Using an OLED TV for Film Post Production
When you spend all day looking at images, as I do as a film editor, you really want to look at them on the best possible display you can, or at least the best that you can afford.
A professional broadcast OLED monitor, like the Sony BVM-X300 30 inch 4K TriMaster EL OLED, will set you back around £35,000, which is certainly more than I can afford, and far more than I require.
But consumer grade OLED TVs that costs a 10th of this, have come on in leaps and bounds in the past few years. Manufacturers like LG have been especially cognisant of the professional consumer by, for example, providing greater access to internal calibration controls, making top of the line OLED TVs a very viable option for your editing and colour grading suite.
In this extensive post I’m going to discuss why you should consider an OLED display for post production work.
G was kind enough to send me a 55″ OLED E8 (2018) TV for the purposes of this article.
This is the 2018 model as the 2019 model wasn’t quite available in the UK at the time of writing.
From what I can tell the major differences between the 2018 and 2019 models aren’t huge, although there were certainly beneficial upgrades from a post production perspective, such as:
• Second generation Alpha 9 Intelligent Processor
• Improvements in the fine grain picture controls
• Easier access to peak brightness controls
• Custom HDR Tone-Mapping and enhanced calibration tools
• HDMI 2.1 features including eARC support
But as we’re on the cusp of the new models being released around the world, this is actually an excellent time to snap up a bargain, as the previous year’s models are often heavily discounted.
For example, the popular LG 55″ C8 OLED is only $1599.99 whereas the 2019 model (C9) should cost around $2,499.
In writing this post, I found three main sources incredibly helpful in bringing me up to speed on a lot of the technical details surrounding OLED TVs.
• Professional TV calibrator and reviewer Vincent Teoh’s HDTVTest YouTube channel is a gold mine of technical comparisons
between TVs and models, as well as deadpan comedic delivery style.
• RTings.com provided some great insights on the LG C8/E8 models specifically as well as a really interesting results from their
extended ‘burn-in’ test, in which they’ve been running 9 TVs for 20 hours a day for a year.
• Mixing Light.com’s interviews with Portrait Display’s Tyler Pruitt were especially helpful for the calibration section of this post.
The team behind Mixing Light also recently created an excellent 12-part series of free training for creating in Dolby Vision.
Using an OLED TV for Film Editing
So what are the benefits of using an OLED display in your edit suite? And what are some of the technical terms and procedures you’ll need to understand to get the best results from your OLED?
Here is a quick list of some compelling reasons for using an OLED for post production, which all apply to the LG 55″ E8 OLED I was provided:
Quality of the image – Perfect blacks, vivid colours, wide colour gamuts, high contrast ratios and High Dynamic Range (HDR) support.
An OLED is able to deliver perfect blacks because when each pixel is off, it emits no light. This is the basis for its ability to deliver a visually delightful contrast ratio, which is the range between the darkest pixel and the brightest.
Per-pixel dimming also means that you don’t get a halo effect around the brightest parts of the image because, unlike an LCD TV which relies on ‘local dimming’ which occurs at a block level, each pixel is its own light source. Overall this results in a much richer image with finer details.
The LG E8 OLED is also able to display a wide colour gamut covering almost all of the DCI-P3 digital cinema colour space, although technically the highlights will de-saturate slightly at the highest levels of luminosity the display can produce.
(Colour Gamut is the breadth of colours a display can reproduce, and colour volume is how well the display can reproduce them across a range of brightness)
This means that the colour reproduction will be extremely vivid and strong across the spectrum.
Obviously this also depends on what you feed the TV. The higher quality image you provide, such as masterfully produced UHD or 4K HDR content, will enable the display to really show off its capabilities.
Size and Resolution of the Image
The LG E8 is a UHD 4K TV which means that it has 3840 x 2160 pixels, so it’s perfect viewing UHD 4K HDR content (Blu-ray is only SDR HD at 1920 x 1080) available from streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV or on UHD Blu-rays.
Given the physical size of these TVs, ranging from 55″ and 65″ to 77″, they’re ideal as a large client monitor, or large grading monitor when you want to view your high resolution images closer to (or at) their native pixel spec. Also viewing your project on a larger display will also help you pick up on details that you might have missed on a smaller screen.
Personally, I can’t fit a 65″ or 77″ TV into my editing suite, but if you’re working in a larger room, with comfortable client seating a distance away, they’ll love seeing their work on a high quality display.
I also own the LG 31MU97, which is a true 4K monitor with 4096 x 2160 pixels, which I love editing on, all day long. This will also show me full 4K images, pixel-for pixel, in full screen, but having a second large display to view my creative work on will be a great asset.
Wide Viewing Angles
Most often in an editing or grading suite the room is set up so that everyone is facing the display directly, but any ‘off-axis’ shifts in colour or contrast from a lesser display will soon become apparent and sow doubt in the mind of your client about whether they can really trust what they are seeing and the creative decisions they’re making.
One of the additional benefits of an OLED TV is that the image looks great from a really wide range of viewing angles, without these kinds of problems.
This also helps to keep everyone happy if the TV is in the living room and not everyone can sit right in front of the TV.
Ease and Quality Calibration in the TV
One of the things I’ve heard time and again from listening to colourists like those behind MixingLight.com, is that, when properly calibrated, the LG C8 and E8 monitors can stand up very well next to far more expensive broadcast monitors, in terms of displaying an accurate and pleasing image.
One of the benefits of a correctly calibrated monitor is the confidence it delivers to you as a creative professional that what you are seeing is correct, even if the client feeds back that things don’t look quite right to them when watching the grade on their iPhone in the back of a taxi under phosphorus street lights.
One of the benefits of LG’s partnership with Portrait Displays (owners of SpectraCal), the maker of calibration software CalMAN, is that the software can now directly access the 1D and 3D LUTs on the TV ensuring accurate calibration. This removes the need and expense of running your image through a separate LUT box.
The 2019 LG C8 and E8 models are now also capable of running their own test pattern generators which also removes the need and expense of using a hardware-based pattern generator.
Broad Picture Format Support – SDR, HDR (Dolby Vision, HDR10, HLG Pro)
If you’re still not 100% sure what HDR is and how it works, then this very clear 4 minute video from Ripple Training’s Mark Spencer will give you all the salient details.
Not only does HDR support allow for images with a higher dynamic range to be displayed on your screen, Dolby Vision also allows for further metadata to be added on a scene by scene (or shot or frame) basis, to instruct the TV how to handle the dynamic range at that point.
This is as opposed to static HDR metadata which is a one size fits all approach throughout a film or TV show.
There is an ever-expanding range of HDR formats, with no clear winner just yet (LG TV’s do not support the newer HDR10+ for example). I found this helpful tidbit of info in this helpful primer on HDR from What Hi-fi:
Another advantage of Dolby Vision is that the metadata is embedded into the video signal, meaning it can run across ‘legacy’ HDR connections as far back as version 1.4b. Despite only using static metadata, HDR10 requires HDMI 2.0a compatibility.
In conclusion, I hope it is obvious that there are a substantial number of reasons for adding an OLED display into your post production environment, especially if you’re doing work that reaches audiences via broadcast TV, streaming services or theatrical release.
The high quality of the images will definitely impress your clients, and the ability to professionally calibrate your display will give you both creative and technical confidence in what you’re viewing. Make sure you’ve also properly considered your video pipeline (more on that below) and how you will physically fit the TV into your existing creative space for best results.
For a short example of a creative use-case for LG’s OLED TV in professional creative workflows, watch this short promo video from LG and Technicolor.
Technicolor’s senior colourist Tony Dustin shares why he and cinematographer John Toll, ASC and director Lana Wachowski all purchased LG OLEDs whilst finishing the remote colour grade for Netflix’s Sense 8, in order to accurately view and collaborate on crafting the same image as each other, and (potentially) the end viewer.