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Opening the monitoring pandora's box : AJA IO Express, Matrox MXO and MXO2, HP LP2480zx, FSI, TV Logic, eCinema, JVC ....

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Nicolas Duchon
Opening the monitoring pandora's box : AJA IO Express, Matrox MXO and MXO2, HP LP2480zx, FSI, TV Logic, eCinema, JVC ....
on Jul 9, 2009 at 12:39:48 pm

First of all, and for my first post on creative cow, I would like to thanks all the people who keep the creative cow communities at this very high level of quality, and all those, might they be professional or not, who share their time and experience with others on those forums. I've already learned a lot thanks to all the peoples here, and I hope that one day I could "send back the elevator" as we say in france (I mean help other people on this community by myself).

Now, right to the core of my questioning :

In september I will move from a full timer salaried video editor job to a freelancer status (doing mainly video editing), wich mean that I won't be able to rely on my employer gear anymore. If I can rent a part of it and include it to my bills, I know I must also buy some stuff, starting with a "real" monitoring solution.

I'm working with a MBP (the 15.4" released just before the new unibody line) under leopard, mainly with FCP6 and Motion3, and I'm starting to learn color. I do not plan to buy a mac pro for the next eight month, so my work configuration is going to be the same for some time (excluding the update to snow leopard and FCS3 when they'll come out).

The point is, as maybe every beginning freelancer, I'm quite on a budget and I'm searching for the most balanced combination of price, quality, and versatility.

For the first year to come, I know that I'll be mainly editing (and learning color grading with) 578p25, a few 578i25, 720p25 and some 720p50, with 4:2:0, 4:2:2, and nearly everything on 8 bits / channel. Almost 100% of this material will be edited for web diffusion. I don't want to close myself the door of 1920x1080, and I would prefer a 10 bit capable solution (but I'm not narrow minded on this point).

I've already saw a few products, asked to my freelancer friends and read a bunch of reviews and discussions boards and the four main options I've got in mind are the following :

1) Go for the outsider HP LP2480zx, with a matrox MXO. I'm going to try the HP screen next month and see if it's worth the hype around him.

Pros : not very expensive (around 3500 $ for the whole thing), the MXO handle the LP2480zx shortcoming (RGB and progressive only signal), very good quality for the money according to what I heard of the HP (from people using it around me), Apple color compatible according to Matrox, up, down and cross conversion.

Cons : The MXO isn't 10 bit capable and is a monitoring only solution no ingest capabilities. Even if I won't need them at the beginning (the ingest capabilities), I know that this will come sooner or later.

2) HP LP2480zx + Matrox MXO2

Pro : Still in acceptable price for me (around 4000 $), rather complete ingest capabilities, 10 bit capable, apple color too (still according to matrox), up, down and cross conversion inside the box.

Cons : Say goodbye to interleaved and psf, or go buy a $1000 gefen box

3) HP LP2480zx + AJA io express

As we still know little about the express, this is mostly assumptions.

Pro : very good price tag for an ingest and monitoring solution, 10 bit capable.

Cons : same problem with interleaved and psf, but the lower price compared to mxo2 make the gefen box a possible buy if I find myself doing a lot of work on interleaved and psf material. No YUV inputs, but this could be "solved" with the addition of YUV to SDI or HD-SDI box from aja. I'm just wondering if this solution is as good as a native YUV input. Is this box compatible with apple color ? Does it have up/down/cross conversion as the matrox ?

For now, if the LP2480zx suit my attempts, this is my favored solution, as it doesn't close me any door (if it's compatible with apple color), and as it allow me some "scaling" according to my needs (adding YUV to SDI/HD-SDI and / or SDI/HD-SDI to HDMI boxes when needed).

4) and last, going to something more "conventional", with a Matrox MXO2, AJA IO Express or Blackmagic equivalent and a Panasonic / JVC / TVLogic / eCinema / FSI in the 2500 to 4500 $ price range (no sony, as I've read and heard too much bad things about them).

Pros : forget about the RGB and progressive only issue of the LP2480zx, those monitors might be of higher quality than the previous, some of them have integrated scope, all of them are broadcast monitors with all the controls and i/o you could expect from them.

Cons : A lot of them ...

The initial price increase greatly, which, combined with the fact that I will only be able to test the most "common" monitors (JVC and Pana) and that I will have to buy outside of France and certainly outside of EU for the FSI, eCinema and TVlogic (and maybe the card too if I want to keep the initial price inside what I can afford), start to make the decision a bit hard and frightening.

For this price, I also believe that none of those monitors are fully 10 bits, while the HP claims to be a 10 bit from inputs to the panel (but again, this is clearly not the main concern, just a "plus" linked to my learning of advanced color correction and basic / advanced grading).

I think (and do not hesitate to correct me if I'm wrong) that the wisest path would be to first choose and buy the monitoring or monitoring/ingest card that best suits my needs, then try the monitors that friends can lend to me, and then choose the monitor.

For now the most numerous questions are around the AJA IO Express, and what exactly it is capable of (color, rgb output over hdmi, up or down conversion ...).

So, this was a very long and boring post, thank you for having it read until the end (and please forgive me if my english still needs some improvements).

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Bob Zelin
Re: Opening the monitoring pandora's box : AJA IO Express, Matrox MXO and MXO2, HP LP2480zx, FSI, TV Logic, eCinema, JVC ....
on Jul 10, 2009 at 2:29:57 am

1) your english is excellent
2) you are crazy - you are going freelance, and you cannot wait to spend your money that you do not have. Freelancers do not own hi end HD LCD monitors. You will never get work because you own an eCinema, FSI, TV Logic, Cinetal or JVC LCD monitor. If you are freelance, you will use your clients equipment, as they will hire you as a freelancer. The I/O Express is designed for field work with a Mac Book Pro (if you have a product like the AJA KiPro). It is a simple I/O box - it will NOT up convert SD to HD, and it will not downconvert HD to SD. I could recommend the I/O HD, but as a freelancer you do not need to buy anything.
3) I suggest that you take all of your money, and figure out how to market yourself to your new clients (that you dont even have yet). You are better suited taking your clients out to lunch, instead of buying expensive equipment. No company is going to hire you as a freelance editor becuase you own an $8000 LCD color grading monitor. An editor with no equipment and wonderful connections will get more work that you will. Get clients - then buy equipment later. There is a funny expression in America "build it, and they will come" - this means that you buy great equipment, and the clients will flock to you, and want to work with you. This is a fantasy. No one will work with you only because you own wonderful equipment. You will be hired on your editing skills, and your connections, not because of the equipment you own.

Bob Zelin

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Nicolas Duchon
Re: Opening the monitoring pandora's box : AJA IO Express, Matrox MXO and MXO2, HP LP2480zx, FSI, TV Logic, eCinema, JVC ....
on Jul 10, 2009 at 3:32:25 am

Hi bob, and thanks for the very honest answer.

Let's clarify a few things :

First, my use of the word "freelance" was maybe a bit wrong, my exact status will be something in between the UK/US definition of the freelance and creating my own small -one person- company (it's some kind of special french status). I can't get into details as I know french system might be different from others, but I'll have around 12 k€ coming from the contract break with my employer as a "bonus" for creating my company when I'll start in september.

I already have the clients in some way, well in fact I already have most of my clients and income for the two years to come, and the bulk of it will come from my ex employer. And honestly their monitoring stuff sucks heavily (it was just an old 1280x720 32" consumer lcd connected to my MBP via DVI output, only good enough for basic editing). And again, and this is were I think the term "freelancer" was wrong, I'm gonna work for the most part at home, for clients that do not have any editing room at all. They give me the footage, I give them a finished product. I know this could looks very weird and unorthodox, but my status will be very more like a one person company.

And last, I already have the 4-5 k€ that I think I could spend on a monitoring solution. I'm not some kind of super rich guy, I just spent very few money this year.

BUT I keep in mind your wise advices, I'll think twice or more about all of this and I won't buy anything if it's unnecessary.

Regarding the AJA IO Ex, I thought it was going on the track of Matrox and their MXO2 / MXO2 mini with conversion capabilities on the outputs. Thanks for the information.

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Michael Sacci
Re: Opening the monitoring pandora's box : AJA IO Express, Matrox MXO and MXO2, HP LP2480zx, FSI, TV Logic, eCinema, JVC ....
on Jul 10, 2009 at 4:31:58 pm

In your first post you list Motion and Color as programs you will be using but you say you have a MBP.

I think the first question and place to spend money, are you setting up a studio to work out of or do you plan to be mobile? If it is a studio you should rather put your money in a new system before you get a high-end monitor. The mxo2 and the IoHD are good choices for being about to use them on the desktop or mbp, the one killer for the mxo2 is it doesn't have TC in which you need on some live captures. I you are not going to do any mobile work than cards in a MP are cheaper for the same feature set. MBP are great and you can do a lot with them but I think they should be a second system that is only used on the road, in house you should be on a Mac Pro if nothing else for the ability to get faster drives.

I planning on getting on the FSI grade 1 monitors when things pick up but I'm going with the 17" version to save a little money.

my 2 cents.

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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Opening the monitoring pandora's box : AJA IO Express, Matrox MXO and MXO2, HP LP2480zx, FSI, TV Logic, eCinema, JVC ....
on Jul 12, 2009 at 4:09:53 pm

[Nicolas Duchon] "my use of the word "freelance" was maybe a bit wrong, "

Yes, now that you are going to be out on your own, your need to promptly start using the term "expensivelance".

I would start with a faster computer as well. You can get by without too much of everything else until you get some paid jobs. Once you have those, then you can start buying more gear and the jobs will dictate what you need. Since you are grading for web, you can seriously get away with a lot more than you can for broadcast.

When you do decide on a monitor, you will need something that will display SD fairly well as it sounds like you are doing SD. Not all HD LCDs are created equal in the SD department.

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