- Parent Category: Test Drive
- Category: Articles
- Published on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 23:17
- Written by David Hurd
I recently had the opportunity to test the V-LCD70MD-3G 7-inch monitor from the new Marshall Electronics Modular Design Camera-Top Series. The official result: I love this monitor. The V-LCD70MD monitor is available in three configurations with a new Modular Design (MD) that allows you to determine what I/O combinations you’d like to use. All of the new MD series monitors come equipped with an HDCP-compliant HDMI input with pass-through, a selection of 10 battery adapters, and a choice of one input or output module. The MD base unit comes with no preinstalled module, but you can add modules at any time.
The “-O” model in this series includes the base unit with a preinstalled MDO-3G module that provides a 3G-SDI output converted from the HDMI input. I tested the 7-inch “3G” model, which includes the base unit with a preinstalled MD-3GE module, providing an additional 3G/HD/SD-SDI input with loop-through. I really like the idea of having both HDMI and SDI inputs and outputs so I can use the monitor with both DSLR and cine cameras. The extra flexibility also helps when I need to loop through to other gear. The 3G monitor offers a High-Brightness/Resolution 800-nit, 1024x600 LED backlit IPS panel for better viewing in bright daylight. There’s also a sun hood to attach to the monitor for shading the screen. The 3G has a viewing angle of 170x170 degrees and a 1000:1 contrast ratio, and its size and weight are only 7.37x5.57x1.1 inches and 1.2 pounds.
The monitor delivers an amazing picture and offers a huge amount of useful functions while only drawing 9.6 watts (0.8A @ 12V). There are also a variety of optional user-replaceable battery adapters available: You can choose from JVC, Anton Bauer, Nikon ENEL3, Sony (M, L and B), Panasonic (CGA-D54 and VW-VBG6), Canon (BP-970G, BP-511 and LP-E6) and IDX V-Mount. This allows you to use batteries that you already own or switch mounts if you want to change to a different power source. I used an Anton Bauer DIONIC HCX battery to power the whole rig, including the monitor via the optional power-tap cable.
The V-LCD70MD-3G is loaded with cool features. To keep track of your audio and video levels, you can display a Waveform monitor and stereo audio bars. These may be displayed separately or together in any of the monitor’s four corners. The stereo audio is de-embedded from either the HDMI input (8 channels) or from the optional 3GSDI input (16 channels). Any pair of the available channels may be selected for both the display and the headphone output. Since I used a BMCC for the test (which has no audio monitoring), these audio meters were great.
During production, time is money, so it’s important to be able to shoot quickly. It’s also important to know if parts of your image are too darkly or brightly lit. This is where the monitor’s Clip Guide function is most helpful. The Clip Guide will visually filter data on the screen that is under a lower threshold or over an upper threshold so you can easily see a colored representation of what is over/under-exposed. Data on either side of the filters can be displayed with a custom color. For example, if you set the lower threshold to 20 IRE and also set it to display blue, any part of the image under 20 IRE will be colored blue — so if you want to see what part of the image is too dark, just look for anything blue. If you set the upper threshold to 100 IRE and assign the color yellow, any part of the image over 100 IRE will be colored yellow. Since 100 IRE is the limit for broadcast brightness, anything that’s too bright will appear yellow. Used together, you can instantly see the extreme dark and bright parts of an image by noticing the blues and yellows.
The Clip Guide function can also be inverted to filter the area between the upper and lower threshold. This is helpful when you want to color only the “good” parts of your image. The color selected for the lower threshold acts as the color for all inverted Zebra data, so with your lower threshold set to 20 IRE and the upper threshold set to 100 IRE, the Zebra invert will filter all data in between 20 IRE and 100 IRE and display it in blue. Now, just look for any blue in the image to know what should be properly exposed.
The monitor’s new features include multiple DSLR presets. If you’re using a Canon DSLR, you know that sometimes the picture won’t look right on your external monitor. The new DSLR ratio adjustment feature allows you to scale video that doesn’t completely fill the monitor’s screen when connected via HDMI in “record” mode. The V-LCD70MD-3G allows you to scale your DSLR video output, fill the screen, and eliminate black pillar bars with a variety of options: You can choose between normal, 3:2, 16:9 and full screen. And, to make it easier, this DSLR ratio adjustment feature can be assigned to one of the front panel’s four-button presets for quick and easy access. The user-definable function buttons are always faster, and the 3G monitor has four of them on the front-panel. These user-definable function buttons allow quick access to your settings and features — including Focus Assist, False Color, Aspect Ratio, Screen Markers, Monochrome Mode, Color Temperature and Delay Mode — so you can speed up the selection of your favorite features.
My favorite useful feature is the False Color filter, which is used to aid in setting camera exposure. As the camera iris is adjusted, elements of the image will change color based on brightness values. This enables me to see a colored representation of my image, and is great for adjusting the lighting for green-screen work. When the entire screen is one color on the monitor, it’s all the same brightness, which means there are no hot spots or dark spots that can be difficult to key out in post. For normal shots, everything is laid out by color for easy reference: Highs, Mids or Blacks. Green is used to indicate image elements that are approximately 45 IRE. This represents a neutral or “Mid-level” exposure commonly used for objects rather than people. Faces should show up as pink, which is about 56 IRE. As you open the iris to increase exposure, your subject will change into the High colors, gray and then a few shades of yellow. Any parts of the image that show up in red are overexposed (above 101 IRE). The blacks, shadows and underexposed parts of the image will show up as deep-to-dark blue, with clipped blacks indicated with a fuchsia-like color. An image with faces in pink with no reds or fuchsia is a good thing. The yellows let you know where your Highs are, the greens are the Mids, and blues are your blacks and shadows. It’s nice to have this powerful exposure tool readily available. Since I assigned it to a preset button, I just hit the button and do a quick pan of the shot to instantly see if there are any problems.
The V-LCD70MD-3G monitor also has focusing tools. The Peaking Filter is another function I assigned to a preset button. As you probably know, this is a focus tool that helps to get the sharpest picture possible. The monitor will display a colored highlight where sharp edges appear to exactly show what is in focus. For final focus, I rack the focus control back and forth until the portion of the image that I want in focus has the colored highlights. Marshall’s original version of the Peaking Filter removed the color from the image, leaving a black-and-white picture with red highlights. This new version not only keeps the original color, it also adds a choice of four colors (red, green, yellow and pink) for the highlights, as well as adjustable sensitivity for even finer focus control. Dark, underexposed images with no sharp edges won’t give enough information for the processors. This feature works best after you’ve set your iris settings so that your image is properly exposed and contains enough contrast to be processed.
If you want to zoom in to better see part of the image, use the Input Crop with Auto Scaling feature, and select the area of the image that you’d like blown up on the monitor. The monitor’s adjustable Screen Markers are also handy, especially for visual FX work. User Markers allow for custom aspect ratio and cropping framing, and now come in a choice of four colors with variable width lines. There’s a large selection of screen markers to choose from, like 4:3, 13:9, 14:9, 16:9, 1.85:1, 2.35:1 and 2.39:1, with safe areas from 80 to 95 percent. There’s a Custom option that lets you set up the Screen Marker of your choice. There are also six Custom Configuration presets — these User Setting presets allow you to save six different system-configuration files for later recall when needed. You can select and save 38 different parameters in each preset. If you use your monitor on different cameras, just save a preset for each camera and recall them when needed. Also, different cameramen using the same monitor can each save their own favorite settings in a preset, saving valuable time (and possible loss of life).
The Marshall V-LCD70MD-3G monitor packs a lot of powerful features into a compact, lightweight package. With both SDI and HDMI inputs/outputs, you can use it with DSLRs or cine cameras. The monitor’s internal software will make sure that you have both accurate picture and audio monitoring in everything from 4:3 to 2.39:1 aspect ratios. All in all, this is just a great camera-top monitor.