Thinking of buying an OLED - read this first...

It may surprise some people that Autocue, known worldwide as the leader in broadcast, educational and corporate teleprompting, is also highly experienced in providing broadcast quality reference monitors. We’ve parlayed our experience in quality prompting screens to specify the manufacture of broadcast monitors for OB trucks, vision galleries and QC/machine rooms, and we recently launched a range of highly specified 24-inch monitors for edit and grade suites that offer class-leading performance when compared to the major brands. The feedback has been effusive, with many expressing a high degree of satisfaction with image reproduction, sharpness and the quality of blacks and whites.
But that begs the question, “Where do we go from here”? Some have suggested that the next step may be a move similar to some of the larger players into OLED.
For the uninitiated, OLED stands for “Organic Light Emitting Diode”, which, as opposed to LCD, works without a backlight and can therefore be very light and thin. This is an undoubted advantage. Unfortunately, it’s an advantage that comes at a price.
It’s true that, for those with deep pockets, OLED monitors offer an outstanding level of deep black performance, which means that there is a high contrast range; short rise and fall times enable fast scrolling objects to been seen very clearly; a wide colour gamut means colours can be maintained at a low intensity; and, finally, they don’t weigh much.
These advantages are, almost literally, worth their weight in gold, but the flip side of that gold coin reveals some issues that may give pause to those about to pony up with their chequebook.
Because no other display technology can match the black performance of OLED, OLED screens need to be “offset”, which, in practice, means made worse to mimic existing technology or else the black detail you and your client can see so clearly in the edit suite will be lost on viewers who are not watching OLED displays, which includes most people today. There is some evidence that new OLED televisions will find their way to the marketplace in 2012, but manufacturers may find it difficult to sell a new television or studio monitor for many thousands of pounds when so many have only recently shelled out for HD and, increasingly, 3D-ready screens.
And speaking of high definition, the gamut range stipulated by ITU-R Recommendation BT.709 or “REC709” as it’s commonly known, for HDTV is standardised well within the range achievable by OLED or LCD, so unless you’re working on feature films your monitors have no need for the extra range of colour gamut available with OLED.
I mentioned fast scrolling earlier, and it does look very good indeed on an OLED but, again, people tend to forget that what looks good on an OLED screen isbeyond the displayable capabilities of any other screen technology. What you see is not what you get. In short, it’s a performance “enhancement” that cannot actually be used!
And did I mention that OLED’s are expensive? Just looking around the marketplace it seems you can pick up a single Grade 1, 25-inch OLED monitor for around £25K. And how many of them did you say you needed, sir? (By comparison, the same amount of money could buy five of Autocue’s 24-inch G-Series monitors. Just sayin’.)
Unfortunately, current poor factory yields mean that pricing is unlikely to improve in the short term. That’s not to say that Grade 1’s will always be the only level on offer. Grade 2 OLED panels are entering the market tagged as the “broadcast range” at slightly more realistic price points, but guess what? They will also include many more dead pixels than the Grade 1 panels. There. I said it. Even Grade 1 OLEDs will most likely have dead pixels once the first few hand-selected demo panels turn into regular production.
And, they flicker - tiresomely! And their colourimetry drifts more rapidly, mandating expensive probes to recalibrate them, and…well, you get the picture.
So if you’re going to get the picture in a package that far outperforms its price point, my suggestion is that you take a look at more cost-effective alternatives. We’ll keep a watching brief on OLED as the technology matures, but we’ll be watching on Autocue monitors.

Tags: autocue | iss059 | oled | lcd | oled monitor | rec709 | bt.709 | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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