We recently met with HP in New York to take a look at some of their new product announcements as well as upgrades and enhancements to existing mobile workstation products.
HP has been on a roll with its DreamColor technology, which won them a 2015 Scientific and Engineering Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Originally developed with the help of artists and techs at DreamWorks Animation, the HP DreamColor monitors came out of a real need: by the mid ‘00s, cathode-ray type displays (CRTs) were on their way out. With no inexpensive, color-critical LCD monitors available – well, you could pay $25K for a tricked out Sony LCD but that cleans out the budget quickly – graphic and visual effects artists were at a loss.
But the artists’ insights backed by HP’s renowned engineering R&D, the company was able to create affordable, color precise monitors for much less. Those first devices came in at $3,499, and offered consistent 10-bit color precision, out-of-the-box color calibration, and coverage of the then important standards: sRGB, BT709, and Adobe RGB. (HP describes its DreamColor monitors as offering 30-bit RGB coverage, 10-bits per each color.)
Perhaps the most remarkable new product we were wowed by was the 4K Dreamcolor Z31x Studio display. While we were there, Dan Ochiva and I had a chance to interview HP’s chief DreamColor architect Greg Staten. (Below is a video we made with Staten.)
Staten offers an in-depth description of the Z31x Studio display and why VFX artists want it. Before talking about the Z31x, however, the video begins with a look at the other new DreamColor display HP dropped, the Z24x, which is another choice you have for color-critical display work.
A Disruptive Display
HP’s DreamColor line of displays were specially designed for those who want the highest color fidelity and accuracy, namely those who work in post production, visual effects, animation, matte painters, photo-retouchers, high-end colorists, illustrators, video editors and so on.
According to HP, since 2011, 80% of Academy Award nominees for outstanding visual effects have used HP DreamColor displays.
The feature-rich Z31x DreamColor 4K display, here pictured with HP’s top-of-the-line workstation tower, the Z840.
In the Z31x Studio DreamColor display, HP has taken a big leap ahead by working up a design that can compete with pro monitors costing much more. But how much will it cost? Expect it to go for under $4,000 when it ships this fall.
As Greg Staten emphasized, any of the new Z31x features results directly from feedback they have solicited from a range of professional customers. To start with, its images are delivered on a full 10-bit IPS panel boasting more than 1 billion colors. HP improved on their prior IPS technology, says Staten, by inventing new processes that result in deeper, richer and more consistent black levels no matter what angle of view. Also, screen resolution is a full Cinema 4K format at 4096 X 2160 pixel resolution (17:9 theatrical). That compares to some monitors that don’t go the full Cinema 4K route, instead topping out at UHD 4K resolution of 3840 pixels × 2160 (16:9).
One of the coolest new features of the Z31x Studio is a built-in pop-up colorimeter which swings down from the top of the display. Since it’s built-in, you don’t have to go through some ritual of wasting time as you try to find who has the colorimeter on their desk at the moment.
The colorimeter can be setup to automatically calibrate the display on a regular schedule. Since it’s fully automatic, you can set it to trigger on off hours so your work isn’t interrupted. I think that is very cool, to include a built-in colorimeter right on a the display, especially since a good colorimeter isn’t cheap. The Klein K10-A colorimeter, for example, will burn $7,000 out of your budget.
The HP Z31x DreamColor Studio display has a built in colorimeter which you can use to calibrate the display.
Not only does the Z31x Studio display have a built-in colorimeter, but, according to HP’s Greg Staten, the color accuracy that results are on par with that pricey Klein K10-A. The display delivers HP’s widest color gamut ever: 99% of DCI-P3, 100% of Adobe RGB and 100% of sRGB with support for 60Hz, 50Hz and 48Hz.
Another feature of the HP Z31x Studio that solves a real problem is the built in KVM switch. Now you can easily switch the input from two different computers nearby or in your machine room with a quick keyboard shortcut. This allows the user to share the display (as well as the mouse and keyboard) between two computers. This is important because many artists often rely on two computers to do their work. For example, they may have a Linux machine running a compositing app as well as a Windows box for Adobe Creative Suite or 3D program. The KVM switch eliminates clutter on your desk by allowing you to easily switch between the different sources.
There’s a lot more to like about the HP Z31x DreamColor Display including screen markers, masks and more, so watch the video above if you like to dive into the details.
A Most Affordable DreamColor
HP also announced the HP Z24x G2 DreamColor Display which delivers good pro color accuracy and consistency, but at a budget-conscious price almost every artist can afford. Currently HP sells the monitor on its site for $489. (The Z24x G2 is also featured in the video above.)
The HP DreamColor Z24x is a 1920 X 1200 display that delivers accurate color at an affordable price.
The Z24x features a 24-inch diagonal DreamColor panel with a WUXA resolution of 1920 X 1200, yet still brings you into the 10-bit production space with its up to a billion colors from a huge color gamut that covers 99% of Adobe RGB.
It’s capable of user calibration with push-button color space selection and while HP can’t throw in an actual color calibration unit at the Z24x’s price tag of under $500, it does offer you software (Windows and Mac OS) that supports both the X-Rite i1 Display Pro and the Klein Instruments K10-A colorimeters.
If you do color critical work, you might know about these monitors already. But if you are new to the game, we can strongly recommend this latest round of HP’s DreamColor Displays, no matter what your budget might be.