A few months back I had the pleasure of DPing the feature film “Shifting Gears” where we were able to obtain a number of SmallHD DP7 Pro OLED monitors. I’ve adopted it as part of my onset workflow and thought that I would put together an off the cuff review of using the Small HD DP7 on set.

First, a bit about the gear setup we used…

Shifting-Gears-suttlefilm-BTS-IMG_8624Given the nature of the shoot and the speed of which we worked, it became obvious in Pre-production that a  wireless handheld unit could be instrumental in assisting me to move faster and reduce the workload on the camera department. We acquired the SmallHD DP7 and attached it to the Ikan monitor support / handheld rig and the Teradek Bolt Pro 2000 Receiver. The entire rig held together well and the only time we had signal issues with the Teradek Bolt 2000 was during some of the racing sequences when we would use the unit on a car traveling around the oval track. Even though we were within the 2000 ft limit of the transmitter, we still experienced some dropout. We solved the issue by attaching and extending the receiver unit on a Hi-Hi stand approximately 18ft in the air giving the signal slightly better line of sight to reduce any interfere with the signal. That solved the majority of the signal dropouts that we encountered. Other than that, we had no issues with the Teradek Bolt 2000 even on the soundstage with multiple walls and obstructions between the transmitter and reciever.

SmallHD DP7 Performance

As far as field monitors go, the DP7 performs extremely well. Even though we were shooting at 4K, we were broadcasting 1080 to the monitor and with the native resolution of the monitor being 1280×800 the image worked extremely well for reviewing lighting and composition. The 7.7 inch size worked perfectly for viewing the image and when shooting outside, the SmallHD sunhood worked well for allowing me to place my face against it. Not only did this block the unwanted ambient light but also allowed me to become consumed in the image in front of me. The construction of the Sunhood worked better for me than some of the more traditional designs from Hoodman and the like. The hard attachment design made the sunhood feel more stable.

Shifting-Gears-suttlefilm-BTS-IMG_8749-SmallHD-DP7The menu system was somewhat difficult to master at first due to the complexity of the menu but I have to give them credit for cramming so many options into the menu. It truly is customizable with touch sensitive smart keys that allow you to assign up to 24 functions. I found myself assigning and using  a particular set of functions (waveform, histogram, vectorscope, and 3DLUT) throughout most of the shoot. My 1st AC also had a SmallHD DP7 mounted to the camera via strong arm where he primarily used the built in focus assist and peaking. This is one of the best features of the SmallHD line of monitors in that each user can define the custom functions they use and create the shortcuts via the smart keys. An incredibly smart design in my opinion.

The second feature that I found most useful was the easy access to my 3D LUTs. As we progressed through the shoot, I developed a number of 3D LUTs for different scenes depending on mood, location, lighting etc. SmallHD provides a simple way of loading the LUTs via SD card into the monitor. The files are saved locally and easily accessible through the smart keys on the monitor. Again, the menu system was a bit confusing at first with how to load and access the files but once you get past the learning curve, it becomes second nature. The DP7 accurately presented the 3D LUTs and I could quickly bounce between the LUT and the Raw image from the camera feed. It does take a few seconds for the LUT to load but nothing that I ever found problematic.

Final Thoughts

Shifting-Gears-suttlefilm-BTS-IMG_8707All in all, the SmallHD DP7 was the ideal onset monitor. It’s a great design that becomes a tool you quickly can rely on. If there is any critique I would offer it would be the menu system design. Having said that, SmallHD did just recently announce their 500 series monitors and the menu system has been completely redesigned from the ground up it seems. I’m looking forward to checking out this next generation of  monitor.

If you are looking for a monitor for on camera us or handheld, I highly recommend checking out the SmallHD line.