A Review of the Blackmagic SmartView 4K Ultra HD Broadcast Monitor
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 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.
B&H Photo Video
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
Blackmagic’s SmartView 4K broadcast monitor is an excellent pro workflow choice if you’re looking for 4K display technology which won’t break the bank. It does have its flaws and deficiencies but it still delivers a great overall hardware package.
Weight: 7.94 lbs (no stand, rack or VESA mountable)
Dimensions: (WxHxD): 18.98 inches × 10.47 inches × 2.75 inches
Screen size: 15.6 inches, measured diagonally
Contrast ratio: 1000:1
Colors: 16.7 million colors (8-bit)
Brightness: 350 cd/m2
Display type: IPS
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
Screen Lighting: LED
Response time: 25 ms grey-to-grey
Resolution: 4096 x 2160 (at 24fps) and 3840 x 2160 (at 60fps)
SDI Video Input: 2 SDI inputs automatically switch between SD, HD, 3G, 6G and 12G-SDI. Reclocked loop through output
Optical Video Input: SFP Optical Fiber connector cage
SDI Video Output: Automatically switches to input selection
Multi-Rate support: Auto detection of 4K, 2K, HD or standard definition inputs
Ethernet: Gigabit ethernet with loop through
Tally: 9-pin D connecter
SDI format support: 525/23.98, 525/29.97, 625/25, 720p50, 720p59.94, 720p60, 1080i50, 1080i59.94, 1080i60, 1080PsF23.98, 1080PsF24, 1080p23.98, 1080p24, 1080p25, 1080p29.97,1080p30, 1080p50, 1080p59.94, 1080p60, 2048x1080p/23.98, 2048x1080p/24, 2048x1080p/25, 2048x1080PsF/23.98, 2048x1080PsF/24, 2048x1080PsF/25, 3840x2160p23.98, 3840x2160p24, 3840x2160p25, 3840x2160p29.97, 3840x2160p30, 4096x2160p24
SDI Compliance: SMPTE 259M, SMPTE 292M, SMPTE 296M, SMPTE 372M and SMPTE 425M
Video Sampling: 4:2:2 and 4:4:4
The main highlights of the SmartView 4K broadcast monitor revolve around its workflow monitoring flexibility and its range of connectivity options for assorted inputs. Thus, to briefly summarize some of these:
The SmartView offers multi rate dual 12G-SDI connections and this means that automatic switching between SD, HD and 4K up to 2160p (4K UHD) formats. Furthermore, IT comes with a load of advanced broadcast features which include adjustable on-screen markers, 3D LUTs, H/V delay and blue channel only.
On top of this input flexibility, there is a built-in Teranex processor that will also automatically scale all SD and HD video inputs up to Ultra HD 4K resolution as they’re fed into the SmartView 4K.
Controlling these above features and others is easily done through either a remote control setup via Ethernet and through included software for both Windows and Mac OS platforms or right through a series of buttons right under the screen, which have extremely broad control functionality.
Best of all, the monitor is eminently flexible in the type of work environments it can be installed to. Rack mounting of dozens of SmartViews is extremely easy while VESA mounting capability creates options in a wide range of other work environments, and the dual presence of both AC and 12V DC power inputs lets you supply the battery and work via power cable in almost any setting.
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.
Finally we get down to the connectivity specs of the SmartView 4K. These are some of the most crucial aspects of this particular broadcast monitor and they’re wonderfully suited for highly variable, mobile and flexible broadcasting workspaces.
Most important are the multi-rate dual 12G-SDI connections we’d mentioned. They basically allow the monitor to take in almost any sort of resolution input from any source of digital video and if you take a peek at the supported formats we’ve listed in the specs, you’ll see the sheer range of SDI input parameters and SDI format support that the SmartView offers. Most importantly though, these SDI inputs allow support for the two 4k resolutions of Ultra HD (3840x2160) at 60 fps and DCI 4K (4096x2160) at 24 fps.
There’s also a 12G-SDI loop output that lets you send these varied input signals to yet another device.
The SDI aside, the monitor is also built to allow remote handling of video inputs and video monitoring parameters through an Ethernet connection which lets you manipulate and control onscreen parameters through included software for both Windows and Mac. On top of this Ethernet feature, the SmartView 4K offers a SMPTE-compatible optical fiber socket for adding a fiber optic cable connection module.
Finally, a USB port is built into the monitor for software updates as they get released by Blackmagic Design on its website.
The Blackmagic SmartView 4K monitor is especially attractive due to the low price it commands for a versatile multi-purpose broadcast monitor. It’s currently retailing on Amazon.com for $1895.25.
B&H Photo Video
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.
• 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
• Limited color range (8-bit)
• DCI 4K only at 24fps
• Very slow 25 millisecond response time