Apple Studio display review

I love editing.   There, I said it…. I know that makes me weird… I’m a shooter who also loves to edit.  That doesn’t mean I like to fritter away my time though.

Editing has made me a better shooter.  When I look at something in post and think “oh man, if I’d just angled the camera this way or that way…”  “why didn’t I shoot a sequence of this, what on earth was I thinking?!?!”  (yeah, maybe I’m my own worst critic, but that’s ok, someone’s gotta be)  A lot of sports training books/classes will tell you “begin with the ending in mind”  which pretty much means build a good foundation that will get you to where you want to go.  The same can be said of shooting, even if it’s just making a scuba diving experience video.   I shoot with the end game in mind, how will this look, cut together, flow etc…

I have spent a small fortune (by my standards) on video and lighting equipment.  Upgrading this, that and another thing, and I can comfortably say that even though I don’t have ‘state of the art’ kit (I buy the majority of it used) it does the job very very well, and I’m pretty sure that the improvements to be made in my footage are up to me at this juncture (of course a RED Dragon in a GATES housing wouldn’t hurt – if someone is looking to invest) <grin>

So what you, my fine reader, should have gathered is that although I LOVE nice kit, I’m also on a budget.  There is nothing wrong with being on a budget, but this is one time that it really hosed me in the long run.

Enter my editing station.

Thanks to the kindness of a friend, several years ago I was able to upgrade from my iMac to a Mac Pro.  It was like a slice of heaven on earth for a few years, until my projects went HD and the programs got more and more memory hungry, and i started doing more tinkering in post.  Rendering was getting out of hand and projects were taking ages so I traded the old Mac Pro in for a slightly newer Mac Pro at the Apple store on 45th.  It was like night and day, rendering jobs that took all night now took half an hour.  When I upgraded my computer, I picked up a new monitor as well.  I’d been using some random monitor that was kind of dark and murky.  I upgraded to the HP2511x because in the store, that monitor seemed to have the crispest colors.  I didn’t even think of viewing angle.  That was my first mistake 😉   Along the way the editing station grew and by mid last year it had expanded to an impressive HP2711x flanked by two HP2511x’s.   WALL OF MONITOR!  It looked really awesome.

But.  there is always a but, right?  Remember how I hadn’t taken into account viewing angle?  As my skills as an editor increased, I started tinkering with high dynamic range shooting (meaning the original footage looks really flat and blah, but in post there is more data to manipulate for better detail in shadows etc…)

Taken as is, with the standard camera settings, without much tinkering other than some green removal things would look OK.  As soon as I started doing heavy manipulation though, stuff started to fall apart.  I’d export it and see it on my laptop’s retina screen and it would look horrific, too dark, colors off.  That viewing angle thing just bit me in the ass.  I would try to trust the scopes but at the last minute would tinker a bit too far. The problem was, sometimes I’d sit up straight and see my monitor straight on, offering me an honest interpretation, but sooner or later I’d start slouching or move my chair and all bets were off.

Realizing that I was wasting an extraordinary amount of time on re-edits, I reached out to my friends who do this kind of stuff as real pro’s and asked “what monitor do you use”, and across the board I heard again and again, “apple cinema displays” and “don’t go cheap on your monitor, it is the most important part of your editing station”  Right.  Dammit.  (read: those are expensive and I don’t feel like spending that kind of $$)

Lucky for me, Apple decided to up its game a couple years ago and thunderbolt appeared.  This past year the older 27″ Apple cinema display dropped within (ok, at the upper end of comfortable) my price range.

“Waiter, I’ll take two!”

I really enjoyed working on a multiple monitor set up, and once the first display was delivered and set up side by side with the HP, it was clear that I had to get a second.  Isn’t that how it always is?  A slippery slope one could say…

So, how do I love thee, my Apple cinema displays?  Let me count the ways.

1) stylish (and with that pretty little Apple logo I feel like i’m keeping up with the cool kids)

2) match the brightness of my laptop (even though they are not retina, they correlate well)

3) the internal speakers give more true audio than my ancient sub-woofer system (audio foibles being another story, for another day)

4) true color (or at least they match my laptop’s retina display)

5) reasonably easy to sync the colors (not perfect but darn close without much effort)

6) reflective (i know some of you think this is a negative, but when i’ve got my editing headphones on it really helps me see people sneaking up behind me)

7) great to watch movies and TV shows on… yes.  I spend a fair bit of time doing “research” (at least that is what I call it)

8) All in all, just a joy to work on.  Every time I sit down to work on them, they make me smile.

Now I realize it might not be a fair comparison, a 200 dollar monitor to one that retailed around 999 but can be found around $500 on amazon or eBay.   And like me, you may not believe the hype, and yes, this review may be biased, as I am notoriously considered an Apple Fan Girl.   But like me, some of you may be facing a similar situation, fighting your monitors, doing unnecessary work.

The bottom line is, getting a good display is worth it.  It will make all the difference in the world with regards to your output looking like it was supposed to.  It won’t make you a better nuts and bolts editor or fix your blown out footage, but it will ease the process of doing what you can with what you have 🙂

Disclaimer:  I don’t use a Windoze machine and i’m sure there are equivalent monitors for you folks as well, i’m just sticking to my area of experience 🙂

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