Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

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TobiasSchachinger

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Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostTue Jan 03, 2017 7:52 pm

Hello everyone,

I've been working in video post-production as a freelancer for a few years now, and I think it's about time I got myself some decent hardware for color work. As I don't have too much experience on this area (plus I don't have a very large budget), I am looking for some advice here.

Here's a quick overview of what I'm currently working with and what I am looking to buy:

Status Quo:
  • PC with an i7 CPU and GTX760 GPU
  • 2 consumer range HDMI monitors
  • Datacolor Spyder5 Colorimeter
  • Adobe Creative Cloud + DaVinci Resolve 12
  • I'm working mostly with 1080p and 2160p 4:2:0 8-bit footage, but also some 4:2:2 10-bit

What I want to get:
  • A reference monitor (doesn't need to be too high-end, just 10-bit and calibratable)
  • A workstation GPU (Radeon Pro or Quadro)
  • A Blackmagic video card to connect the reference monitor

Here's why I want to get a workstation GPU:
  • Hardware acceleration in Adobe Premiere: Adobe doesn't support the GTX760 here. I know the Radeon Pro series is currently not supported either, but as far as I understand, it soon will be. And I think a GPU like that could significantly increase preview and rendering performance - right?
  • Calibration: With my current hardware, when I calibrate my monitors, I'm getting extreme noise combined with falsely displayed colors and block artifacts in the shadows and some banding. I read somewhere that using a GPU that can work with 10-bit LUTs (which only AMD Radeon, Radeon Pro and FirePro, and NVIDIA Quadro cards can) would fix that. Can someone confirm that?

Here's why I want to get a video I/O card: According to what I learned in college (I'm studying media technology), this would be the only way to bypass the OS color management and get an accurate Rec.709/2020 output to my reference monitor.

My absolute maximum budget for those three things combined is 1.000€. Because of this, the components I'm leaning towards are
  • Radeon Pro WX4100 or WX5100 (350-450€ here in Austria)
  • Dell UltraSharp 25" 1440p display (UP2516D, I'm not allowed to post URLs but you can find it on the Dell homepage under Monitors, 25-28", Usage: Productivity) as reference monitor (350€) (don't think I need 4K, this guy is 10-bit and, according to Dell, it can be calibrated and display 100% Adobe RGB, I think that should do)
  • Blackmagic Mini Monitor 4K (around 200€) to connect the reference monitor.



Now, what I'd like to know is:

Does any of the above make sense? Especially, does it make sense to get both a workstation GPU and a video card, or does the Blackmagic card solve my calibration problems and I can get a cheaper gaming GPU just for the hardware acceleration? Does the way I split the money between those three components generally make sense for someone who is not a professional colorist, but wants to do basic color work in a workflow as accurate as possible for my kind of budget?

Also, is the above mentioned monitor good enough to be a reference monitor? Do you think I should rather go for a 4K monitor (not working with a lot of 4K footage now, but it might become more in the future)?

Plus, I'm not clear on how my workflow is going to look with this kind of setup, especially when it comes to calibration. Where is the calibration data saved? I thought until now that it was saved on the GPU, but is that also the case for the reference monitor that's not even connected to the GPU directly? And does it even make any sense at all to calibrate the consumer monitors (I'd still like them to be as accurate as possible even if I have a reference monitor next to them)?

And a way more basic question: Are the above mentioned components even compatible to each other? Would it even work to connect two monitors to the GPU and one to the Blackmagic and then have all three of them running in Windows extended desktop mode? Or will I only be able to use the reference monitor as a preview monitor in Premiere and Resolve?




I know this is a lot to ask at once, but as I said, I'm just lacking a lot of experience here and it has happened to me several times before that I bought something without doing enough research before and then found out later that I should have bought something else and/or could have saved a lot of money.

I don't expect anyone to answer all my questions at once, but it would be awesome if someone could answer a few, and someone else could answer some others, until I know what I need to know :D
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Jack Fairley

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostTue Jan 03, 2017 9:25 pm

You will only be able to use a monitor connected to a Blackmagic card as a reference using software that supports that, it won't be seen as a monitor to Windows. I am not a colorist at all, but my understanding is the folks here use gaming cards for acceleration and GUI, and look exclusively at the reference monitor (connected to BMD card) for grading, as only that will be correct.

edit: Also, you might have better luck in the Resolve forum :)
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Marc Wielage

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostWed Jan 04, 2017 4:07 am

My advice is you can't do it in this price range, not effectively. There are always compromises that can be made, but if you're talking about billable work with real clients, it's going to cost more than this. If you're just a student or doing very small projects for zero money, that's understandable.
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Erik Wittbusch

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostWed Jan 04, 2017 7:09 am

I've had a similar situation early last year. But I waited for a job and put more money in the place.

I started with an Eizo CG247 and a BMD Minimum Display device. You can also use the CX or even CS monitors from Eizo, but they lack internal custom 3DLUT storage. There are also some not so bad Benq and NEC and other displays out there, but all of them need to be calibrated according EBUs BT.1886 or REC.709. The Eizos have proven to be accurate when calibrated and they can show real 24, 25, 30 and 50, 60 fps.

Further you'll need a probe and a CMS like Lightspace or DisplayCal. DisplayCal is free, the cheapest probe that wotks is the i1 Display Pro from XRite.

This is an absolute minimum. I'm doing work on my iMac with i7 4core 3,4GHz, 24GB Ram, GTX680 with 2GB and fast SSD as a cache drive. Footage is stored on either 2 or 4 disk Thunderbolt RAIDs.

It's gonna work if you like caching a lot, because of the weak GPU.
But I'd advice a better GPU. At least a Radeon RX480 or better GTX1070. A GTX1080 will enable you to work with 4k resolutions as well without lots of caching.

Resolve really is performance hungry.

I'm planning to buy a new machine soon. It will have a 6core i7 CPU, 32GB RAM minimum, 1x GTX1080Ti with a fast M2 cache drive and internal RAID.
You can't really build a computer suitable for grading below 2k bucks. You'll need approx. the same for monitoring and later on more money for software and panels.
You should buy a Tangent Ripple and the Studio Version of Resolve very soon!

To sum it up: You can begin with approx. 2-3k for monitor, Video I/O device and a better GPU but be prepared to spend the same amount again for a halfway professional grading station minimum.

Most people plan to invest 15k for a grading station from scratch. And this is often without desk and client monitor.

Don't forget that you'll need a dark place without colorful furniture and 6500K ambient light!
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Marc Wielage

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostThu Jan 05, 2017 10:37 am

Erik has very good advice above.
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TobiasSchachinger

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostSun Jan 08, 2017 5:06 pm

Thank you all for your replies!

Jack Fairley wrote:You will only be able to use a monitor connected to a Blackmagic card as a reference using software that supports that, it won't be seen as a monitor to Windows. I am not a colorist at all, but my understanding is the folks here use gaming cards for acceleration and GUI, and look exclusively at the reference monitor (connected to BMD card) for grading, as only that will be correct.

edit: Also, you might have better luck in the Resolve forum :)

Okay, thanks, that's some much needed basic information right there. And I guess no one's gonna be too happy if I just repost the same in the Resolve forum, so I'll just stay here ^^

Marc Wielage wrote:My advice is you can't do it in this price range, not effectively. There are always compromises that can be made, but if you're talking about billable work with real clients, it's going to cost more than this. If you're just a student or doing very small projects for zero money, that's understandable.

Well I'm doing a little bit of everything: student projects, short films for zero money, but also some client work on the side (event videography). But the latter isn't making that much money yet as I've just started out, I'll see how it develops over the course of this year. Maybe I shouldn't make a buying decision as long as I don't know how much money I can earn with this.

Am I presuming correctly that you think it's the monitor I should spend more money on? Or something else, too?

Erik Wittbusch wrote:I started with an Eizo CG247 and a BMD Minimum Display device. You can also use the CX or even CS monitors from Eizo, but they lack internal custom 3DLUT storage. There are also some not so bad Benq and NEC and other displays out there, but all of them need to be calibrated according EBUs BT.1886 or REC.709. The Eizos have proven to be accurate when calibrated and they can show real 24, 25, 30 and 50, 60 fps.

Do I need internal LUT storage? Can't the LUT be stored on the GPU or something?
And what makes the Dell monitor I mentioned above unsuitable for color work?

Further you'll need a probe and a CMS like Lightspace or DisplayCal. DisplayCal is free, the cheapest probe that wotks is the i1 Display Pro from XRite.

Say for example I did buy the CG247, I read it has a built-in colorimeter - why would I still need a probe, then?
And what exactly is the difference between an XRite i1 and a Spyder5 Elite (which I own)?

Erik Wittbusch wrote:It's gonna work if you like caching a lot, because of the weak GPU.
But I'd advice a better GPU. At least a Radeon RX480 or better GTX1070. A GTX1080 will enable you to work with 4k resolutions as well without lots of caching.

Well, as I said, I'm looking at even stronger GPUs like the Radeon Pros (successor of the FirePro series, wx5100 with 8gb is my favorite), they should blow the rx480, gtx1070 and even 1080 out of the water, right?

Erik Wittbusch wrote:but be prepared to spend the same amount again for a halfway professional grading station minimum.

Okay, but what would I need a professional grading station for if I only wanna do some halfway decent grading on my short films and client work? What can be the further advantages when I already have a good reference monitor and a fast enough system to run Resolve?
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Jack Fairley

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostThu Jan 12, 2017 1:05 am

TobiasSchachinger wrote:Thank you all for your replies!
Do I need internal LUT storage? Can't the LUT be stored on the GPU or something?

No. Reference monitor is totally bypassing the GPU, so you can either use a LUT box in the signal path, or use a monitor that will store LUTs.
Well, as I said, I'm looking at even stronger GPUs like the Radeon Pros (successor of the FirePro series, wx5100 with 8gb is my favorite), they should blow the rx480, gtx1070 and even 1080 out of the water, right?

No. Compare the Quadro P6000, current king of workstation GPUs for Nvidia, to the Titan X Pascal, king of gaming GPUs. P6000 has 3840 CUDA cores, Titan X Pascal has 3584. Considering the Quadro card costs a few times as much, it's not much faster. Generally, some advanced features are locked to the workstation cards, such as 10-bit output for desktop applications, and professional software may only support workstation cards.

Regarding the wx5100, the cards you listed are all much faster.
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TobiasSchachinger

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostThu Jan 12, 2017 2:26 pm

Jack Fairley wrote:No. Reference monitor is totally bypassing the GPU, so you can either use a LUT box in the signal path, or use a monitor that will store LUTs.

Okay thanks!

Jack Fairley wrote:No. Compare the Quadro P6000, current king of workstation GPUs for Nvidia, to the Titan X Pascal, king of gaming GPUs. P6000 has 3840 CUDA cores, Titan X Pascal has 3584. Considering the Quadro card costs a few times as much, it's not much faster. Generally, some advanced features are locked to the workstation cards, such as 10-bit output for desktop applications, and professional software may only support workstation cards.

Regarding the wx5100, the cards you listed are all much faster.

Okay. So I won't need 10-bit output in my GPU because the Blackmagic card will provide it for my reference monitor. And as long as I find a GPU that is supported by all software I use, I should use a gaming card because they're comparable in speed (or even faster) and much cheaper. Correct?
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Jack Fairley

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostThu Jan 12, 2017 7:09 pm

Yep.
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Erik Wittbusch

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostThu Jan 12, 2017 7:24 pm

10bit isn't necessary, accuracy is.
The Eizos built-in probe and ColorNavigatorNX software is okay for the beginning, but a real CMS and a good probe is much better. Forget the Spyder...

You also don't need external LUT capacity. Resolve can put that 3D LUT in your video I/O path. It does cost you a little processing power, but nothing else.

Lately I saw the Eizo CS2420 for cheap. It's a good panel. If you buy a i1Display and use the free DisplayCal you can calibrate accurate. You'll further need a BMD MiniMonitor and that's it.

The RX480 is a very powerful card for the money. I'd take this if money is a problem or the GTX1080 if it's not.
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TobiasSchachinger

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostFri Jan 13, 2017 3:23 pm

Erik Wittbusch wrote:10bit isn't necessary, accuracy is.
The Eizos built-in probe and ColorNavigatorNX software is okay for the beginning, but a real CMS and a good probe is much better. Forget the Spyder...

You also don't need external LUT capacity. Resolve can put that 3D LUT in your video I/O path. It does cost you a little processing power, but nothing else.

Lately I saw the Eizo CS2420 for cheap. It's a good panel. If you buy a i1Display and use the free DisplayCal you can calibrate accurate. You'll further need a BMD MiniMonitor and that's it.

The RX480 is a very powerful card for the money. I'd take this if money is a problem or the GTX1080 if it's not.


Alright, thank you so much! You've all helped me a lot :)
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Dermot Shane

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostSun Jan 15, 2017 2:07 am

You also don't need external LUT capacity. Resolve can put that 3D LUT in your video I/O path. It does cost you a little processing power, but nothing else.


will it not trash external scopes? and how does that work when you boot up Nuke, Fusion, MC, Pp or AE on the same machine? load the same LUT into each software's viewer output?

i go the other route, lut box's between machines and screen + external scopes, so i really do not know the answers....

i have three machines, two mon's, an external scope & an external recorder all routed through a video hub, each mon has it's own lut box input from a clean SDI signal from the router
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Marc Wielage

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostSun Jan 15, 2017 9:35 am

Dermot Shane wrote:will it not trash external scopes? and how does that work when you boot up Nuke, Fusion, MC, Pp or AE on the same machine? load the same LUT into each software's viewer output? i go the other route, lut box's between machines and screen + external scopes, so i really do not know the answers.... i have three machines, two mon's, an external scope & an external recorder all routed through a video hub, each mon has it's own lut box input from a clean SDI signal from the router

Dermot is absolutely right -- the LUT will affect scope output. If it were possible to get two simultaneous outputs from Resolve -- one with a display LUT, one without -- then you could use the unaffected output for scopes. It's not a rational configuration, so the better choice would be to buy a LUT box. And there are several monitors that will store internal LUTs.

If you're on a tight budget, you can just get the monitor as close as possible -- say, 98% of the way there -- and live with it without a LUT until such time that you can afford a LUT box.
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Brian Schuck

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Re: Seeking Advice for Grading Hardware

PostSat Oct 28, 2017 5:54 pm

what about using a Benq sw2700pt which is what i have, will i need say a ultrastudio mini monitor to see correct colors? the benq stores the calibrations in its self and not my os. if i need a mini monitor is it plug n play or is there alot to set it up? thanks

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