Using an OLED TV for Film Post Production
Correctly Connecting an OLED TV to Your Computer
Another important thing to get right is connecting your new OLED to your editing system in a way that provides the cleanest video signal path from the clip on the hard drive through to the monitor itself.
In this image from the Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Configuration Guide you can see that they recommend connecting the 2013 Mac Pro via Thunderbolt to an I/O box like the UltraStudio 4K and from there via HDMI 2.0 to the OLED.
Although the Mac Pro has an HDMI port built in, (1.4b UHD) the reason that you need to use something like the UltraStudio 4K ($995/£785) in between, is so that the video signal goes directly from the software to the monitor and by-passes the GPU (and it’s drivers) and the operating system ICC profiles.
Although I’m talking here about the 2013 Mac Pro, which is what I’m still running as my desktop machine in my home edit suite, the principal is the same regardless of your system.
To use the Blackmagic Design UltraStudio 4K with a MacBook Pro Thunderbolt 3 laptop, you will need a Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapter.
“With HDR, every bit counts. Since HDR is about smooth gradation in an expanded luminance range, you need at least 10-bits to properly display HDR.” – Patrick Southern, Lumaforge
The need for an external IO box is especially true when working with HDR material as it requires all the bit-depth and bandwidth you can give it. You can read more about this in the ‘What About HDR?’ section of my Colour Management for Video Editors post.
Here are a couple of quotes from my article on Colour Management for Video Editors to explain the basic details.
Understanding Colour Pipeline Management
Video Signal Chain: Source Footage > NLE > OS > IO/GPU > Cable > Monitor
Video Processing/Viewing Chain: Source Footage > NLE > Export Codec/Bit Rate > Viewing App > Web Service Compression > Web Browser > Monitor
Let’s say you want to get a Rec.709 10bit video image to your eye-balls the whole time, what would you need to do?
You would need to take a Rec. 709 10bit video file, edit it in your NLE maintaining that bit depth and colour space, output that video signal to your external monitor in 10bit and in Rec.709 and view it on a monitor with a 10bit panel, calibrated to Rec.709.
The reason to use a dedicated IO card (like the UltraStudio 4K) is that it gives you a properly managed colour pipeline that by-passes the operating system’s GPU and colour profile settings and gets you straight from the NLE to your monitor without alternation (unless you’ve got some hardware calibration going on too).
That way, if you know you’ve got a 10bit Rec. 709 video file and you’re outputting it via the IO to a 10bit Rec. 709 calibrated monitor you should be good to go.
Understanding OLED TV Specs and Technical Terms
With all these terms floating around I thought it would be worth quickly summarising some of the salient points for each.
The biggest competitor to OLED tech is that of QLED, which is essentially just “an LCD TV with a quantum dot filter which improves colour and light management”, as you’ll hear in this useful breakdown of OLED Vs QLED and the likely use cases for each from Trusted Reviews.
Essentially QLED displays cannot match the deep blacks or viewing angles of OLED TVs.
OLED’s are better suited to darker, more cinematic viewing environments and are usually rated to achieve a maximum brightness of 1000 nits OLED TVs, which stands for Organic Light Emitting Display by the way, are also running on completely different technology where-in each pixel can light up individually or turn off – hence the deep blacks – without a separate light source.
Whereas, QLEDs have a back or side lighting layer, which also leads to other side effects such as haloing, grey-blacks and loss of detail.
The main thing to understand is that our viewing experience is based on contrast ratios.
So an image that has deep blacks, but doesn’t go ‘as bright’ can still present a beautiful image with a high contrast ratio, compared to one that has lifted blacks but is also much brighter.
In the reviews I’ve seen the LG OLED E8 goes to about 750 nits, whilst other QLED TVs can hit 2000 nits.
These brighter QLED TVs may be better suited to sun drenched day-time TV viewing on your sofa, but won’t deliver perfect blacks in a dimly lit editing suite. This is why so many post professionals are using OLEDs.
For an accessible explanation of nits (and lumens), check out this article on lifewire.com.