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A Review of the Blackmagic SmartView 4K Ultra HD Broadcast Monitor

by on June 29, 2015
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Manufacture
Overview

The SmartView 4K is the baby of Blackmagic Design and its highly resourceful and high quality development department, which seems to pass all of its time developing professional grade but very easy to use and install video production products with a particular focus on 4K resolution.

Like just about everything from Blackmagic, the SmartView 4K delivers a package full of powerful specs with a design that’s as user- friendly as possible. The SmartView offers a 4K ultra HD resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, a brilliant LED screen with broad viewing angles and all sorts of specialized broadcast video features like 3D LUTS, adjustable on-screen markers, blue only, H/V delay and a whole list of other technologies that we’ll cover in the following detailed categories.

Furthermore, the SmartView is a highly future-proof piece of broadcast workflow technology whose body comes with a whole host of nicely concealed connectivity features for a wide variety of uses, embracing both the professional and the more indie side of broadcasting.

Fundamentally, the SmartView is the industry’s answer to a need for broadcast monitors that don’t shatter budgets while also keeping production as simple as it can be made for now. This monitor may not be in the same class as some other broadcast monitors but it offers plenty of high-end value while only costing a fraction of what many other Pro monitors in its category run for.

The Good

The key things to keep in mind with the SmartView 4K monitor are its simplicity and it’s highly affordable price relative to other 4K broadcast monitors, which can go for as much as 20,000+ dollars each.

This machine is designed to deliver 3840 x 2160 pixels of ultra HD resolution in a smooth 60 frames per second and features a wide range of inputs that include two multi-rate 12G-SDI inputs which can be switched between SD, HD, Full HD and 4K automatically. Furthermore, the monitor is even capable of DCI “True” 4K 4096 x 2160 resolution at a rate of 24 fps.

In terms of physical design, this is a lovely 4K UHD monitor with an easy to install machined metal frame with built-in control buttons that let users access advanced broadcast features with just a few button pushes. Some of these button-accessible features include 3D LUTS, H/V delay, blue channel only and customizable frame markers. Furthermore, the chassis of the SmartView is rack-mountable at 6 RU and several of these monitors can quickly be arranged into an array with minimal fuss. The monitor can also be mounted in more flexible ways thanks to its VESA mounting holes.

Finally, the flexibility and versatility that are the watchwords with the SmartView 4K extend to power and OS compatibility. The monitor comes with both AC power and 12V DC power inputs while coming with software that makes it compatible with either Windows or Mac, whichever you prefer.

Check the Price of the BlackMagic Design SmartView 4k Production Monitor
B&H Photo Video
Price: $1,895.25

The Bad

As we often say on this page, no piece of technology is perfect and the Blackmagic SmartView 4K is no exception. Its much more economical price for a 4K broadcast monitor does come with a certain tradeoff in terms of some specs.

Namely, the monitor features a very small screen that limits workflow to some extent. Yes, you’re getting 3840 x 2160 pixels of resolution (more on this momentarily) but they’re being given over on a screen that’s less than half the size of what most other professional 4K broadcast monitors we’ve reviewed here offer. In fact, the SmartView 4K is almost like a laptop as far as its screen size goes.

Secondly, about those 3840 x 2160 pixels of resolution at 60 frames per second. They’re great and they’re also excellent for many of Blackmagic’s own 4K production cameras which themselves film in this resolution. But other high-end video shooters from Blackmagic itself and certainly from other pro video camera brands actually capture their

Visual Specs

The really important specs in the Blackmagic SmartView 4K are its connectivity features for broadcast and studio workflows. The actual visual specs of this piece of hardware actually leave more than a few things to be desired in terms of color, display space and 4K frame rates. While this is unfortunate, the monitor isn’t design for professional visual editing solutions so much a s it’s built for broadcast monitoring of live production and for certain aspects of editing in broadcast and post production settings.

Thus, for situations in which you’re working on a multi-camera studio productions, you can use the SmartView or a whole arrangement of them for observing all video sources, graphics, program displays and keys simultaneously. The monitor lets you basically monitor everything being filmed regardless of the video standard being grabbed or inputted (more on this under connectivity). Furthermore, a single SmartView or an array of them can also be controlled remotely via Ethernet or fiber while maintaining extremely high visual clarity that’s good enough for broadcast and post production monitoring. At the same time, the screens on the monitors can be digitally calibrated for minimal color drift during input of camera signals..

As for the essential visual specs of the SmartView, they’re not superb but they’re enough for effective onsite monitoring of color consistency and video clarity. The monitor offers only 8-bit color, meaning a range of 16.7 million colors, much less than the 1.07 billion available to other pro broadcast monitors that are both more expensive and much less flexible in mobile working environments.

Furthermore, the display space of the screen is likewise geared towards flexibility and easy installation instead of large size for editing video color and other aspects of how footage looks in its finer details. This is a 15.6 inch screen we’re talking about, not a 40 inch pro video/graphic editing monitor.

However, the SmartView 4K is designed with built-in 3D LUT support, focus peak indicators and zoom controls. Thus, while working onset a user can quickly display images on the SmartView and see their native film gamma, Rec 709 gamma and even their custom colorspaces thanks to the 3D LUTS feature.

Finally, and this is a small but crucial weak point, the SmartView 4K offers only 4K ultra HD at 60 frames per second. DCI “True” 4K at 4096 x 2160 pixels –the 4K in which much pro studio UHD cameras film—is supported at a relatively weak 24 fps. However, this deficiency is made up for by the already mentioned Teranex automatic upscaling feature which is built into the SmartView and which automatically scales a wide range of resolutions like SD and HD to full 2160p 4K

Again, the SmartView 4K is much more of a live production monitoring display than a fine-tuned video editing and manipulation monitor.

Not so Great

To summarize briefly, the less than ideal aspects of the SmartView 4K pretty much all revolve around its visual specs. The monitor comes with a small screen that may be economical but definitely underwhelms, it offers a rather limited 8-bit color range that amounts to only 16.7 million colors and its maximum resolution of DCI 4K at 4096 x 2160 pixels is only viewable at a low 24 frames per second.

Positives

• Excellent SDI connectivity
• Remote control via Ethernet and Fiber
• Great video input resolution upscaling
• True 4K resolution of 4096x2160 pixels
• Highly usable in varied workspaces
• Easy installation in racks or VESA mounts
• Affordable price

Negatives

• Limited color range (8-bit)
• DCI 4K only at 24fps
• Very slow 25 millisecond response time

Editor Rating
 
Features
B+

 
Quality
A+

 
User Friendliness
A

 
Connectivity
A+

 
Price
A

Total Score
A

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User Rating
 
Features
B-

 
Quality
A

 
User Friendliness
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Connectivity
A-

 
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Bottom Line
 

The BlackMsgic SmartView 4K monitor is an excellent choice for video feed monitoring and control in live broadcast environments. It works particularly well on mobile sets due to its small size, construction and connectivity specs.

Check the Price of the BlackMagic Design SmartView 4k Production Monitor
B&H Photo Video
Price: $1,895.25

 
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