Monitor with a Pro Video Interface for under $200

January 14th, 2016
Monitor with a Pro Video Interface for under $200

ultrastudio-family

Post production has become entirely file-based, it’s all about data. So why do you need a video interface?

For most of us the days of analog or even digital tape VTRs and patch bays are long gone. Unless you’re a television studio, a broadcaster or a larger post facility the need to interface your data-centric core post infrastructure with current or legacy equipment over SDI is minimal to non-existent.

So why bother?

There is still one very important place for a video interface in your post production setup.

Monitoring

There are some fundamental differences between a computer desktop GUI (Graphical User Interface) monitor and a dedicated video output. Even if your chosen editing software allows you to run a second or third desktop monitor as a full screen preview, it’s not the same thing. Your computer operating system and/or graphics hardware may only drive your desktop monitors at 8-bit color (16.7 million colors), this is still the norm for most. Many desktop monitors only display 8-bit color in any case. Some software doesn’t allow a full-screen preview to be extended to a desktop monitor.

The primary purpose of a dedicated video monitor is to display the full depth of color accurately, preferably at full resolution and to allow accurate calibration. The best way to ensure you are seeing the most accurate image is to use a dedicated video capture and playback interface.

You can read more about color management and calibration here: 5 Things a Filmmaker Should Know About Color Management

Choosing the Right Video Interface

This is not at all a paid ad for Blackmagic Design, but in my professional experience they make a range of rock solid interfaces that are hard to beat for performance and value. They’ve been making capture cards for longer than any of their other products.

Let’s take a quick look at some of Blackmagic Design’s most popular and affordable video interfaces. There’s a cost effective solution available whether you’re on a Mac, Linux or Windows workstation or laptop.

Desktop PCIe Video Interfaces

Blackmagic’s range of Decklink PCIe video interfaces are perfect for an older (tower) Mac Pro, or any Linux or Windows desktop workstations with free PCIe slots.

Ranging from $145 to $1,495 there’s a card for every need and every budget. I’m going to highlight a few below.

DeckLink-Mini-Monitor Blackmagic Decklink Mini Monitor – $145

If all you need to do is add professional monitoring to your workstation and you know you’ll be driving an HD resolution monitor, then the Decklink Mini Monitor will do the job and only cost you $145. It supports Rec601 and Rec701 color spaces in 10-bit color over a single link HD-SDI and HDMI output. It’s an output only card so no input is present. There is also an input-only version of this card called the Decklink Mini Recorder, however if you need both input and output functionality I’d recommend jumping up to either the Intensity Pro 4K or Decklink Studio 4K card.

Intensity Pro 4KBlackmagic Intensity Pro 4K – $199

I am arranging these selected video interfaces by price and features, but the Intensity Pro 4K card is not in the Decklink range of cards, so you’ll find it in its very own category. It’s an important card to highlight here because it hits the primary needs that most of us have at a ridiculously low price.

The Intensity Pro 4K does away with SDI interfaces which many don’t need and instead provides both an HDMI input and output supporting up to UHD (2160p30) in 10-bit color. In addition is a host of analog video connections.

DeckLinkStudio4K Blackmagic Decklink Studio 4K – $595

The Decklink Studio 4K is a real swiss army knife of a video interface that will cover pretty much every need you may have for both input and output at any resolution up to UHD 4K. SDI and HDMI inputs and outputs in Rec601/Rec701 in 10-bit color. HD support up to 1080p60, UHD (3840×2160) up to 2160p50 and 4K (4096×2160) support up to 2160p25.

Blackmagic Decklink 4K Extreme – $995

If you’re looking to support stereoscopic 3D monitoring or want built-in hardware up conversion and cross conversion, the Decklink 4K Extreme adds those features and a few more. It supports 10-bit YUV color up to 4K but adds 12-bit RGB support to the HD and 2K output.

decklink4kextreme12g Blackmagic Decklink 4K Extreme 12G – $1,495

The flagship of the Decklink range of PCIe cards is the 4K Extreme 12G with two 4K 12G SDI input and outputs. It supports UHD and DCI 4K up to 60p at up to 12-bit RGB color depth and cranks up a host of other features to the max. This is the card for anyone who needs or wants it all.

Thunderbolt Video Interfaces

Blackmagic have brought us some of the best Thunderbolt video interfaces money can buy for Thunderbolt equipped workstations and laptops. Ranging from $145 to $2,995 there’s again, a Ultrastudio for Thunderbolt video interface to suit every need and pocket.

UltrastudioMiniMonitorAngle Blackmagic Ultrastudio Mini Monitor – $145

The Ultrastudio Mini Monitor is a must have item for any editor or colorist on the move who wants a professional 10-bit HD video output small enough to fit in the pocket of any laptop case. It provides the basics over HD-SDI and HDMI and is bus powered so all you have to do is plug it in.

Blackmagic Intensity Shuttle for Thunderbolt – $239

The Intensity Shuttle has you covered for 10-bit SD and HD input and output over HDMI and analog video. It’s not part of the Ultrastudio range, and you can find it on the Blackmagic Design website here.

Blackmagic Ultrastudio Express – $495

The Ultrastudio Express provides SDI, HDMI, and analog inputs and outputs up to HD resolution in a compact desktop Thunderbolt interface.

UltraStudio4KAngle Blackmagic Ultrastudio 4K – $995

Moving up to the rackmount video interfaces, the Ultrastudio 4K is a fantastic choice if you need to work in UHD and 4K resolution over a Thunderbolt connection. It provides stereoscopic 3D support and two SDI inputs and outputs along with HDMI and analog inputs and outputs. It provides 10-bit color up to UHD (3840×2160) at 2160p50 and 4K (4096×2160) support up to 2160p25. 4K is chroma sub-sampled to 4:2:2 but other resolutions support 4:2:2 and 4:4:4.

UltraStudio4KExtreme3Qtr Blackmagic Ultrastudio 4K Extreme – $2,995

The Ultrastudio 4K Extreme gives you UHD at 60p and up to 4:4:4:4 sampling over SDI and 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 over HDMI. As with the Decklink 4K Extreme 12G, the Ultrastudio 4K Extreme supports 12-bit RGB 4:4:4 (over SDI) as well. Up, down and cross conversion is all built into the hardware.

USB 3 Video Interfaces

You’re not left out in the cold if you’re on a Windows laptop without Thunderbolt. There are three USB 3.0 video interface options, however, these interfaces are SD/HD only and support 10-bit 4:2:2 sampling. For more details check out the Ultrastudio for USB 3.0 page.

IntensityShuttleRight34 Blackmagic Intensity Shuttle for USB 3.0 – $199

The Intensity Shuttle has you covered for 10-bit SD and HD input and output over HDMI and analog video.

Ultrastudio SDI for USB 3.0 – $395

The Ultrastudio SDI for USB 3.0 gives you 10-bit 4:2:2 HD in and out over SDI and an HDMI output.

Stepping Up Your Game

It really couldn’t be easier to add a professional video interface to your workstation or laptop. While many of us don’t need to think about inputs at all, having an HD resolution 10-bit video output over HDMI or SDI will allow you to drive a professional broadcast reference monitor or calibrated color critical grading monitor.

For less than $200 you can add a professional HD monitoring output via PCIe, Thunderbolt, or USB 3.0 to any workstation or laptop.

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April 12th, 2016

i have atem production studios 4k and it is a pain to make it work with the output of my mac.
i m getting scaler and see if i can make it work.
image from that is very blurry

Crimson Son
Crimson Son
Member
January 16th, 2016

BTW. This is really incomplete and incorrect.
The big difference is really color space. Computers systems are 8 RGB while modern digital production are both RGB and YCbCr.
8 and 10 bit YCbCr can fit in 8 bit RGB.

One can argue that proper calibration is more important if you are monitoring with your computer (hardware and software) than if you are using a dedicated broadcast, grading or TV monitor.

I rather have a calibrated Eizo monitor than HD-SDI Sony monitor connected to any Decklink card.

“. Your computer operating system and/or graphics hardware may only drive your desktop monitors at 8-bit color (16.7 million colors), this is still the norm for most. Many desktop monitors only display 8-bit color in any case. Some software doesn’t allow a full-screen preview to be extended to a desktop monitor.”

Crimson Son
Crimson Son
Member
January 17th, 2016
Reply to  Richard Lackey

And you still need to 1) identify and select your color space and 2) calibrate your monitor. sRGB and Rec709 being similar is not changing that.
Picking which Decklink card you want to use is probably on the bottom of the list of things that makes a difference. Blackmagic cards are basic I/O cards only difference is connection types.

It is not an article. Its a brochure.

You can have the decency to mention AJA and Matrox and similar companies.

 Jonas Radahl
Jonas Radahl
Member
January 17th, 2016
Reply to  Crimson Son

Thanks for the info. So the biggest investment is still the monitor for accurate color reproduction. No way around it.

Crimson Son
Crimson Son
Member
January 16th, 2016

Screams paid ad. Shitty article in the highest degree.

Jonas Radahl
Jonas Radahl
Guest
January 15th, 2016

I’m a bit novice here but will a box like this help to get true(r) colors to a monitor that don’t support hardware calibration?

Member
January 15th, 2016

Highly innacurate headline. Only 4 out of the 12 options presented are sub $200

Member
January 15th, 2016

I agree this article reads exactly as sponsored content for BlackMagic Design. AJA and Matrox make affordable thunderbolt interfaces which work well too and the fact none were even mentioned makes this look exactly like an ad. That said, another more important reason to use a Rec709 interface is to monitor 1080i 3:2 pulldown. I am still amazed at how few editors are aware of field reversal and how it can your footage if you don’t stream it over a proper HDTV signal. Most field issues are not detectable on computer monitor displays.

Member
January 15th, 2016
Reply to  Matthew Thomas

I’ve used AJA gear in the field, and Blackmagic… The truth is, AJA over engineers and I’ve never trusted their gear. The joy of Blackmagic gear, is that you can typically make your money back when using it, in large scale jobs, and you can afford to have backups/duplicates of mission critical gear.

Member
January 14th, 2016

Many new ips screens and gfx cards support 10 bit, sRGB and other profiles these days. So this might work as well. But is upnto your personal demand.

Richard Lackey
Guest
January 14th, 2016

It’s not a paid ad, they just make solid interfaces at affordable prices. They’ve been making capture cards for longer than just about any other product.

Marcel Beck
Guest
January 14th, 2016
Reply to  Richard Lackey

Should do a monitor write up next ;)

Crimson Son
Crimson Son
Member
January 16th, 2016
Reply to  Marcel Beck

It will be all Sony monitors ;)

Richard Lackey
Guest
January 14th, 2016
Reply to  Richard Lackey

Good idea but good monitors still aren’t cheap.

Mike Silverman
Guest
January 14th, 2016

Nice ad for Blackmagic Design lol

serge b
serge b
Guest
January 14th, 2016
Reply to  Mike Silverman

I agree Mike nice ad for BMD, even if C5d is not paid for.
I would have add in Richard post :

• you absolutely need a Black Magic Design interface and no other brand if you operate with Da Vinci Resolve. That’s a great value to get their interface as Da Vinci color correction and editor software is Free !

• a monitor is necessary to get rid of descreening / deframe trouble. It appears when mixing different interlace sources ( peer & odd frames ). that default doesn’t appear on a computer screen.
So frequent in News factories.

• that PCI are for PC and can be use on Mac by adding a Thunderbolt > PCI interface. Except if you still use a very very old Mac workstation or a Hackintosh !

@sergefrse

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