Dolby launches Professional Reference Monitor

Yesterday I had a chance to witness the launch event of Dolby's new Professional Reference Monitor PRM-4200 at the W Hotel Hollywood. That's right, Dolby makes monitors now. It's 100% manufactured by Dolby themselves, and they take pride in that.

This monitor is the first product they made out of the tech acquired with BrightSide Technologies and their famous HDR display. In fact, Dolby has advanced it like crazy, now there are just as many people working in Dolby's Imaging division as in the traditional sound department.

They use RGB LED backlights now to make sure it shows the widest possible color gamut with a straight linear response. But more importantly, they figured out how to integrate it into a real-world production pipeline. You can put the monitor in different modes to emulate every sort of display from consumer TV to theatrical digital projection. It supports 3D LUTs directly, in the industry-standard cineSpace format. You'd simply put it on a Flash drive and stick that in the break-out box.

But what am I talking, just watch my witness cam:

Dolby Reference Monitor in the HDRLabs Channel on Vimeo.

It's just the nature of the beast that a video from my puny D300s on your pitiful computer screen is no comparison to seeing this monitor in real life. The awesome demo machine Susumu Asano is showing us is a professional 2k-4k color grading suite from Digital Vision, the Nucoda Filmmaster. I was told that's the system Pixar finished Toy Story 3 on, ILM has one as well, and I bet I know what these guys will be shopping for next. Another demo booth had live footage running from the new ARRI Alexa camera, which is incredible on its own and probably subject of future post.

Considering Dolby traditionally licenses technology out, you can probably connect the dots where this leaves the consumer market. Keeping control of the ultimate reference design and getting it first into the hands of movie industry professionals is a smart thing to do. Over time this might solve the chicken-and-egg problem: Real HDR media is useless without a true HDR display, and a true HDR display cannot be fully appreciated with LDR content only. Now we can at least master content with wide-gamut and high dynamic range, so it will look great on every screen to come.

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