The LG 4K OLED E8 – A Film Editor’s Review
In this post, I wanted to share a few personal observations on what it is actually like, as a film editor, to work with an LG 55″ E8 OLED, for both business and pleasure.
First of all, I just want to say that it is one thing to see an OLED in a busy shopping centre, with it’s brightness, saturation and sharpness all cranked up to 11 and think that it looks maybe OK, but it is quite another to bring one into your own home or edit suite and get it set up just the way you like it, either by eye or with professional calibration, and stare at it for hours on end.
Once you turn off most of the pre-processing settings, such as motion smoothing (the soap opera effect), noise reduction, sharpness, etc. and set the picture mode to Cinema, Technicolor Expert or ISF Expert, then the images really do come into a league of their own.
Whenever anyone talks about OLEDs, they naturally gravitate towards the incredible inky blacks. And it’s hard not to. They are just so much deeper and ‘blacker’ than any TV or monitor I’ve used previously and it’s the foundation of their uniquely pleasing images.
These ‘perfect blacks’ drive much of our human visual perception for contrast, perceived detail and saturation and so the OLED display’s strength in this area drives some spectacular images.
When I first set up the TV, I experimented with the various picture profiles whilst watching Netflix’s Our Planet nature documentary series, which features a vast array of phenomenal nature photography, and the quality of the images from the tropical ocean scenes, was breathtaking.
What always delights me about really great technology is when it can make an old experience feel new again.
That’s how I felt the first time I tried nuraphone headphones, which create a tailored audio experience that matches how you personally experience sound – and it makes your favourite songs feel brand new and alive again.
I once again had the same feeling the first time I sat in front of the LG E8. I keep wanting to watch different films on it just to see how they look. Mad Max: Fury Road looks incredible in either colour or ‘black and chrome’!
One of the things that I really appreciated about the LG OLED E8 was the breadth of controls available to you to calibrate the image to your own taste and viewing environment.
These controls go well beyond a simple ‘brightness, contrast and saturation’, as you can see in one of the sub-menu previews, above.
If you’re going to invest the substantial required capital in acquiring one of these TVs, you’ll definitely want to have as much control over getting the best images out of it as possible, so it’s worth taking your time to work through some of the more detailed controls buried in the picture settings menus.
My hope is that the even greater depth of control that was added to the 2019 line up of LG TVs will be rolled out in a later firmware update to the 2018 models too, as these enhancements appear to be software related, rather than hardware dependent.
But, I’m also keen to get the OLED professionally calibrated in the near future, or to do it myself using the new and far more affordable CalMAN Home calibration software too.
This will definitely strengthen my confidence that I’m truly getting the best out of the display in terms of colour accuracy and quality.
Using LG OLED TV in the Edit Suite
Unboxing and setting up the TV was pretty straight forward, and the instructions were easy to follow. Although given the physical size of the display you’ll definitely need another person to help you manoeuvre it around safely.
Connecting the TV to my Mac Pro, via the Blackmagic Design UltraStudio 4K was also very straightforward via the Thunderbolt 2 out from the Mac Pro to the UltraStudio 4K, and then an HDMI cable from the UltraStudio to the TV.
The first time I ran the UltraStudio 4K, its fan was incredibly loud, but after updating the Blackmagic Design Desktop Video Utility software to the latest version the fan noise dropped to a very discrete level.
The picture quality looked fantastic, even when up-scaling lower resolution and quality footage. There was also no discernible lag.
You’ll need to configure a few settings in your editing software of choice to feed the UltraStudio 4K with an image out, but the manual for the Desktop Video Utility software covers all the major applications.
The whole thing is pretty much plug and play.
From a film editor’s point of view, having a second large monitor in my suite helped to re-shape the way I tend to work for the better.
After editing for a few hours, or at key stages in my progress, I used to put the image up in full screen on my computer monitor and stand at the back of the room, watch my current cut.
This context switching helps me to get a little distance from the edit and see it with a fresh perspective (both figuratively and literally) – to critically evaluate what’s working and what’s not.
Having the LG E8 OLED TV just to my right meant that I would turn and watch edits back more often, and get a real sense of how the project is coming together more frequently.
Another huge benefit of the technology behind the OLED is that it seems to readily swallow up reflections from windows and lights with ease.
When I first set up the TV in my living room, which has a wall of glass on one side, and the unit was off, I could see most of the room reflected in the screen.
As soon as I switched it on and began watching a show, the reflections vanished from a fairly direct viewing angle.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that in numerous reviews and articles that I’d consumed as part of my research for this post, the constant comparison with QLEDs was that they are much brighter than OLEDs – reaching well beyond the eyes’ comfort level.
From my personal experience, in a dimly lit edit suite, or a darkened living room for an evening movie viewing, I just don’t know why you would want it to be that bright.
I adjusted the OLED light down by about 50% of the default setting on the ISF Expert Dark Room picture mode.
Now obviously greater brightness levels can lead to far more realistic looking images, and in the real world, our eyes are used to seeing objects at well beyond 10,000 nits! But if you’re considering not buying an OLED due to another TV ‘being brighter’, I’d really recommend checking out an OLED first.
There’s a lot of numbers in marketing and not all of them are helpful indicators.
The sound quality of the built-in Dolby Atmos capable front-firing speakers was also excellent, although I’m sure adding a purpose-built (and physically much larger) sound-bar speaker system would elevate things even further.
In comparison to the more affordable LG C8 OLED TV, I believe the speakers are larger in that model, but also down-firing – which is why the curved speaker stand is designed to scoop the sound towards you, but personally, I prefer the design and functionality of the E8.
Although the LG E8 OLED TV is entirely capable of supporting HDR workflows (as well as high refresh rate gaming inputs), this isn’t something I’ve really worked with and so I’m not really going to cover these topics here.
However, one of the tips from RTings.com was that if you find the HDR content too dim on your uncalibrated TV, you can “set the Dynamic Contrast setting to ‘High’ and the Dynamic Tone Mapping to ‘On’. These settings will raise the EOTF and brighten most HDR scenes.”
If you are starting to create HDR content and want to get some free training on creating and delivering Dolby Vision projects, I’d highly recommend checking out Mixing Light’s 12 part series created for Dolby here.
If you’re a colourist or editor who does a lot of attended sessions with clients, and you want to strike a strong first impression, then having a correctly calibrated OLED on your wall will go a long way to presenting their projects in the best possible way.
The clarity, resolution and sheer beauty of the images an OLED can display is something that really transformed my own personal expectations of what a TV should be able to do.
I can already anticipate spending more money on high-resolution versions of some of my favourite films, just to see how they look on this screen, and experience them a new, once again.