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The Digital Eye: Color Me Happy with HP's DreamColor Display

In this month's edition of "The Digital Eye," Larry Mahoney describes a breakthrough in color-critical display technology, resulting from HP's collaboration with DreamWorks Animation.

Image courtesy of Deron Yamada. © 2004 DYA367.

For years DreamWorks Animation has relied on HP workstations and other HP technologies to power the highly sophisticated and demanding production of its animated films. Most recently, HP was the workhorse for creating the DreamWorks Animation's summer hit Kung Fu Panda.

Color Collaboration

Because of their unique collaborative history, however, it came as no surprise that DreamWorks Animation turned to HP in September 2006 with a technology plea -- invent an affordable display that could automate color accuracy throughout the entire production process.

None of the liquid crystal display (LCD) technologies available in 2006 could meet DreamWorks Animation's rigorous requirements. DreamWorks Animation needed a display that included low black level, 48 nit cinema white level, adjustable white point (without affecting front panel performance), at least 8-bit accuracy after calibration and a color gamut that enclosed the CRT (cathode ray tube) gamut.

But the biggest problem of all was that DreamWorks Animation could no longer purchase the high-end CRT displays they relied on. Manufacturers had discontinued making them in 2005 -- CRTs had become obsolete by the popularity of the sleek, new LCDs. The CRT displays were an essential element in an efficient production pipeline. Without them, DreamWorks Animation was unable to accurately see what the movie would look like in the theater.

After months of collaboration, HP created the DreamColor display, the first viable, LCD-based CRT-replacement. Yet, the HP DreamColor display is more than just a CRT-replacement; this display actually exceeds the performance of CRTs with programmable gamut, gamma and whitepoint. The innovative HP DreamColor engine is also superior, because it provides factory-calibrated and user-programmed color space presets.

HP technology was the workhorse for creating the summer hit Kung Fu Panda. © DreamWorks Animation LLC. 

It's All About Color Consistency

One of the continuing challenges for anyone working with computer-based graphics is color management. For years, animation companies have been attempting to create a process that matches color along the entire process: from project inception, to the artist's desktop, to the reference print, to digital projection and finally to film completion.

The DreamWorks Animation's graphic artists and creative team selected Shrek's perfect shade of green early in the creative process. The lime-hued ogre had to be the exact same shade throughout the entire film, without any variation. As the creative team worked, they needed to be certain that they were using the same shade of colors in all of the concepts, sketches, content reviews and, of course, the final product seen in the theater.

Using HP DreamColor Technologies, DreamWorks Animation's artists know that they are looking at the right color every time. HP's DreamColor initiative enables animators to be certain that they are using predictable and consistent calibrated color across a wide range of digital devices and applications.

Larry Mahoney.

Color My World

The HP DreamColor LP2480zx is the first display to be introduced under the HP DreamColor technology initiative. HP will announce additional DreamColor displays going forward, which will all have one thing in common: painless delivery of extremely accurate color performance.

The 24" diagonal professional display is offered at a fraction of the cost of other recently introduced 30-bit LCD products: $3,499. With a starting price of a whopping $40,000, the enormous price tag of competing displays forces digital artists to choose between consistent color accuracy and an affordable product.

The 30-bit LCD panel enables a range of more than 1 billion colors. The RGB LED backlight provides an extremely wide color gamut that is, in fact, larger than Adobe RGB and provides 97% coverage of DCI-P3. The increased color precision from the 30-bit panel is important for a wide-gamut display, as the greatly reduced color step size virtually eliminates the posterization or banding artifacts that can be present in today's 24-bit displays.

Thus, the DreamColor professional display is perfect for use in any accurate color workflow. With its broad, programmable color gamut, darker blacks and programmable whitepoint, the HP DreamColor display is also a perfect fit for animation, broadcast, film/video post-production, photography, product design and graphic arts.

One key feature of the DreamColor engine is the capability to snap into various factory-calibrated color spaces (Rec. 601, Rec. 709, sRGB, Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 emulation). And for the ultimate in flexibility, the optional HP DreamColor Advanced Profiling solution allows the user to create their own preset by choosing primaries, gamma, whitepoint and luminance. The custom preset will show up as a menu pick on the HP DreamColor display. DreamWorks Animation relies on this custom preset functionality in their workflow.

As DreamWorks Animation VFX Supervisor and Kung Fu Panda Digital Colorist Doug Cooper remarked at a recent DreamColor demo, a lot more color information can be checked earlier in the process and at monitors on desks rather than in a projection room. Reference images can be pulled up side-by-side. And a CG supervisor can do final checks on this monitor at full resolution. It's all about matching to the theatrical environment.

DreamWorks Animation asked HP to invent an affordable display that could automate color accuracy throughout the entire production process. The HP DreamColor LP2480zx was created.

A Complete Line of Dreamy Color Products

The new technology is not limited to displays. DreamColor is an open standard for bringing color control and consistency across an entire digital imaging workflow.

HP's family of DreamColor Technologies is a collection of applications and devices to assure a consistent color appearance, from display through printing. The product family includes a series of displays, printers and technologies that work together to provide accurate, predictable color. The technology makes it easy to manage the proper configuration of color across devices and achieve consistent standout results.

The first products to feature HP DreamColor Technologies were professional photo printers and digital presses -- the HP Designjet Z2100/Z3100 Photo Printer series, the HP Indigo 5000 and ws4500 presses and the HP Photosmart Pro B9180 Photo Printer. HP DreamColor Technologies are currently being integrated into more HP products planned to come to market throughout 2008 and beyond.

Accurate Color Matching for Many Industries

HP DreamColor Technologies draw on HP's 25 years of printing leadership. DreamColor has broad appeal to customers in many industries that rely on high quality graphics. From graphic artists and professional photographers to game developers and product designers, customers who depend on color accuracy will see faster turnaround times and lower production costs using the DreamColor technology.

In the digital world, the media and entertainment industry often push the boundaries of technology. The HP DreamColor display is a disruptive technology inspired by users, like DreamWorks Animation, that challenge HP to deliver exciting innovations that truly make a positive impact our customers' businesses.

Larry Mahoney is a senior product marketing manager for the HP Displays Business Unit. He brings 10 years of marketing experience at HP to this position. Prior to this position, Mahoney served in a variety of marketing and R&D roles in HP’s Workstation Global Business Unit. The HP DreamColor Display represents HP’s first display to bear the DreamColor logo, and Mahoney guided the program from conception through successful worldwide launch.