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Small LCDs Growing at Video’s High End Too

Feb 23, 2006 8:00 AM

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From location video shoots to edit suites to zoos, small LCD panels are turning up ever more widely these days, but there are wide disparities in the capabilities of these screens, the criteria on which they are bought and of course, in their prices.

A high-end corporate video producer might opt for a panel like Panasonic’s BT-LH900 with its screen measuring 8.4in. diagonally, says Steve Golub, product line business manager. Weighing in at just 4.4lbs., it also illustrates one of the big appeals of these small screens, particularly for location production. They replace heavier, clunkier, and more power-hungry CRT monitors.

Golub says small LCD screens are often rack mounted, and some units have gained popularity as camera viewfinders. Though, at nearly $5,000, this is clearly a high-end option.

Sony offers a similar range of small screens, including 9in. LCD monitors the company says are ideal for small edit suites, location production, and similar uses. The product line includes pre-configured rack mountable arrays of two 7in. monitors, four 4in. units, and three 5.6in. monitors.

Prices, again, far exceed what consumers pay for similar screens built into their personal DVD players, or for those video screens for the back seat of minivans. The difference, experts say, is in why buyers want these screens in the first place.

“Colorimetry is very important,” Golub says. “A professional-quality small LCD screen must stay with the same colors and not shift.”

“We try to match the color of traditional CRTs,” says Jin Miyano of the North American marketing office for Japan-based ERG Ventures. ERG’s 6in. and 8.4in. LCD monitors are widely used in professional postproduction settings, he adds.

“There are so many competitors, and we are all using the same LCD panel, so the challenge is how we adjust the color accuracy,” Miyano explains. “That’s what the industry demands.”

Thom Belford, director of marketing and engineering at Marshall Electronics, El Segundo, Calif., agrees that image quality really drives the sales decision in this niche. “We use the highest resolution screens with CRT-style color gamut,” he says. “Moving interlaced video is the acid test.”

Reliability and economy also factor into the decision to invest in high-end small LCD monitors. “In many cases, rackmount configurations are used to replace aging CRT technology with the added benefit of lower cost of operation as measured in terms of mean time before failure, maintenance cost, and power consumption,” Belford says.

On the other hand, resolution isn’t often a purchasing criterion, since HD is taken as a given. And because so many of these monitors are used in darkened edit suits and similar settings, brightness doesn’t move the buying need much either.

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