A secondary monitor can speed up your editing workflow and increase productivity. Here's how to choose a secondary monitor for your editing suite.
From selecting footage, to cutting it together, to adding motion graphics, video editing takes you staring at the same screen for hours. Editing videos with a monitor is possible, but it is limiting and time consuming. Switching between different tabs in video editing software or between other programs can be a problem, but it can be easily fixed with a second screen.
A second monitor can help visualize other aspects of the video editing software when editors work on color grading, special effects, or selecting footage. There is no need to edit video with two monitors. Some choose to edit footage on laptops or tablets. However, it's a different experience that can change your workflow and increase your productivity. Video editing is one of the many things that you can use a second monitor for. However, there are features that work best when you are mainly using a second monitor for editing.
Here's our breakdown of what to look for and why you need a secondary monitor in your video editing suite.
Why do you need a second monitor?
When looking for a second monitor for video editing, there are certain features you need to prioritize based on your needs. With the option to split video editing software across two monitors, some editors may want the largest possible workspace that allows them to easily navigate from editing to coloring to export with just a few clicks of the mouse.
Those with powerful editing devices can use the second monitor to run other creative software at the same time. For example, editors using Adobe Creative Suite can open Premiere Pro on one screen and Photoshop, Lightroom, or Encoder on another. (Having multiple Adobe programs open takes a lot of RAM (read our RAM guide to prepare for this) and novice video editors can use this second monitor to create a YouTube tutorial that pops up when you open Monitor is easier to follow in a second: If you receive a message without video editing, a second monitor can also be helpful for checking out emails and surfing the Internet or social media.
Features like response time and refresh rate aren't as fast when it comes to video editing, but color accuracy, resolution, contrast ratios, and other features are worth mentioning. For example, colorists may want to choose an IPS monitor for the best color accuracy or a VA monitor for the best contrast ratios. If you're editing high definition video, be sure to check out the latest 4K, 8K, and UHD monitors. And editors who prefer to immerse themselves in their work can look at ultra-wide curved monitors that can reproduce the feel of two or more screens side by side. With so many features to check out, finding a new monitor can take some time, especially if you are unsure of certain terms.
While monitors look similar, what's behind the panel makes all the difference. Here are some things you should know before purchasing a new secondary monitor.
What to look for in a secondary monitor
Nowadays, monitors are slim, thin, colorful, sometimes curved, with refresh rates that keep getting higher. Although many of the monitors on store shelves share a strikingly similar design language, they differ in size, resolution, panel technology, refresh rate, and other features.
Tech stores like to bombard potential buyers with marketing terms that haven't been fully explained, and sometimes make certain features sound better than they are. For example, a monitor with a refresh rate of 120 Hz sounds better than one that is 60 Hz – and it is – but most consumers don't know why and most don't need it. Below are the features to look out for when purchasing a secondary monitor for video editing.
The resolution of a monitor is one of the most important features to look for. This determines what kind of footage you can edit. Nowadays, at least a 1080p monitor is required, even if it's only used as a secondary monitor. Full HD (FHD), another name for 1080p, is the de facto resolution for many TV shows, movies, and YouTube videos. So you need a 1080p monitor to edit FHD videos.
However, 4K has become increasingly popular as many streaming services and video platforms provide content in this resolution. However, when buying a 4K monitor, make sure you know what you are buying. 4096 × 2160 resolution monitors are rightfully 4K monitors, but most 4K monitors are actually Ultra HD (UHD) monitors, which are four times the resolution of a 1080p FHD monitor. Most 4K UHD monitors have an actual resolution of 3840 × 2160, which is a little less than native 4K monitors. While there is a difference between native 4K and UHD 4K, it is difficult for even the most eagle-eyed observer to tell the difference. Those with 4K capable cameras wouldn't buy a 4K monitor considering the industry is slowly moving to higher resolution 4K video.
In the world of technology, there is always a better, faster, newer thing. And when it comes to monitors, the thing is 8K. Since this is the new kid on the block, there aren't many monitors with 8K resolution, and there are even fewer consumer cameras that can record in 8K. Canon's newest mirrorless entry – the EOS R5 – is 8K capable, but it overheats quite quickly and turns the camera off in the process. Of course, those who record 8K video should consider an 8K monitor that offers twice as many pixels as 4K, but most people should stay away from it, at least until their price gets into that realm of reality.
While high dynamic range (HDR) has nothing to do with resolution, it's an important feature to look out for and it's available on most new 4K monitors. Monitors with HDR use the HDR10 standard, but some use the newer HDR10 +. Indeed, TechRadar writes,
For you and your viewing experience, this means that with an HDR, the light whites of the TV look brighter, the dark blacks look darker, and 10-bit panels can finally display the billion colors you wanted to see.
To really see most of the details in your footage, an HDR capable monitor is a must. A monitor with HDR can display more color with better contrast ratios, making highlights and shadows appear more nuanced. This is the way to go if you are leaving your NLE Timeline window open on a second monitor.
LCD panel types
There are three types of LCD monitors that you should know about. Twisted Nematic panels are known for having higher refresh rates and for being sold at an affordable price. In-Plane Switching (IPS) panels have a much better color range and wide viewing angles. VA panels are the third type of LCD panel. They have the best contrast ratios and also offer high color accuracy, although not as good as an IPS panel. With a high contrast ratio monitor, you can better see the difference between light and dark in an image, which is important when editing.
The difference between an IPS and a TN monitor is not so clear when placed next to each other. IPS monitors have better viewing angles. This is important if your secondary monitor is tilted slightly towards you at an angle (like mine). Because of their color accuracy and better contrast ratios, IPS panels are an excellent choice for video editors and creatives. Nevertheless, VA panels are also good due to their contrast ratios.
Monitors typically vary in color, brightness, and contrast, but they can all be customized, with each manufacturer configuring the settings menu differently. It pays to adjust the monitor to get the best picture. However, monitors also have presets that vary depending on the manufacturer.
These presets change the color, brightness and contrast for different scenarios, such as: For watching a movie or playing a video game. Video editors are better off customizing the monitor themselves, as these presets are often too dramatic.
Those who stare at monitors all day may want a monitor with dim blue lights or a reading preset. Too much blue light from screens can cause headaches and eye fatigue. Therefore, a preset for blue light can decrease the brightness of a screen and add a yellow tinge to reduce eye strain. Windows also has a function called "Night Light" that mimics this effect to a certain extent.
Regular, curved (concave) and ultra-wide monitors
Flat panel monitors have been around for ages, but curved, ultra-wide, and curved ultrawide monitors are other options – ultrawide monitors can be flat or curved.
Regularly curved monitors are more of a gimmick, as their slight curvature is more of a novelty than an actual advantage. Ultra-wide curved monitors, however, are something out of a science fiction movie and offer immersion like no other monitor. An ultra-curved monitor is like two screens wrapped around your face, and it is possible to have two programs open at the same time. If the curved effect is not what you want, flat ultrawide monitors are also ideal and still offer a large work area for several program windows.
The disadvantage of ultrawide monitors is that they take up a lot of floor space and take up a lot of available desk space. If you already have a monitor, you can hang it on the wall or on a swivel arm to make room. Just make sure you have enough space before you get one.
One last thing
With a better idea of which monitor to buy, it's time to make some purchases, but watch out for redundant features that don't offer much value. The following features are not required for video editors, and adding them adds cost and of no value for video editing or other creative projects.
- Higher than 75Hz – The refresh rate depends on how often the screen is refreshed per second, measured in Hertz. A faster refresh rate means you can view more frames per second (FPS), with higher frame rates making for a smoother experience. For example, a monitor with a refresh rate of 60 Hz can display up to 60 fps, which is high enough for most people. When it comes to refresh rates, 60Hz is good and 75Hz is great, but higher refresh rates are only needed for gaming. Stay away from 144Hz, 240Hz, and 360Hz monitors unless you're planning on competitive high-end gaming.
- FreeSync or G-Sync – These proprietary technologies built into the monitors use adaptive synchronization to achieve higher frame rates and avoid screen tearing and other problems. Monitors with FreeSync are compatible with AMD GPUs. G-Sync monitors are compatible with Nvidia GPUs. A high refresh rate is good, but not necessary for video editing.
- 1 ms response time – The response time, measured in milliseconds (ms), "is the time it takes your monitor to switch from one color to another," writes How-To-Geek. Monitors marketed for gamers typically have a 1ms response time, which is incredibly fast but isn't required for most other tasks. If your monitor has a 1ms response time, that's great, but you don't need it.
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Cover picture via Anttoniart.