HP DreamColor Mac connectivity & functionality: update 2012.1


After a period of non-disclosure from HP, I finally have lots of information to report about news regarding DreamColor connectivity and functionality with Mac. In this article, you’ll find out about new DreamColor software for Mac (you no longer need temporary access to Microsoft Windows to calibrate the DreamColor in a pro video environment with a pro video i/o interface), problems and solutions resulting from Apple’s surprising switch to YUV instead of RGB on the Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt output on Macs released starting in 2011, and more. I have called this article DreamColor Mac connectivity and functionality: update 2012.1 because I expect there to be several more this year.

Prior DreamColor articles in ProVideo Coalition magazine

In the past few years, I have published at least nine related articles, and Art Adams and Patrick Inhofer have published related articles too. Many of those articles are kind of a prerequisite for this new article, and are listed and linked at the end of this article for those who may have missed them.

Ahead in this article

  • New Mac calibration software for DreamColor
  • General challenges for directly-connecting a critical video monitor to a computer for video editing or grading
  • Solving framerate issues
  • New problem caused by Apple’s Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt output gone YUV, and a few solutions
  • Retina MacBook Pro’s new HDMI output: Is it kosher for DreamColor?
  • Will AJA’s upcoming T-TAP be the messiah for the DreamColor (for those who otherwise don’t need a full i/o)?

New Mac calibration software for DreamColor

When you calibrate a DreamColor monitor connected to a professional i/o device from AJA, Blackmagic, Matrox, or MOTU, the settings and profiles are stored in the monitor (as they need to be), not in the computer. Up until now, it has been necessary for Mac-based editing/grading suites to have at least temporary access to Microsoft Windows in order to carry out such a calibration. This has meant bringing a Windows laptop or desktop temporarily into the edit/grading suite, or installing Windows under Boot Camp onto the Mac used in the editing or grading suite. (For me at least it only worked via Boot Camp. The only time I tried via a virtual machine, it didn’t work.)

Although the installer for the new Mac software has not yet hit the HP web site (they are in the midst of a redesign and it won’t go live until the redesign rolls down to the product pages), it is available from X-Rite (as all DreamColor Calibration software is) here.

General challenges for directly-connecting a critical video monitor to a computer for video editing or grading

  • The video editing or grading app needs to be able to deliver a trustable signal to the computer’s GPU. When I say trustable, I mean that the brightness, contrast, gamma, and color must be a faithful representation of the actual video being handled internally, even though color transcoding will often be necessary. This was absolutely not the case with FCP 6 or 7 (or Color) by Apple’s own admission in writing. That’s why with FCP 6 and 7 and Color, a professional i/o device was the only choice for critical evaluation. I have never received a straight answer about this with FCP X, and other issues you’ll read ahead have detoured me from determining it myself so far. At least I haven’t seen any warnings in writing from Apple about it not being trustable with FCP X the way I had before with FCP 6 and 7. Adobe began promising this capability starting with Premiere CS5 and presumably maintains this feature with Premiere CS6. I have heard from a credible source that this is also true with Avid Media Composer 6.
  • The Mac’s OS must be able to deliver an appropriate raster to the monitor (i.e. 1920×1080 or in some cases I’ve covered previously (i.e. FCP X), 1920×1200).
  • This is only good to monitor progressive video, not interlaced video (Not a problem for me or most people I know, but I realize that there are some people who love interlaced video. If you love interlaced video and also insist on monitoring interlaced video as-is, this is not for you. However, it certainly can be for you if you are in the process of converting some raw interlaced footage into progressive, knowing that your final deliverable will be progressive. Some people might call this “sanitizing” the raw interlaced video.)
  • In order to have smooth playback and lip sync, the Mac must output a proper framerate to match the timeline/sequence/project settings (or at least a 2x representation of it), and this must be handled manually for each sequence/project/timeline if they change from one to the next. (Theoretically the software developer of the video editing/grading could request this of the GPU via the OS, but I haven’t seen that happen so far. Maybe it’s coming with Mountain Lion…) More about this in the next section below.

Solving framerate issues

Ideally, we should be able to send the DreamColor the exact framerate that is on the timeline/sequence/project, or a 2x representation of them for the slower ones, since the DreamColor does a 2x of them anyway. The exact doubling should not introduce any frame-rate conversion artifacts. So:

  • 23.976p sequences/projects/timelines should be sent at 23.976 Hz or 47.952 Hz.
  • 24.000p sequences/projects/timelines should be sent at 24.000 Hz or 48.000 Hz
  • 25p sequences/projects/timelines should be sent at 25.000 Hz or 50.000 Hz
  • 29.97p sequences/projects/timelines should be sent at 29.970 Hz or 59.94 Hz
  • 50p sequences/projects/timelines should be sent at 50 Hz
  • 59.94p sequences/projects/timelines should be sent at 59.94 Hz

The DreamColor can accept all of those listed. The behavior of the Mac OS varies among versions and the hardware surrounding it, as well as the monitor connected to it. Hopefully, when you connect your Mac to your DreamColor, the Mac’s Display control panel (inside of the System Preferences) will offer you the correct matching framerate (or at a least 2x representation, as listed above). If that is not the case, you may need a third-party piece of software in order to add options to the control panel. One that I have successfully used is SwitchResX. However, you must use it at your own risk. I have used it at least twice on two different systems, and it has never caused me any problems, but I have heard of a case where someone had to reinstall his entire operating system. The last time I used it was in 2011 and it was compatible with 10.7.x. Its GUI isn’t the friendliest, but it did accomplish what the goal was: to add 50Hz to the Mac’s Display control panel.

New problem caused by Apple’s Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt output gone YUV, and a few solutions

I was quite surprised and disappointed to discover that many of Apple’s computers from 2011 were outputting YUV instead of RGB when using either an official Apple Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter or a 3rd-party direct cable from Mini DisplayPort to HDMI. (This wouldn’t matter for just about any other HDMI monitor or HDTV set, but it matters for the DreamColor Engine, as explained in several of my prior articles.) Although my contact at HP was able to solve the issue and get RGB by using a direct Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable, when I tried the same thing with Rub©n Abruña, unfortunately it was still YUV (Kryptonite for the DreamColor Engine inside of the DreamColor monitor). The only way I was able to force an RGB signal from that output was to convert it to DVI, which by definition is RGB… but unfortunately is also by definition only 8-bit, and also unfortunately made the settings I had created with SwitchResX disappear. So SwitchResZ will really only be able to help you if you have previously determined that you indeed have RGB by checking to see if the DreamColor’s Engine is active (i.e. not greyed out in the DreamColor on screen menu). On top of that, I have heard from AJA that even when using Apple’s official Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter, it drops to 8-bit regardless. I must clarify that 10-bit (aka 30-bit) monitoring is only one of many advantages of using a DreamColor monitor… but ideally we’d want to take full advantage of the 10-bit (30-bit) feature too. So the direct Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable is the best option for a Mac whose only output is Mini DisplayPort (or Thunderbolt), but it still requires trying to see whether with your particular Mac it will provide RGB to your DreamColor monitor. The low cost of that direct Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable is so low that it is certainly worth a try.

Retina MacBook Pro’s new HDMI output: Is it kosher for DreamColor?

You may know that starting with the new version of the MacBook Pro with Retina display (June 2012), there is finally a direct HDMI output. Several ProVideo Coalition readers have written to me to ask whether this output is kosher for DreamColor. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer yet, nor do my contacts at HP. We have requested a loaner unit of one of the new MacBook Pros with Retina, but it may take several weeks until we have the answer. At that point, we’ll be able to answer the key questions:

  • Does the Retina MacBook Pro’s new HDMI deliver RGB (or only YUV)?
  • If so, what framerates does it offer when connected to the DreamColor monitor?
  • If not all of the desired framerates, does SwitchResX work well with this output to add the missing framerates while maintaining the RGB output over HDMI?
  • Finally, is that output 10-bit?

Please stand by as we are able to get these answers to you. If any reader already has both devices, contact me here.

Will AJA’s upcoming T-TAP be the messiah for the DreamColor (for those who otherwise don’t need a full i/o… and are not planning to use DaVinci Resolve in its full capacity)?

As stated in several previous articles, if you plan to use DaVinci Resolve to grade footage, you at least need a Blackmagic i/o, and then (until they remove the “Band-Aid”), an additional converter called HDLink Pro 3D DisplayPort in order to see a full-screen rendering of DaVinci Resolve’s output on a DreamColor monitor. On the other hand, if you are content to see the graded video only in its preview window (as opposed to full screen in a dedicated monitor), you may be able to connect the DreamColor directly to the Mac, as long as you can get around the RGB and framerate issues mentioned above.

For popular pro apps, your solution is likely to come with AJA’s T-TAP. However, a recent followup set of emails with AJA’s PR department revealed that they are not yet ready to release a list of supported pro apps for T-TAP, and they are not yet ready to confirm whether T-TAP will offer a “desktop” mode, to be used for general tutorials or pro apps that are not directly supported, like (presumably) Adobe’s SpeedGrade or (in its preview window only) DaVinci Resolve.

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Related DreamColor articles

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Allan Tépper

Allan Tépper

Born in Connecticut, United States, Allan Tépper is a bilingual consultant, multi-title author, tech journalist, translator, and language activist who has been working with professional video since the eighties. Since 1994, Tépper has been consulting both end-users and manufacturers through his Florida company. Via TecnoTur, Tépper has been giving video tech seminars in several South Florida’s universities and training centers, and in a half dozen Latin American countries, in their native language. Tépper has been a frequent radio/TV guest on several South Florida, Guatemalan, and Venezuelan radio and TV stations. As a certified ATA (American Translators Association) translator, Tépper has translated and localized dozens of advertisements, catalogs, software, and technical manuals for the Spanish and Latin American markets. He has also written many contracted white papers for tech manufacturers. Over the past 18 years, Tépper’s articles have been published or quoted in more than a dozen magazines, newspapers, and electronic media in Latin America. Since 2008, Allan Tépper’s articles have been published frequently –in English– in ProVideo Coalition magazine, and since 2014, he is is the director of CapicúaFM.com. His website is AllanTépper.com.