Professional-Use 30-inch 4K Display The Story Behind the Development of the DP-V3010 Display
Their goal: to lead the industry.
In this interview, four key individuals devoted to fulfilling the needs of professionals in cinema and television production discuss how they created a product to meet the challenges of the motion-picture industry, Canon's commitment to excellence and prospects for the future.
Meeting the Challenges of the Motion-Picture Industry
Our goal was to develop the ultimate
4K motion-picture and television production display.
The DP-V3010 is Canon's first professional liquid crystal display, marking the company's entry into this market. Supporting 4K resolution, a resolution standard that has been making waves in the industry, the DP-V3010 targets professionals working in cinema production.
Why did Canon develop a 4K display for digital cinema production? What makes the display's unrivaled image quality, including its faithful color reproduction, possible?
Area of technical expertise: Product planning
The DP-V3010 is Canon's first professional-use display. Why did this first display target professionals working in digital cinema production?
Development for this product began in earnest in 2011. Around that time, there was much talk about the experience of viewing 3-D images with special glasses. However, we intentionally chose to pursue ultra-high-definition 4K instead of 3-D.
At the start of development, we created a prototype 4K display as part of the development process. When we used the prototype to display 4K images, we were amazed at the high level of depth and perspective, even though the images weren't in 3-D. We felt that customers might be able to enjoy a more natural 3-D viewing experience by watching high-definition images on a 4K display rather than using special glasses to view 3-D images. When we exhibited the 4K prototype at Canon Expo 2010, the company's private exhibition, we received a lot of positive feedback with many visitors saying the 4K images had a three-dimensional feel and sense of depth.
Aiming to commercialize the display, we conducted research on the professional display market. Based on the results, we decided to develop a display for professionals working in motion-picture and television production to take advantage of synergies offered by using the display in conjunction with Canon's various input devices. Although there is an incredibly wide range of users in the industry, we found that those in the motion-picture industry had the most stringent requirements for image quality for their displays. We also found that, although the filmmaking sector had already started moving toward 4K-based production, 4K filmmaking professionals had not yet found displays that satisfied their image-quality needs.
As a display manufacturer, Canon is a latecomer to the market. Aiming to seize an advantageous position in the market, we thought it necessary to demonstrate our technological edge by targeting the high-end sector, which requires the highest levels of imaging quality.
Area of technical expertise: Image-quality design
What kind of display was the movie industry looking for?
In digital cinema production, a process called color grading plays an important role. Color grading is used to adjust the shades and tones of colors to reflect the natural perspective of the world depicted in the work. Currently, color grading is performed using cinema projectors in a spacious setting. With the rapid adoption of 4K-based production, however, there is a growing need for space-saving work environments that use displays instead of cinema projectors. But, if the colors displayed during production differ from those projected during final image confirmation, then users will have to go back and perform further color correction. In other words, the display used for color processing demands the same color-reproduction capabilities as expensive digital cinema projectors.
What level of color reproducibility is required then?
The digital cinema production industry makes use of the color gamut standard advocated by DCI.1 This color gamut is much wider than that used in TV broadcasting. Therefore, when developing the 4K display, our first goal was to faithfully reproduce the color gamut used in the digital cinema industry.
- *1 Digital Cinema Initiatives. DCI is a joint venture of major motion-picture studios, mainly in Hollywood, formed to establish a standard architecture for digital cinema systems
- *2 International standard defining the color gamut used in TV broadcasting
- *3 Color gamut used in printing, photography, etc.
In order to achieve the high level of color reproducibility required for digital cinema production, Canon newly developed three technologies: a proprietary imaging engine for display use; an original-design RGB LED backlight system with LCD panel; and a high-image-quality algorithm that maximizes the performance of these innovations.
Area of technical expertise: Mechanical design
What role does the imaging engine play?
Video editing software has a variety of functions for fine-tuning image quality, including color and brightness. It might be easier to visualize the imaging engine as a dedicated chip incorporating these image quality adjustment functions within the display itself.
Canon has already developed a variety of imaging engines, but since 4K images incorporate such a large number of pixels, we had to deal with much greater amounts of data than ever before. In terms of pixel count alone, a 4K image has four times the number of pixels as a full-HD image. What's more, video production involves many image quality adjustments, each requiring high levels of precision. These circumstances led us to develop a new imaging engine that accommodates real-time adjustment of image quality at a level equivalent to that demanded in professional motion-picture production.
The imaging engine incorporates a GPU (graphics processing unit) that handles batch processing of image data in large volumes, a set of multiple operating systems including Linux, and a variety of applications. Simply put, it's like a high-performance PC has been integrated into it.
Area of technical expertise: Firmware* development
- * Firmware is a type of software used to control product hardware functions
White LEDs are used for the backlights of most home TVs, but the DP-V3010 incorporates an RGB LED.
That's right. Compared with RGB LEDs, white LEDs have a narrower color gamut. To ensure the color gamut prescribed by the DCI standard, we adopted an RGB LED backlight system.
The RGB LED backlight system creates white by combining the RGB colors of red, green and blue. Inevitably, compared with the white LED system, this system incorporates more LEDs and is more susceptible to inconsistencies in color and brightness, which we had a hard time overcoming.
For example, even a small change in the temperature surrounding the LED results in a change in the brightness. Furthermore, if the component LEDs of the RGB system differ in brightness, they won't produce white in combination. So, we worked to ensure uniform temperature by, for example, examining the backlight temperature distribution with a thermo viewer* to regulate the airflow.
The light from the backlight passes through the LCD panel before reaches the viewer's eyes, so we also specially designed the LCD panel to have an expanded color gamut.
- * A device for graphically displaying temperature distribution
You say you employed a new algorithm (calculation method) for color reproduction. What does it do?
Backlight LEDs and LCD panels have their own peculiarities, which result in color variations even with the same input signal. Our new algorithm accounts for the unique characteristics of these components and corrects them as needed to display intended colors. With this algorithm, we are now able to not only cover the wide color gamuts employed in digital cinema, but also faithfully reproduce, for example, subtle shades of skin color or variations in color tone.
Canon's Commitment to Excellence
A single-minded focus on details results in a level of
expressiveness that satisfies professionals.
To realize faithful color reproduction, it's not enough to simply improve each technology component incorporated in a product. Rather, this is achieved by examining the individual differences between each component, how the age, how each screw is tightened during assembly, among other things. These minute factors impact color reproduction. To satisfy the needs of professionals, the development team members racked their brains until the last minute.
What kind of challenges did you encounter?
Even the way you tighten a single screw on the LCD panel changes the color slightly. A prototype created by the engineers would yield slightly different results compared with a product assembled at the factory, so we faced unexpected problems until the end. Although a certain degree of color inconsistency may be permissible in a consumer TV, even the slightest discrepancy in color cannot be permitted in a professional display used for color processing in motion-picture and television production.
Before shipment from the factory, every unit is inspected for image quality and precisely adjusted, and the measured results are stored in the unit's memory to ensure the same degree of color reproduction accuracy in every unit.
In addition, the DP-V3010 includes a function that automatically corrects brightness and color. By using a system developed in-house to automatically correct fluctuations in color and brightness as well as aging-related changes, we made it possible to maintain accurate color and brightness over the long term.
What kind of feedback have you received from professionals working in the field?
The DP-V3010 employs the highest-quality LCD panel currently available, which can display 1024 gradation levels of each RGB color. Although each panel has its own peculiarities, by using the high-image-quality algorithm described earlier, we can correct them to prevent the occurrence of lapses and skips in gradation. As a result, the display is capable of expressing subtle gradations of the sky or subtle differences in color in dark areas of a scene, which has earned us the praise of professionals working in motion-picture and television production.
The DP-V3010 is Canon's first display launched for the motion-picture and television production. Building on the image technologies Canon has nurtured over the years and always pursuing the highest possible image quality, the slogan of our development team was "if we're going to do it, we might as well overdo it."
While faithful color reproduction is the DP-V3010's primary feature, the development team also took into consideration the demands of users, asking themselves, "What constitutes ease of use?"
I understand the pixel count of the 4K digital cinema standard is 4096 pixels horizontally by 2160 pixels vertically.
But the DP-V3010's vertical pixel count is 2560. Why did you choose this pixel count?
With the 4096 x 2160 format, the displayed image fills the entire screen. This means that the timecode, display adjustment menu and other on-screen information must be overlaid on the image. We've heard from people in the industry that, when information such as menus obscures the on-screen image, it interferes with their efforts to confirm image quality. They want to avoid this interference whenever possible. In response to such requests, we added 400 pixels to the vertical dimension of the DP-V3010.
We also paid particular attention to the design of on-screen menu displays to ensure that users can grasp current settings from the settings menu at a glance. And it seems that our efforts have paid off as we've received positive feedback from customers who have actually used the product and found the interface to be very user-friendly.
The controller for adjusting image quality is standard equipment, isn't it?
Before motion-picture and television production work begins, it's necessary to first fine-tune certain aspects of image quality, such as brightness, to match the environment in which the display will be used. To facilitate such adjustments, we prepared a dedicated controller. To enhance the use of the controller, we designed it for intuitive operation, focusing considerable attention on the button layout. We placed all the function buttons along the left edge, the image quality adjustment buttons in the center, and the channel-switching buttons along the right edge.
Moreover, since color grading and other image quality adjustments are usually performed in a dark room, we gave the controller illuminated buttons. But we didn't want them to glow too brightly since it could interfere with the editing process. They glow with just the right amount of illumination, and the brightness level can be adjusted.
The controller has a switch marked "CDL." What function does it control?
It refers to the American Society of Cinematographers Color Decision List format, or ASC CDL, which has become popular in the motion picture industry.
For example, when on location, a wide range of scenes are shot and daylight tends to change from scene to scene. In such cases, any difference in the camera's white balance can make adjusting the colors afterward very difficult. The ASC CDL format was developed to avoid such problems by letting users adjust and save color and gradation data. Using this function during post-shooting image processing, it's possible to reproduce the color and gradation expression that the production crew had intended and adjusted for when they were shooting.
The DP-V3010 also supports greater workflow efficiency by enabling the export of ASC CDL-based image-adjustment data to other devices via USB memory, as well as the import of such data from other devices.
During the planning stage, we obtained information about the ASC CDL as the format was being established and decided early on to incorporate this function. This, however, was immediately after the format had been finalized and we weren't sure that the ASC CDL would gain wide acceptance. But, after going ahead and incorporating the function in the product, we've had customers congratulate us for supporting the ASC CDL. So, I guess we made the right decision to include it.
Prospects for the Future
How do you see the DP-V3010 project evolving in the future?
Honestly speaking, the DP-V3010's display engine realizes advanced functionality that still offers quite a bit of untapped potential. We're now working on other functions that we've yet to incorporate.
In fact, new studio standards define an even wider color gamut than that of the DCI. So, we're planning to offer a corresponding firmware update in the future.
Is it possible to expand a color gamut after-the-fact?
In terms of hardware performance, there's still room to spare.
You could say that there's still more than currently meets the eye (laughs).
The DP-V3010's industry-leading color reproducibility and ease of use have already won the acclaim of professionals working in motion-picture and television production.
The DP-V3010 not only delivers outstanding performance as a standalone device, but also plays an integral role as part of the entire motion-picture and television production workflow. Today, digital cinema cameras from Canon's Cinema EOS System, such as the EOS C500 and EOS-1D C, are widely used in digital filmmaking. The DP-V3010 is equipped with a special mode supporting the Canon Log* used in Cinema EOS System cameras, enabling film crews to convert footage captured with the EOS C500 or EOS-1D C into appropriate gradation and confirm on location.
Canon's cinema camera and display lineup, spanning the range from input to output, supports advanced workflows from start to finish, bringing cinema production to a new level.
- * A proprietary recording system used in Canon digital cinema cameras to achieve rich gradation expression through a wide dynamic range
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Interview & Composition
Born in 1970. After working as a magazine editor, he became a freelance writer/editor and has been active as a researcher, interviewer and writer in the fields of IT, science and the environment.
Publications include The Day Apple and Google Become Gods (co-author), New Guide to Superconductivity, 72 Hours of Google (co-author), Affirmation (co-author), and others.
- Area of technical expertise:
- Product planning
- Area of technical expertise:
- Firmware* development
- * Firmware is a type of software used to control product hardware functions
- Area of technical expertise:
- Image-quality design
- Area of technical expertise:
- Mechanical design