UltraStudio Mini Monitor works with DaVinci Resolve, but should you use it for serious grading?

Picking the right monitoring interface for your editing/grading system is a very critical decision. Learn the important factors to help you make that decision in this article.
Allan Tépper
By Allan Tépper 11.01.12


Earlier this week, I published UltraStudio Mini Monitor: competition to T-TAP? together with a detailed comparison chart. Among many other things, that chart clarified that T-TAP does not work with the industry’s most revered grading program (DaVinci Resolve), and that UltraStudio Mini Monitor does. At US$145, UltraStudio Mini Monitor certainly won’t win any awards for Brevity of a product name, but it will certainly win one for least expensive interface for a full-raster/proper framerate interface to see your grading (or editing) results in realtime on an HD monitor or HDTV set. In fact, even if you own a DreamColor monitor and want to make it work with DaVinci Resolve as a program monitor, the sum of US$145 + US$495 for the “Band-Aid” = US$640 which still represents the least costly connection, even with the irony of the “Band-Aid” now costing more than the “wound”. But that brings us to my title question: Should you use it for serious grading?


In this article

  • Clarification about compatibility with DaVinci Resolve

  • SIDEBAR: RGB versus YUV/component video

  • Color space used in grading programs and in DaVinci Resolve

  • Comparison chart: UltraStudio Mini Monitor versus higher-end solutions from Blackmagic

  • So what’s the bottom line?

  • Related articles

Clarification about compatibility with DaVinci Resolve

Just in case any of our readers isn’t aware: The reason that the T-TAP doesn’t work with DaVinci Resolve is the same reason that no other interface from AJA, Matrox, or MOTU works with DaVinci Resolve. It is a business decision from Blackmagic (which now owns DaVinci Resolve), similar to the business decisions that Avid made (in the past). There was a time when Avid video software worked only with Avid-branded interfaces. Later, Avid opened up and today Avid video software like Media Composer 6 works with interfaces from AJA, Blackmagic, Matrox, and MOTU. That is what the two situations have in common. What was quite different was the fact that in the era when Avid restricted hardware compatibility to its own interfaces, those Avid interfaces were often much more expensive than comparable hardware from any of the other mentioned hardware manufacturers. Now the opposite is true with Blackmagic, since their hardware interfaces tend to have lower prices than similar interfaces from AJA, Matrox, or MOTU.

SIDEBAR: RGB versus YUV/component video

The primary colors in color video are RGB, or Red, Green, and Blue. However, a long time ago, video engineers discovered that given a situation of limited bandwidth, it is often more efficient to handle the video in a component version of RGB. This is because the human eye is more sensitive to the luminance portion of the video than the chroma portion. Component video assigns more of the bandwidth to the luminance, which is comprised more of the Green channel than either of the others. For example, at least with NTSC, the luminance is derived 59% from the Green channel, 30% from the Red channel, and 11% from the Blue channel. Over the years, there have been many different ways of expressing component video, including:
  • Y, R-Y, B-Y (Y=Luminance, R=Red, B= Blue)

  • Y, Cb, Cr

  • YPbPr

  • YUV

Sometimes the terms are associated more with one context than with another. In the component analog days, there were even fights among the standards in terms of the chroma levels (the EBU N10 level, the SMPTE level, and the Sony Betacam USA level, etc.) which sometimes caused mismatches when interconnecting analog equipment. I remember having to re-calibrate component analog video mixers ("switchers") to work with a different standard… and having to prove to Leader Instruments that in the PAL world, Sony had accepted the EBU N10 level, in order to prevent Leader from forcing PAL component vectorscope users to display the words "MII" just to measure the proper level for PAL Betacam SP. It was very different in the NTSC world, where the Sony USA chroma levels won over in popularity over the SMPTE levels. But that's all nostalgia now...

Most video códecs used in cameras and even in high end external recorders record video with component (YUV) 4:2:2 as opposed to RGB. One exception that comes to mind is Sony's HDCAM SR in RGB mode. Another is Alexa, which can record directly to ProRes4444. More recent RAW digital cinema cameras from several different manufacturers -on the other hand- record a Bayer file in one of several formats. It cannot be read directly, and must be debayered or demosaicked.

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