Monitoring Peak Luma Funnies

I had some back and forth with friend and colleague Patrick Inhofer (Colorist and owner of FINI), about what the “official” peak luma setting should be for a monitor he’s evaluating. The long and short of my response was that SMPTE Recommended Practice document RP 166-1995 (now archived, but there’s no replacement just yet) calls for 35 footlamberts (ft-L) of light output for a calibrated CRT display, which when converted to cd/m2 is 119.92 nits (round up to 120). In other words, a 100 IRE white field, when measured, should be outputting 35 ft-L or 120 nits. This was decided in the CRT days, which are waning, but so far as I know it’s the only official peak luma standard in place for color critical monitoring on a self-illuminated display (the projection standard is 14 ft-L).

However, there are all sorts of posts where folks claim all sorts of peak luma values that they prefer to use for their own monitoring situation. When I’m asked to explain why, it’s always difficult to do so without either taking sides or wondering if one or another emerging monitor technologies really does merit revisiting the previous standard. For your amusement, my agnostic summary of the issue based on conversations I’ve witnessed over the years, is as follows:

Member of standards committee: “This is the standard.”

Random colorist guy: “But I like my number better.”

Member of standards committee: “I don’t care. This is the standard we experts chose for you. Use it.”

Random colorist guy: “But my monitor can’t handle your standard. I’m using my own number.”

Member of standards committee: “F@ck your monitor. We argued about this for years. We employed physics, math, and user studies. Use the standard.”

Random colorist guy: “No. And I’m telling all my colleagues that my way is better.”

Member of standards committee: “Fine. Guess what, we’re using new monitors now. They handle the standard just fine. Now f@cking use the standard already.”

Random colorist guy: “But me and all my friends got used to the number we were using before…”

Member of standards committee: “#@#$%#@ $@$*&# $%@%#…”

(continue ad nauseum)

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