HP LP2480zx Dreamcolor: Your Eyes In the DSLR Colorspace
When I began working on Act of Valor, I was using an Asus 17” monitor to light. When I got into the color correction bay, I noticed that I had over-lit scenes because the monitor was not seeing what the camera was ultimately seeing. Mike McCarthy at Bandito Brothers Post brought the HP LP2480 zx Dreamcolor monitor from their color correction bay to have on set with us and to replace the Asus.
HP LP2480zx Dreamcolor On Set
It was a computer monitor with a little stand for your desk. I asked, “Mike, what is this?” He said, “Trust me, this monitor rocks.” He was not lying. We immediately removed the little stand and crafted mounts for dollies, c-stands, and cases. That way, it could hold up on location.
This is when it all clicked for me. When I looked at the back LCD of the Canon 5D and then at the Dream Color, they matched more closely than anything that I had seen. I have always felt that the back LCD is the true gauge of color, contrast, saturation, etc., but it is way too small and by using the Z-finder to enlarge it to your eye, there is an unnatural contrast that is added.
Dreamcolor Prepares You For Color Correction
It is the Dreamcolor for all lighting on the set for me. I take it everywhere. It has become my viewfinder into this 8 Bit compressed color space and I trust it. I have never gone to the color correction bay and seen something that I hadn’t seen when I was on the set. It has given me confidence as a Cinematographer with the limited latitude of HDSLRs.
Exposing to HP Dreamcolor Monitor
When I look and see a cloud clipping on my Dreamcolor, I know that I have to take the exposure down a bit to hold it. When I see a shadow turning too black, I know that I have to open up my exposure a bit to gain the detail necessary.
I am not a big Histogram guy. I go with my eye and not some graph that means absolutely nothing when you are shooting HD. Everyone has tried to take this still photography latitude device and pull it over to the HD video mode. If you expose your Histogram in 4 of the 5 fields, which is what they recommend, you will quickly overexpose your image and make it look like video.
It is all about riding the fine line of starving the CMOS chip of light and giving it just enough so that it doesn’t look underexposed. It is a balance that turns this platform from an HD video capture device to a Digital Film capture device.
When I pull up an image that I have exposed using the Dreamcolor, I punch over to the Histogram and my levels have not gotten out of the second field.
The HP Dreamcolor monitor holds its calibration for 4000 hours. We have 20 in Revolution Cinema Rentals inventory and the one that started it all only has 287 hours on it with 9 months of use.
Getting your HP Dreamcolor ready for the field
When you look at the HP Dreamcolor LP2480 zx Monitor, it looks like a computer monitor that should not be anywhere other than a desk. We have disproved that with months of testing and want to give you the necessary tips to make it battle-ready.
Make Your Monitor On Set Ready
Elite Team McGuyver, Darin Necessary, designed a plate that attaches the monitor to a 1650 Pelican traveling case, which turns it into a traveling stand.
Buy a piece of plexiglass and have it cut to the size of the monitor, you then use velcro to fix it to the screen. This will protect your screen while traveling and setting up in the field. Once you are settled and ready to light, you can remove the plexi for the best viewing.
Gaffers tape and Duvateen are your new best friends. Use the gaffer’s tape to affix a piece of Duvateen or Black Cloth onto the monitor so that you can have a dark viewing area for exterior work.
Place your HDMI splitters and repeaters in your pelican case for easy organization. Cables and other nick nacks can be placed in there also.
Dave Kundson, my rigging guru, designed a baby pin that attaches to the thumb screws on the monitor bracket so you can mount it on a dolly, c-stand, etc.
Menus on your Dream Color
- Go into your OSD control on the monitor: Disable warning messages and calibration limit.
- Set your Monitor brightness to: 250 cd/m2
- Go to Image Control on main menu, Custom Scaling set to: Fill to Aspect Ratio
- Set your Color Space to: Full
- Set your Video input control to: HDMI
- Set your White Point/Color Temp to: 6500K
Coming from the film world where I relied on a light meter as my gauge for exposures, the most difficult adjustment in the HDSLR world has been finding an accurate lighting monitor that is fast yet intimate with the talent and the agency, so I am not in some black tent away from the action with waveform monitors and gack. The HP Dream Color was exactly what I needed as a cinematographer to finally feel at ease. What you see is what you get!
I would love to hear from you about monitors and what you choose to light with.
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About Filmmakers Academy Cinematographer Mentor Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Director of photography Shane Hurlbut, ASC works at the forefront of cinema. He’s a storyteller, innovator, and discerning collaborator, who brings more than three decades of experience to his art. He is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, the International Cinematographers Guild/Local 600, and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Hurlbut frequently joins forces with great directors: McG’s Netflix Rim of the World and The Babysitter, plus Warner Bros. We Are Marshall and Terminator: Salvation; Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed and Act of Valor; and Gabriele Muccino’s There Is No Place Like Home and Fathers and Daughters. His additional film credits include Semi-Pro; The Greatest Game Ever Played; Into the Blue; Mr 3000; Drumline; 11:14, which earned Hurlbut a DVDX nomination; and The Skulls. Notably, his television credits include the first season of AMC’s Into the Badlands.
Thanks for posting this info. I’ve heard that this monitor is great for back at the studio, too. Helpful in editing/grading. You reference with this with the mention of Mike McCarthy and the color correction bay at Bandito Brothers.
Any chance you can talk a bit about using the Dream Color in that situation? As a primary or secondary monitor in an edit or grading setup, if an I/O device is needed, recommended Dream Color menu settings, if setup in FCP or PP needs to be tweaked, etc.
Great post. Thank you for sharing.
I am looking for a monitor for color correction. I have a Canon 60D and a macbook pro. Would you recommend this? I will be releasing my videos on the web.
John, absolutely and thank you so much for your kind words and support.
Thanks so much for this in depth review. I had been really waiting to hear some more details about how you use this monitor in your setup and what you think of it ever since it was in the article about shooting for the Marines Commercial. I have been looking into options for high-end color/exposure-accurate in the field monitoring and this pretty much seals it for me. Now to just get a few more assignments so that I may be able to pay for it…
Keep up the great work.
David Mudre, You are so welcome. HP offers re-furbished Dream Colors for 1600 bucks also.
great info as always! what do you use for calibrate the monitor?
Federico, The monitor comes calibrated from the factory and holds its calibration for 4000 hours. We have 20 in our rental division and the first one that ever went out only has 287 hours on it.
Is it that you are seeing the ‘extended’ color space that the Canon DSLR’s may well be capturing, re your CS5 post previously. The Dreamcolor can emulated 7 color spaces, including AdobeRGB and DCI-P3.
I use the SD USB Output of the camera and use a sony Field Monitor LCD 7 inch.
I also have a small iKan that I hook on top of the 7D to double check focus after each take.
Nice. What about day-and sunlight on the screen.
Charles, that is what the black cloth and gaffers tape is for.
First, my disclosure…I am an HP employee, but I don’t work for the division that developed this monitor and I’m not a sales person for HP. Opinions here are my own from experience with this product.
The monitor was custom developed for Dreamworks initially, so it handles lots of color spaces. Two items I would add to your recommendation are the HP dreamcolor calibration kit (essentially a purpose built x-rite eye-one) and the dedicated monitor hood that HP sells. My group bought one of these monitors for critical image evalution and the two accessories are really requirements for maximum performance.
Also, the calibration kit will allow you to calibrate the monitor to rec.709 as well as DCI and sRGB, so you’ll know what the image will look like on your target playback system in the field. Full gamut is actually wider than any of these color spaces and doesn’t necessarily reflect your playback system. rec.709, DCI, or sRGB seem like better color spaces to use, depending on where you’re targeting for playback.
Now I just wish I could afford to buy one of these for home use!
S. Allman, thank you so much for all of your suggestions for our co-collaborators.
A question, Shane, I was thinking that the five fields in the histogram represent about 5 stops of dynamic range, and that trying to use all of that range was a good idea when determining lighting and exposure. If your images are looking good using only the left two fields of the histogram, aren’t those images pretty dark? Do they then get a lot of processing in post? Or is that two-fields-of-the-histogram look pretty close to what ends up being the final image after color correction?
JimBee, the images don’t look dark and with my lenses and my picture style I am getting anywhere from 12 to 12.5 stops of dynamic range out of my camera.
250cd/m2? Full gamut? Fill to aspect ratio?
Pip, why really
Hi Shane, same sort of question along the lines of JimBee’s. If your exposure is within the first two fields of the histogram only, isn’t most of the picture going to be crunched to hell? I suppose I should just go do a quickie test and see what happens!
Dana, here is the thing. To each his own. If you love your image in all 5 fields then have at it. From my experience I go for not using the histogram, period. The picture style that I use gives me the range an no it is not crunched all down and dark
Your comments about only into second field of histogram sounds crazy considering, gamma 2.2 for perception. It got me thinking, do you have some sort of pseudo linear colorspace workflow going on in CS5, interpreting your camera sources as linearised gamma to then reverse to 2.2?
In the spirit of your openness in this area, could you post a short sample for download using you picture style and histogram?
yellow, I don’t have to post, everything on my site is this mantra. “The Last 3 Minutes.”, Case, Marines, AM Resorts. Most of the time I go 2 fields and drift into the third on most of my exposures. What I am saying is that the histogram is not a good guide. Use your eye. Sometimes I want to blow stuff out and go into the 5th field, but I am not looking at the Histogram, I just do it because it looks awesome to me. You have to find your own way with this. I tell you what I have been doing as a cinematographer for over 20 years, which is going with my instincts and exposing in a way that I feel will assist the story the best. The more you get wrapped up in the technical side of it all the more the artistry goes away.
If you do what the manual tells you, the image is usually overexposed. And that’s the last thing we want for drama. Most textbooks on light in the past I used to read had little to do with how Hollywood pros work. Even a waveform is not everything.
Charles, that is exactly right.
Shane, do you have a battery solution for this monitor – how do you power it in the field?
Jeremy, when I’m in the field I hook up the Dreamcolor with the vagabond which is basically a car battery in a bag. However the same manufactor (Alien Bees/Paul Buff) recently came out with a new more compact and lighter battery that I didn’t test yet because it has been in back order for more than 2 months. With the regular old battery I usually power the dreamcolor for a little bit more than 40 minutes (turning it on/off to use it only when I really need it).
Slight OT Warning:
Anyone have experience with the Dreamcolor panel option in the high end HP Elitebook laptops? I’ve got an 8730W mobile workstation with the lcd display and Nvidia 3700 graphics that can be upgraded to DC.
This seems neat and all but it’s still over 2000 frigging euros. That’s way too much for anything less than a professional production.
Yeah £1900 here in England
@Terjay – True, but I think Shane’s tips and suggestions are geared for exactly that, using a Canon HDSLR in a professional production. I think the point is, even if you have a professional budget, you still need to use the right tools with this technology or you’ll wind up with footage that was pretty far off from what you thought when you were creating it.
Hey Shane, Happy New Year!
I realize this question is way off topic, but I have no idea how you keep track of all the posts you receive on this site, so i’m just putting it here on your last blog post. Anyway, can you give me some insight on how sensor size plays a role on DOF? Does sensor size have any effect on DOF? Can you compare this effect on a 5D Mark II vs 7D sensor sizes? I appreciate your time and reply. Thank you!
I’m really curious, are there any cheaper options close to this size of monitor that will give “good enough” results? Maybe not quite as professional with the features, but still reasonably accurate? I would love to get one of these but simply cannot afford it right now and I really need some sort of external monitor for viewing.
Trevor, What is your price range? I would love to help you out.
I’m trying to find something in the $300-500 range, at least 17 inches or more, that would be reasonably accurate. I’ve been considering buying one of these: ( http://www.amazon.com/ViewSonic%252019s-VX2739WM-27-Inch-1920×1080-Monitor/dp/B003GBRXKU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1294184949&sr=8-1 ), but after reading your assessment of your 17″ Acer, I’m concerned it won’t be accurate enough. Any thoughts on that monitor? Would there be anything workable at that price point for accuracy and size? If not, what do you suppose is the cheapest, reasonably good option? Thanks a lot Shane!
Trevor, I have not tried any of the monitors that you have listed and wish that I could give you some feedback. I will have my tech guru Tim Holtermann look at all of these options and give you some feedback.
After doing some more research, I came across these other monitors as well. Ranked in order of cost and size of monitor.
HP LP2475w (24″ IPS monitor) – http://www.amazon.com/HP-LP2475w-24-inch-Widescreen-Monitor/dp/B001FS1LLI/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1294234300&sr=1-1
Dell UltraSharp U2711 (27″ monitor) – http://www.amazon.com/Dell-UltraSharp-U2711-27-inch-Widescreen/dp/B0039648BO
Dell UltraSharp U3011 (30″ monitor) – http://www.amazon.com/Dell-UltraSharp-U3011-Widescreen-PremierColor/dp/B0043GDIT2/ref=dp_return_2?ie=UTF8&n=541966&s=pc
They all seem promising, but just unsure of the actual performance in a digital cinema environment versus marketing claims.
Thanks for all you are doing. Great work! I’m days away from selling my EX1 to a colleague so I can upgrade and downsize. My first love is feature filmmaking, but I’m finding most of what I’m shooting right now is for iStock Video and Getty Images stock video. I recently bought the Canon 5DII, but I’m also considering purchasing either the Sony AG-AF100, EX1r, or EX3, or completely simplifying and purchasing a 7D, along with the monitor you recommend, and other accessories. I can’t afford it all. I have Zeiss prime lenses and a Letus Extreme, which I plan to sell. I just don’t want to shoot myself in the foot by selling my bread-and-butter EX1 camera and go with something that might be lesser quality. Any recommendations? And will your Boot Camp be on video?
Kevyn, thank you so much for those kind words and your support. We are going to do another bootcamp this year and will be offering videos. I just did a huge educational cinema series for B&H that comes out at the end of Jan. It is totally for free giving back to the community. Check it out. It will be in their HDSLR tour guide.
FWIW, I’m also interested in what you think in response to Trevor’s question, though I could see spending something more like half, or a little more, of the prices I have seen for this monitor.
Thanks a lot Shane, I appreciate it.
Just wanted to check in, did you happen to get any feedback from Tim about those monitors at all?
Did you test out any lower cost monitors?
the last time I worked with an external monitor, i got really frustated with the hdmi connector on the camera.
What solution do you use? good old gaffertape? I almost consider buying a viewfactor cage with hdmi clamp for this, but there should be a cheaper solution for this problem… please share your knowledge.
Unless I’m missing something here, the Color Engine of the dreamcolor is going to be disabled when taking HDMI input from the 7D and probably the 5D because output on the HDMI is interlaced.. Can you comment on this?
joe, that is correct. I am using the full color mode of the Dream Color. This is something that I have been in contact with them about, trying a work around so that the dream color engine is still on.
I will be getting a Dreamcolor pretty soon here and was wondering if you could just break down the accessories I would need to make it work best in the field. If I am already using the HDMI out from an EVF on my DP6, so what do I need to do to run a connection to the Dreamcolor? Just an HDMI splitter, or is it more complicated than that? Do you guys use the HD-SDI output on the DP6? I’m trying to minimize my cords and “tangleage” and figure out the most ergonomic way for using this bad boy.
Thanks so much man, and keep on rockin’ in the free world. You are the “voice of reason” when it comes to these cameras and have provided some of the best proof that they can in fact be used as movie-making machines.
Chris McAlister, nice. The HP blog sets you up with the necessary items. Darin Necessary can hook you up with the bracket, the Pelican case is a 1610. I use Cat 5 cable and the splitters. They go up to 100′ without using a repeater. Unfortunately the HDMI function on this camera is a major problem, then the down convert to SD while recording is another bone job. I transmit or wire SD out of the Small HD monitor and use the Dream Color as my eyes to light with, then I disconnect and go SD. That way you can use BNC which is a tried and true cable that doesn’t have line loss and all the stuff that comes with sending a HD signal down a cable. HDSDI is another way but those convertors are a problem also, they overheat and send you down in flames quickly. SD baby.
Awesome, thanks. Yeah, I figured pretty much everything was on here. That bracket is essential. So you light with HD on the Dreamcolor and switch to SD upon shooting? Then a splitter from the SmallHD (or whatever on board monitor) to an SD conversion to the Dreamcolor? And BNC cables are the ones for that SD signal, right?
Thanks again, brother.
I heard Eizo was showing off this self calibrating 2560 × 1440 native resolution wonder at NAB this year. Might be worth taking a look at.
Just bought a HP LP2475w awsome monitor does not have all the bells and whistles of the HP Dream-color 2480 ZX nor does it have the price tag. Color is exellent Now I just need to adjust brightness and contrast to suit!
Bill Hamell,sweet, that monitor rocks, you will be in good hands.
Just got a HP LP2480zx, can you give me some advice on how to hook it up best. I will be using the 5dmkii and plan on monitoring in the field/post using cs5.5 production premium.
Should I use a LUT or just one of the profiles stored in the DreamColor for lighting, if I am using a Color Profile like Technicolor? A little confuse about this…
Thanks for this site and for sharing your knowledge!!!
Hi Isaac. When shooting a flat profile like Cinestyle, I light off of the Neutral Picture style profile on the camera and then switch back to Cinestyle when shooting.
Love your blog and and videos. A wonderful inspiration and teacher. My questions is — I just picked up to used Dream Color monitors and I noticed that the calibration is over the 4000 hours that you stated earlier that they are good for from the factory. What is the best way to recalibrate them to get the color that I am looking for to light on set with the 5D? Also is lighting with the neutral picture style in your opinion and then switching to the cinestyle before you roll give you the best results with the 5D?
Steve Sepulveda, I have passed this onto Greg Staten at HP who is the monitor guru, he will get back to us and I will pass this onto you. On the Cinestyle to Neutral switch over, yes I find this works like a million bucks. One of my trade secrets.
Thanks for getting back to me. Looking forward to the answer from Greg at HP. Also, I was looking to get 2 of the plates made to mount the monitors on the pelican 1650, however I did not have any luck reaching anyone from the number on your blog. Can you give me the appropriate contact for that?
Hi Shane, Found this thread from a couple of years ago, and wondering if it still applies. If you were buying a large monitor today, would it be HP DreamColor 2480, or is there something else that replaced it that you like better?
Tom Miller. I’m still using the DreamColor 2480 all the time and haven’t found anything better. Thanks for the comment and support.
Just unpacked my HP lp2480zx like a little boy on christmas. First thing i did was log on to your blog to see if you had any advices on how to calibrate perfectly the monitor, After re-reading the blog and already having set the Menus you posted, i was wondering if you had any more advices on your years of experience and practice of how can i punch those extra settings on my monitor.
Thank you for the advice and the inspiration.
Samuel. Thanks for the kind words and support. In order to use the OSD menu with different color space options make sure you are plugged into one of the two DVI inputs on the Dream Color. From there you can access all the extra settings in the OSD menu. If you want to calibrate the colors SMPTE color bars work well. Here is a good tutorial on calibrating to color bars.
I was on location the last weeks but your post really helped me.Just had a few questions i am planning on using the Monitor as my first monitor for focusing e.t.c, But being shooting on the beach with the harsh sun do you recommend me changin tha brightness levels having in mind that i will be using the monitor also on post-production. And wich FPS do you recommend i read that you said that 24 was rock solid but i`ve been lately hearing that you can push it to 50 or 60.
Thank You So very very much
Samuel, I am not sure what you are referring to with 24. I crank the luminance level up to 250, it doesn’t effect the image at all and you can light beautifully and gauge exposure well. Just take a piece of black cloth and throw it over your head when viewing the monitor. That is what I do.
As you can imagine i am a huge fan of you, you team and your vision, Each time i have a big question you are the one i rely on, on the next days i am planning on buying a Jib around $9,000 but i travel a lot so i really don`t know what to buy, my whole gear right now are 5d`s but am planning on buying a RED camera on the future.What would your advise be?
I know how lucky i am on having the way to talk to you,and your amazing team.
Amazing info, really appreciate it.
I have the HP LP2480zx monitor, and I use it for location monitoring with a Canon 5dMII and Canon 5 MII through HDMI. I use the settings you recommend on the OSD, but I could not do the “Fill to aspect Ratio”, since the option is greyed out. Also, I can’t calibrate using the Color bars link you provided, for the hue/saturation and other menus appear grey. How were you able to calibrate you monitor for use with the Canon 5d? My image is over-saturated and too contrasted.
For a field monitor do you recommend buying a used dream color monitor for 1k or a new small hd oled ac7?
I’m kinda torn between the two. I already own a dp5 with eye piece. I also own a gefen wireless transceiver
and was planing on connecting it to the either the dream color or the ac7. I also have a 24″ cinema display that I could also use instead.
What are you thoughts.
Greg Greenhaw. It depends on what you want to use it for. The Dream color would be a great lighting monitor, but the Ac7 is smaller and can be mounted on the camera.
Hey Shane thanks for the post! I went ahead and ordered the LP2480zx as my primary color correction monitor, any suggestion for a secondary companion monitor from HP?
Drew Ruggles, that is great. That is the one I use as well as their Dream Color lap top
I would love to get some more information as to how you got your dreamcolor to work accurately as an on set monitor with the 5d?
I have just received my dream color and have found that when connected to my 5dmkiii via hdmi (with the latest firmware allowing for clean hdmi out) that the dream color has a huge green shift and looks nothing like the on board LCD image on the camera.
Most of the dreamcolors menus are also greyed out which to me indicates that the dreamcolor’s engine is disabled.
I believe this could be because the 5dmkiii outputs an interlaced hdmi signal that is not compatible with the dreamcolor.
Can you offer any more information? I have spent a lot of time trying to solve this issue by testing different connections / settings / monitors and firmware with no luck.
I’m hopeful that there is a solution as your blog suggests you have managed to get this monitor and the 5d to work well together.
At the moment using the full colour space with the engine disabled (as no other options are available) is not an option as the image is nowhere near good enough to accurately light from.
Mike R, Just so you know I did Act of Valor and 50 commercials all from the dreamcolor engine not being engaged and in full spectrum. I could see my subtle color contrast that I was doing as well as gauge color and contrast. The only way to engage the dreamcolor engine is to get a convertor that takes HDMI to DVI. Then the engine gives you all the LUT’s at your disposal. Never went there because of all the variables of possible failure in the field.
I have an old Dreamcolor (LP2480zx) that I’m wanting to wring some more life out of, but have managed to lose the calibration probe I had with it. Does anyone still have one of these they would be willing to part with?