neatly organized by folder(s) and you can "archive" them once a project has been completed. As there will inevitably be several versions \ revisions of an edit or color grade,  newer "versions" of the same video can be uploaded and tracked, without discarding any previous versions (and anything attached to them, such as comments).

WipsterUI
WipsterUI

Adding a recipients \ reviewers to a video is as easy as adding an email address to a list, and Wipster even provides an appropriately named "nudge" feature for those clients who require a little reminder to review and comment. Moving on to the actual "review" functionality, comments are as easy to add as a click of a mouse at the moment and physical location on the video where you would like your comment to appear. They even appear color coded by user, as you can see from the screenshot below. Each comment can actually be an entire conversation, marked consistently at the timecode and location on the video. You can only imagine how useful this can be with the intricacies of color grading and editing, for example: "that cut is a little too soon" or "please brighten up her face".

Finally, once the comments and conversations have been worked out, its time to get back to work on the revisions, based on the provided feedback. While I would like Wipster to have the ability to export the comments as markers that could be imported directly into my NLE (as some other services do), it does a great job of providing either a digital checklist or a printed list of all the comments with exact timecodes.

I personally load up this digital checklist, and go down issue by issue and check off the comments when they have been completed. It still gives you that good "I get to cross that sucker off" feeling after completing a task too!

PrintOut
PrintOut

Now, I just found out about this feature this past week and it adds an entirely new level of usefulness to Wipster. I previously only used the service as a video review platform, but after clarifying with their fantastic support team, they confirmed Wipster is fully intended to be a review and delivery platform. That means if you upload a high resolution "master" file, such as one encoded as ProResHQ or DNxHD, your client can download that EXACT file by simply clicking a "download" button underneath the player. No need for additional FTP hosting space, sharing over Dropbox, shipping hard drives, or any of the previous delivery hassles associated with remote creative work. Review and delivery consolidate in one platform, which is efficient and smart.

DownloadHQ
DownloadHQ

Now, what does it cost and will it be accessible to me? A thought I usually whenever I hear about some cool and new, but different. In this case, you can use Wipster for the whopping monthly cost of free. Yes, they honestly offer a free account with 15 minutes of video upload a month completely free (up to 45 via referrals), which you can sign up for right here.  Should you require additional minutes per month, personalized branding, HD, or the wealth of other features they offer, it is $15 per user a month. 

Overall, I've been using Wipster for almost a year now and I'm very happy with it. They have extremely responsive support, an easy to use user interface, a complete review and delivery system, and competitive pricing compared to similar services. I highly recommend you check out Wipster.io for your video review needs, even if just to try the free account to see if it fits your needs.

Screenshot_121715_011817_PM.jpg

Blackmagic Fusion : Getting Started

Blackmagic Fusion is a node-based compositor, which Blackmagic recently acquired from Eyeon Software. Similar to other high-end compositors like Nuke and Flame, Fusion uses a nodes for visualizing compositing work. This way of working may seem strange to artists accustomed to layer-based compositors such as Adobe After Effects, but I urge you to give it a try. In the end, compositing is the technically the same process in any system, just using different tools, plug-ins, etc. Blackmagic has taken its traditional aggressive development and pricing structure and applied to to Fusion, offering a free version with a few limitations, and a "Studio" full featured version for $995. 

To help you start your journey with Blackmagic Fusion, I;ve gathered a variety of resources that should show you the basics and demonstrate the potential of the application. I've barely scratched the surface of the application myself, but I'm already extremely impressed with what I see. Also, I'm encouraged by how aggressively Blackmagic tends to develop software, judging from Resolve, so I assume this is just the beginning. 

 

Although from a slightly older version of Fusion (v6, current is v8.2.1), this "cheat sheet" should come in handy when you first start working with Fusion. Please remember that some things may have changed, especially since Blackmagic acquired the software development from Eyeon right after v7.5 and added its own UI enhancements & features in the V7.7 and V8 beta releases.  (If you created this chart, please let me know so I can properly credit you.)

FusionCheat

Colorist Jason Myres provides a very useful guide to optimizing performance in Fusion 7, which is still valid for Fusion 8. Absolutely worth a look before you start doing major work within the application.  

Some great BTS examples of professional work completed using Fusion & Fusion Studio include Hollywood feature films & popular Television series, such as :

Outside of mainstream television and film, you can find Fusion being used to do some fairly complex compositing work, as demoed by VFX Artist Alf Lovvold in his 3-min epic short film and breakdown, all composited in Fusion. 

VFX Breakdown

Alf has started a teaching the basic of Fusion with a set of tutorials on his Vimeo page, so I urge you to follow him for future updates and tutorials. Below is an example of one of his tutorials.

In this series of videos, VFX Artist Alkesh Nanavaty demonstrates some advanced techniques such as projection mapping, 3D particles, tracking, and overall pipeline between applications as he re-creates a shot similar to one seen in the Hollywood blockbuster, "Transformers 2".

Kert Gartner of VFXHaiku.com breaks down a detailed greenscreen composite in this 40 min node-by-node breakdown. Highly recommended if you are interested in seeing a more advanced composite broken down, and Kert spends some time explaining his reasons for using each node.  

Overview: Blackmagic Fusion v8.2 offers a very intuitive node based compositor, both a highly usable free version and a fully featured "Studio" version, which includes OFX support and collaborative features, version for $995. It is an easy application to jump into with even the most basic knowledge of compositing, and I highly recommend you download the free version, even if to try out a few things and see if it fits your style of working. The free version is remarkably powerful and capable, like Resolve, until you need 3rd party OFX plug-ins , optical flow, and collaborative functionality, which is only available in the "Studio" version. The biggest issue I see with the application is the lack of training, which isn't an issue with the application but more of a reflection of how the industry views the application. Hopefully, the recent acquisition by Blackmagic will change that, as they've applied their usual tactics of aggressive pricing & development. 

If you are interested in trying out Fusion, stop by Blackmagic's website to download the free version or purchase the studio version here. 

 

My workflow for exporting to Web for best quality

As an online editor, one of the most common questions I'm asked is, "how can I compress my film for web distribution, like YouTube and Vimeo?". Although this is an extremely complex subject that used to be its own profession, known as a compressionist, I figured I would provide some guidelines for best results when exporting a file for web distribution. While I'm showing these guidelines in Adobe Media Encoder CC 2015, these tips are are useful for any application that encodes H.264 (Compressor, Handbrake, Squeeze, etc).

  1. Encode a "master" file using a high quality codec such as Apple ProRes, Avid DNxHD, GoPro Cineform, etc. Anything that supports 10 bit and allows you to set 4:2:2 or higher color subsampling. This is the source video file we will use to convert to a smaller, web friendly H.264, as it tends to result in higher image quality than directly exporting to H.264. This "master" file is also a great file to archive for long-term backup, as it is far higher quality than the web version we will encode. 
  2. Using Adobe Media Encoder (or your chosen encoder that supports encoding H.264), transcode the "master" file to H.264 using an .MP4 (preferred) or .MOV container with the following settings:
  • Video
    • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 or 3840 x 2160 (UHD aka Online "4K") - you can reduce 1080 if you are using a different aspect ratio from 16:9, such as 2:35, to "cut" off the black bars, but they will likely be added back on most displays when played back. 720p is also acceptable to save bandwidth, but will slowly become obsolete as services update with technology.
    • Frame Rate: 23.976 (or 25) - depends on your location and how it was shot. Avoid adjusting from the source resolution, unless necessary. 
    • (Pixel) Aspect: Square Pixels (1.0) - unless you are encoding anamorphic for final delivery,  use the standard Square Pixel 1.0 for HD and UHD material. If Standard Definition, it may require a different setting like .991. 
    • TV Standard: Depends on your location. Check your source material, as it will usually indicate. 
    • Profile: High - This is a very important option, as many presets set this to Main. Make sure this is set to High for best quality. 
    • Level: 4.2 or above - 4.2 is generally good, as the higher you go, the less compatible it is with et-top players like PS3, Roku, Chromecast, and others.
    • Render at Maximum Depth - Checked (Adobe specific option) - This is another important option as it provides for higher quality color processing at the expense of encoding time. It is usually worth the small hit to render time, in my personal opinion. In other encoders, this may be shown as the "bit depth" used to encode. The higher the bit depth selected, the higher precision of color processing used to encode the file, at the cost of render time. 
    • Bitrate Encoding: VBR, 2 Pass - VBR 2 Pass will provide the best quality AND the best file size for that quality by reviewing the file twice, to most efficiently distribute data throughout the length of the file. VBR 1 Pass is still very good, although the quality may not be quite as high as 2 pass. CBR doesn't look at the file contents at all, just providing a specific bit rate at all times. 
    • Target Bitrate: 25-30Mbps - This is HEAVILY dependent on the content, with more movement and fast cuts (Ex: generic action films) requiring more data than something that slowly moves (Ex: generic romantic comedies). Also, the more grain or noise, the more data required to maintain that image without turning into a blocky, compressed mess. 
    • Maximum Bitrate: 50Mbps - This is the maximum bitrate the encoder can use, period. The variable bit rate may decide this exact moment is particularly intense and requires a lot of data, and this is a "ceiling" of sorts for the bit rate. 
    • Key Frame Distance: Unchecked - This can be used to force a keyframe every # of frames, but will up the data rate.
    • Use Maximum Render Quality - Checked if using ANY type of scaling during the edit (punch-ins, re-positions, etc), FX that scale like Warp Stabilizer, or exporting to resolution different than source. - This option greatly helps scaling quality, both when upsizing &  reducing resolution, and with effects that use scaling, at the expense of render time. If you are unsure, just enable it and deal with the additional render time for better quality. If you know you are not doing any scaling at all, effects of manual, leave this unchecked to save on render time.
    • Use Frame Blending - Unchecked

 

  • Audio Settings
    • Audio Format: AAC (or AAC-LC) - Compressing the audio to AAC is the preferred audio format for both Youtube & Vimeo. 
    • Sample Rate: 48000hz 
    • Channels: Stereo - Unless your audio is mono (single channel)
    • Audio Quality: High
    • Bitrate: 320kbps - This is a good audio bitrate for 90% of videos, unless it is a studio mastered audio track. 

I hope this quick breakdown of my H.264 encoding workflow helps with your own encodings. I encourage you to experiment with the above and tweak them to fit your own content and preferences. Please leave any comments, thoughts, and feedback below, if this has helped or given you some ideas for your own workflows.

Koji Advance Plug-in \ LUT Demo and Review

Film emulation is all the rage these days, from plug-ins to LUTs. Products like Koji Advance, Magic Bullet Film, FilmConvert, Visioncolor Impulz and many similar products aim to "emulate" popular film stocks to add a less "digital" look to your image, mimicking as if it were shot on film instead of a digital camera. Many would ask, "Why do such a thing? It looks so clear and sharp". It might sound like a strange idea but its easy to understand when you think about how pictures and "selfies" are typically shared: usually highly manipulated in some application like Instagram or Lightroom with a look that usually degrades the image in favor of a highly stylized feel. These "film emulation" type of plug-ins aim to do a similar effect with video, although to a far lesser extent than most of the photo based tools. The true accuracy of the "film emulation" to a specific film stock is always a big question, but its clear this hasn't been a detractor for many who enjoy using these effects for quick and easy color starting points.

For this review,  we'll be focusing on the Koji Advance plug-in and LUT package. The plug-in comes from the same team that developed Koji Color, a set of film emulation LUTs developed under the supervision of color timer Dale Grahn. The Koji Advance plug-in is compatible with Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, and Apple Final Cut X. However, they've also included a huge variety of LUTs, in case you want to do more manual color correction in DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Speedgrade, or any other application that accept 3D LUTs in a .cube format. 

Koji 2393, Source footage courtesy of Phil Arntz

Koji 2393 N, Source footage courtesy of Phil Arntz

As a colorist, I crave control over the colors in an image and that control is not usually associated with plug-ins, look presets, and other "shortcuts". However, my numerous tests with Koji Advance left me feeling surprising creative. As a benchmark test, I regrading a project I had graded with a Kojicolor LUT in Resolve, and I was pleasantly surprised how close I had come (ignoring the secondary corrections, power windows galore, and other fancy business done in the Resolve version). This is partially due to the fantastic looking film stocks available with Koji Advance, no matter if we are discussing the plug-in or the LUTs. Although there are only 5 film stocks to emulate (each with a few variations), I found these subtle emulations to be fantastic starting points for a huge majority of my color grades. A key aspect I've found important to film emulation is using it as a "starting point" and never assuming its won't require additional color correction or grading. If you are looking for a one-touch button for color correction, you'll likely be disappointed with this plug-in (and with most plug-ins, for that matter. It just doesn't work that way....yet). 

Koji 3523 S, Source footage courtesy of Phil Arntz

Koji 3523, Source footage courtesy of Phil Arntz

Moving onto the specifics of the plugin, it supports a huge variety of cameras and formats, both Rec709 and LOG. Essentially, if you have a somewhat recent camera, it is likely supported directly within the plug-in, but if not, they also support generic Rec709, Log, and Cineon options to cover you. White balance is offered within the plug-in, using manual kelvin (K) temperature or with the automatic function (which I found worked quite well for an "auto" function). Basic Lift, Gamma, and Gain controls allows you to adjust your image, should it be too dark or bright after the emulation is applied. Printer point controls allow for some quick but powerful adjustments over your image, should it have any type of color cast or white balance issue not fixed by the WB control. The appearance of printer points is a welcome addition, as its a control rarely seen in most recent color correction plug-ins or effects, except for dedicated color correction packages. Lastly, the plug-in allows you to add film grain to your image, sampled from a variety of different film stocks. Sliders for contrast and film grain saturation provide additional control over the look and feel of the film grain, allowing you to really customize its look and feel. 

 

Depending on your system specifications, your NLE, and your graphics card set-up, this plug-in may or may not play in realtime for you, especially if you have numerous effects stacked on top of it. However, most tests using both HD and UHD material played back in realtime using Adobe Premiere CC 2015 for me. I did not get a chance to test the plug-in is Final Cut X.

Koji 2393, Source footage courtesy of Phil Arntz

Koji 2393 N, Source footage courtesy of Phil Arntz

The LUTs provided can almost be seen as a bonus for most, as the plug-in is really the main attraction, but for some, these may be of interest. Having personally used these LUTs (and previous versions of them), I can easily say they are the BEST film emulation LUTs I have used, period. They are extremely subtle, never imposing a "look" I am forced into, and they work on a huge variety of formats and cameras (as they supplied specific versions for each camera \ format). 

As a quick note, I cannot state if the LUTS & plug-in exactly match the Kodak or Fuji print stocks represented, but I can say they provide a very pleasing image that seems similar to my research on the film stocks and several films that have used them. That being said, I cannot attest to their exact "technical" accuracy and in the long run, I do not think it truly matters to a certain extent. Many argue till end of days about film v. digital, and films emulation, but ultimately, I feel its all about the look and feel you prefer. I've found this product extremely useful, especially the LUTs, and would highly recommend it to those looking for a tool to help establish a good starting point for a color grade. 

I put together a quick video demo \ review as well, if you would like to see it in action. Be sure to check out the plugin at www.kojicolor.com.

Koji 3521, Source footage courtesy of Phil Arntz

Koji 3521 N, Source footage courtesy of Phil Arntz

Koji 2303 BW, Source footage courtesy of Phil Arntz