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

NeoDCP: The Independent Filmmakers DCP Review & Playback Solution?

If you are an independent filmmaker who has dabbled in film distribution, or read my previous article reviewing CuteDCP, you may be wondering what you can do with these high quality Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs), aside from using them to play back your film in its highest quality at a cinema or film festival. Well, for many, it sits on a hard drive, waiting to be submitted to the next festival or used at a its next screening (should that ever occur). Luckily, we've gotten to the point where both computer hardware and software have given us alternatives to this and allow us to playback DCPs on any off-the-shelf mid-range PC. 

Before I begin to discuss how awesome it can be to play a DCP on your computer, it has some major limitations that you should be aware of. These limitations are EXACTLY the reason many colorists & editors suggest you have a professional post house create and test screen your DCP with a calibrated cinema projector. I absolutely agree with this mentality, as a true cinema test screening will give you confidence in your DCP as you've seen it displayed properly. As fantastic as that is, its also a very expensive process that many cannot afford, should they want to participate in festivals or true cinema screenings of their film (meaning NOT a BluRay player connected to a projector). Recent developments in both encoding and decoding technology have allowed developers to create more affordable solutions, such as the one I'll be reviewing today: NeoDCP.

 Sample Screenshot of NeoDCP Player and Separate Control Panel

Sample Screenshot of NeoDCP Player and Separate Control Panel

I discovered NeoDCP when I was searching for an affordable playback solutions for DCP playback that allowed me to control the Rec709 conversion, which makes the image look normal on a typical monitor or TV (geek talk for double checking the XYZ color conversion performed during the encoding process). This is simply one of MANY useful features offered by NeoDCP, as I discovered during my testing period with the application. Some of the features that colorists, editors, cinemas, and festival organizers might find useful include:

  • Supports playback resolutions of 2K and 4K, along with stereo 3D output
  • Playback support for both encrypted and unencrypted DCPs
  • Supports both InterOp and SMPTE subtitle formats
  • Separate Controller and Playback window, allows for full screen playback with an operator controlling the playlist on a second monitor (VERY useful for public screenings)
  • Extremely responsive customer & technical support
  • Frequent Updates
 NeoDCP's Playlist Editor

NeoDCP's Playlist Editor

NeoDCP's Playlist Editor allows you to queue up multiple DCPs, adding black space in between, trailers, commercials, or whatever you need to automate. It can all be set, saved, and recalled as well, for future use. I imagine this feature being extremely useful for a film festival or theater, where one person could program the entire schedule in advance and it would be all set.  

 NeoDCP Extensive Color Transfor Settings

NeoDCP Extensive Color Transfor Settings

The Color Transform settings are something most people will set and forget. However, being able to adjust the gamma curve, conversion from XYZ, reference white and even adjust the XYZ color matrix manually makes NeoDCP ideal for almost any situation, and extremely helpful when you need to double check the conversion on a DCP. For example, if your film was mastered in Rec709 color space (typical HD) and converted to DCP, it will only look correct if played on a cinema screen. NeoDCP runs a reverse conversion that converts the video BACK to Rec709 so it looks normal when played back on a monitor, tablet, television, etc. If you compare the source file used to create the DCP and the output from NeoDCP on the same monitor and it greatly differs, there was likely an error in the conversion process. There WILL be some differences, but it should not be drastically different. Use your judgement, as your are most familiar with your film. 

 NeoDCP's Inspect DCP feature allows you to look deep inside a DCP.

NeoDCP's Inspect DCP feature allows you to look deep inside a DCP.

The Inspect DCP functionality allows you to dissect a DCP, seeing every bit of metadata and more.  You can access the total running time, files, XML information, and more. I have found this feature useful when I accidentally misnamed a DCP and needed to determine what it was 100% without playing it back (as it was on a cinema server). 

 The KDM Manager is where you handle all encryption \ decryption settings, usually a certificate issued from the DCP encoding facility.&nbsp;

The KDM Manager is where you handle all encryption \ decryption settings, usually a certificate issued from the DCP encoding facility. 

The KDM Manager is where you handle all certificates for encrypted DCPs, which tend to come from the DCP encoding facility. As I did not test any encrypted DCPs nor do I encode encrypted DCPs, I did not get to test this functionality.

 The General Video settings, where you can set scaling and masking as needed.

The General Video settings, where you can set scaling and masking as needed.

The general video settings allow you to set scaling and masking settings, as needed. One unique aspect of a DCP is a higher resolution (4K) DCP can be played back at a lower resolution (2K) and even lower without much additional processing needed to rescale.  This cannot be said about H264, BluRay, and most other distributable formats. Lastly, NeoDCP offers a compatibility based "resilient" decoder, which is better at decoding partially damaged DCPs. Overall playback performance on my quad core Intel i5 PC, 32Gb RAM, Nvidia GTX 660 graphic card, running Windows 7 was smooth sailing at 2K, offering smooth stutter free playback on a secondary monitor.

 Manage DCP Libraries within NeoDCP

Manage DCP Libraries within NeoDCP

Overall, NeoDCP is an extremely impressive software DCP player. It offers a significant amount of control over the picture, sound, and other technical aspects typically hidden by most media players at a price that is extremely competitive, if not destructive to its more well-known competition. With licenses available starting from $83 for a basic license all the way up to $2166 for a fully-featured 4K public theatrical license, it may be one of the cheapest DCP players I'm aware of that offers high quality 4K playback, numerous options for video and audio customization, and a fully featured DCP toolkit. The biggest limitation is that NeoDCP is only available for Windows, so Mac users will need to stick with EasyDCP, FinalDCP, and QuVis DCP Player unfortunately. Be sure to check out NeoDCP and try out their 30 day trial. You'll be pleasantly surprised, compared to other "budget friendly" DCP playback and review solutions available. I certainly was.  

Editors Note: I was provided a temporary license to NeoDCP Professional for the purposes of evaluation, testing and review of the application.  The above opinions are my completely my own, uncensored and unbiased. I have no affiliation with NeoDCP or its developer.

CuteDCP Review - An Easy & Affordable DCP Encoding Solution

If you are a filmmaker in this crazy age of technology, you've likely heard of DCPs, or Digital Cinema Packages. As 35mm film projectors have slowly been replaced by digital equivalents at most movie theaters and film festival, DCPs replace the expensive 35mm celluloid "film prints" that had to be created and distributed to each theatre playing the film. In other words, a DCP is a digital negative of the film, stored on either a hard disk, USB flash drive, or delivered via the Internet ("Cloud Delivery", as some call it). This is great news for distribution, especially for the independent and lower budget films, as it is significantly cheaper to create and distribute a DCP to thousands of theaters and festivals than it is to create a film print, possibly only to be seen in a few theaters over the life of the print. Long story short, DCP is a great choice for creating a cinema-quality deliverable asset for your film that is future proof (to a certain extent) and easy to distribute. 

cutedcp_banner_250x80.png

Now that we're all on the same page about DCPs, we can jump to the main purpose of this article:  a review of Fandev's CuteDCP export plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects. While there are free options, like OpenDCP, and included solutions with certain editing applications, such as the QuVis "Wraptor DCP" output options available within Adobe Media Encoder, they leave a lot to be desired in terms of customization, options, and specific to OpenDCP, quality. If you look for alternatives, you'll discover EasyDCP, FinalDCP, and the very commonly suggested "Have a professional post house create a DCP for you". The only issue with all three of those suggestions, accurate as they may be, is they are all quite expensive.

 The Export Settings available within Adobe Media Encoder

The Export Settings available within Adobe Media Encoder

Enter CuteDCP: a unique export plug-in for Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro that costs $163 for one version, or $270 for both. In comparison, the EasyDCP plug-in for Resolve costs almost $1300, FinalDCP costs a whopping $1631, and even upgrading the built-in Wraptor DCP in Adobe Media Encoder is a fairly pricey $699 (although you can at least rent that on a monthly basis). With the alternative DCP encoders broken down by price, its no question that CuteDCP wins by a mile, but it doesn't offer every feature, such as using a render farm and other computers to assist in the encoding process, so there are still reasons to consider using a higher end solution. Let's take a look at some of its features:

  • Support resolutions of 2K and 4K at framerates of 24, 25, 30, 48, 50, or 60. 
  • A built-in Title Helper, which makes it very easy to name exported content exactly to DCP specifications. Some projector systems do not identify the various DCPs available except by this "title", so its important that it be easy to use without having to learn much for a DCP novice. 
  • Supports both the legacy standard, InterOp, and the latest standard, SMPTE. 
  • Supports import of CineCanvas (InterOp) Subtitles and SMPTE subtitles. 
  • Allows both stereo and 5.1 audio encoding straight from the timeline. 
  • Uses a multi-threaded CPU only encoding design for its internal Rec709 to XYZ color space conversion.
  • DCP Metadata Control 

I'm sure you are anxious to hear how about the quality of CuteDCP encodings, aside from its features. It was a major concern of mine, seeing the significant cost difference between it and other encoders. I'm happy to report that the quality was just as good as several other higher end encoders I blind tested, many times to the extent I could not tell which application encoded the DCP during a screening. The only limitations are based on the source application feeding the plug-in, so Premiere and After Effects. I did notice it being slightly slower than the included QuVis Wraptor output, but considering that its a "lite" version of a $700 plug-in, its not surprising its slightly faster than CuteDCP. Quality wise, I found no "visually perceptible" difference between the two encodings, even with CuteDCP using half the bit-rate of Wraptor (The included Wraptor DCP plug-in with Adobe Creative Cloud is locked down to the highest bitrate, no changes can be made). The ability to enable\disable the XYZ conversion and adjust the encoding bitrate separates CuteDCP from the built-in Wraptor DCP "lite" option, which has virtually no control and is limited to 2K outputs. My favorite additional feature was the Title Helper (pictured below), which helps you quickly & accurately name your DCP according to Digital Cinema Naming Convention without having to even know what that that is (find out more about it here,  if you are curious).  

 The Title Helper Feature in Action

The Title Helper Feature in Action

Unfortunately, being a plug-in may be CuteDCP's biggest limitations, as it is completely reliant on After Effects and Premiere Pro (with Adobe Media Encoder). With neither being a true color or finishing application, CuteDCP limits the input image color space to Rec709 (aka typical HD), so those who have color graded in the P3 color space (native to digital cinemas) will need to look elsewhere for DCP encoding solutions. However, if you are grading in P3, you aren't likely to be looking to save a few hundred dollars on DCP creation anyway, so this isn't much of a limitation in my opinion. One other issue with CuteDCP is it doesn't do any type of source image color space detection, so it is assuming your source file is correctly formatted to a Rec709 (Something to should discuss with your colorist). Other higher end encoders offer scopes and other input color space tools, but these are missing from CuteDCP due to its export plug-in nature. Lastly, CuteDCP currently does not use any form of GPU acceleration, although its said to be coming in a future version. With the conversion to JPEG2000 being a very computationally intensive conversion, I don't blame them for sticking with CPUs for reliability and consistency. I would love to see GPU acceleration added to some extent in the future, as long as it doesn't sacrifice quality for performance, but thats a very small complaint.  Even with the limitations, I still feel this is an extremely affordable solution that will cover every need for 90% of filmmakers looking to create their own Digital Cinema Package (DCP) but want something more complete than the included Wraptor "lite"DCP. 

 Test Encoding times&nbsp;from a 4K ProRes XQ to 2K DCP \ 1080p H264

Test Encoding times from a 4K ProRes XQ to 2K DCP \ 1080p H264

Overall, I've been very pleased with CuteDCP in general and I absolutely recommend it to independent filmmakers, colorists, and editors looking to add DCPs to the long list of customizable output formats that can be exported from Adobe Media Encoder and After Effects. It brings a fairly customizable DCP encoding solution to a price point previously untouched by any of its competition. In specific, it offers many easy to use features like the Title Helper to help those less familiar with DCPs, while delivering a high quality DCP conversion (assuming the source image is correctly formatted). It limitations seem to be partially based in its design as a plug-in and its reliance on a host application, but for most, this won't be an issue for most except power users. Both plug-ins and more can be found at FanDev.com.

In my next blog article, I discuss how we can review our DCP without access to a theater or cinema projector. 

Editors Note: This plug-in was provided to me for evaluation, testing and review purposes. That said, the above review is completely unbiased and uncensored, as I have no affiliation with FanDev. Anything expressed is solely based on my own testing and opinions formed during the process.