(Here’s Matrox MXO, Part 1 for reference.)

OK…so I finally got my hands on an Apple 23″ Cinema Display (ACD) to test with the Matrox MXO against my AJA Kona LH and Sony PVM-14L5.

So I hooked up the Matrox to my Powerbook G4 1.67Ghz and to the ACD. Then I exported a video clip from my current project…the trailer I edited for The History Channel all nice and color corrected and with a variety of footage from the Varicam and HVX-200. I copied this clip over to the Powerbook, and loaded the same clip up on my G5 and put the images up on the PVM and the ACD…side by side.

Holy shit. (The picture, of course, doesn’t do this justice)

Now…Jerry Hofmann told me that the MXO and the ACD would get you broadcast colors…and Wayne from Matrox, who I worked side by side with at the CalDigit booth, showed me the MXO side by side with a Panasonic HD LCD and they were identical. But I said “I won’t believe it until I see it next to my HD CRT.”

I believe it.

Now…first off let me state that when I first looked at the image on both it was like looking in a mirror. They were identical, only the ACD was, of course, bigger. Then my initial shock wore off and I looked closer, more critically. And I noticed that the image on the ACD was slightly greenish. I had to look close to see it, but it was there. I could see it in the white collar of the actor, and in the green of the plants (they were greener). So I loaded color bars in both and looked again. Yep…slightly greenish. I connected the MXO to my HD CRT via HD SDI out of the MXO box and compared the HD SDI signal coming from the Matrox to that of the ACD, just to see if it was the box or the monitors. The image on the ACD was still greenish in comparison. So the signal from the box is a true signal, the same I get from my Kona LH. I went into my Displays System Prefs and made sure the Matrox MXO option was selected. It was. So I needed to do something to remedy this.

I found a friend who had a monitor calibration device and software. ColorVision’s Spyder 2 Pro is what he had and what I used to calibrate my monitor. Then I tried again.

I looked at the Bars first. I didn’t see the green. Then I loaded the clip again and looked at the same spot. Now the image on both were nearly identical. Still just a hair greenish, but very negligible. At least to my eye. And I was scrutinizing this close. And, again, I compared images on the PVM and the MXO, with both signals coming from the MXO.

So…in conclusion, the Matrox MXO, in conjunction with an Apple 23″ Cinema Display (and monitor calibration software) will get you broadcast colors that match that of an HD CRT monitor. I myself would trust this combination when color correcting my shows for broadcast.

Just to remind people about the Matrox MXO, it connects to the computer via the DVI connection. From this DVI connection the MXO can extract a broadcast video image (HD SDI, analog component, composite), two tracks of unbalanced audio and up to 8 tracks of embedded SDI audio, timecode information, and deck control. It can downconvert HD to SD in real time with proper color space conversions. Hardware acceleration of DVCPRO HD, HDV, and Final Cut Pro Dynamic RT segments to full output resolution to save processing power for other operations. Allows output from not only FCP, but Motion, After Effects and other Quicktime based applications to the monitor so that you can ensure the quality of your image. And it works on PPC and Intel Macs…and best of all, works on a laptop.

It is a low cost, yet VERY effective solution for HD monitoring and color correction. You won’t see the post houses that color grade CSI, LAW & ORDER or “24” jumping all over this…they have better high end monitors to work with. But it is a very viable solution for the budget conscious who still want to produce a great broadcast quality image.

EDIT: It was asked that if you use the MXO with your, say G5 tower or Mac Pro, that you might lose the use of that monitor as your second monitor. Not necessarily. With your monitor connected to the MXO, it still passes thru a desktop image, so you can have dual monitors. But when you hit VIEW>ALL FRAMES it will then turn the monitor into your production monitor, ready for color correcting your footage.