Dual-monitor editing stations used to be exotic, expensive, and hard to set up and maintain. Today, with virtually all new graphics cards offering dual-output ports, flat-panel monitors priced well below $300, and rock-solid support in Windows XP and popular prosumer NLEs like Adobe Premiere Pro, building a dual-monitor station is both financially and technically within the reach of most professional event videographers. To help you avoid any technical obstacles, this tutorial will walk you through the process of setting up a dual-monitor system for use with Adobe Premiere Pro.
Step 1: Check Your Graphics Card
The first step in setting up a dual-monitor editing scheme is making sure your graphics card will support it. This is pretty easy; just bend over and see if the card has two ports (a pre-requisite, naturally), and then determine what kind. Some older cards have one VGA port (usually blue) and one DVI port (usually white). As long as you have two ports, you’re in good shape, though if you have a VGA port, you may need a DB15-to-DVI converter to drive two flat-panel displays. Google “DVI to VGA converters” and you should be able to find one for well under $10. More expensive does not mean better here; though you can pay over $300 for these, the cheap $4 plugs will serve just as well in this role.
If you don’t have a dual-head graphics card, and you’re looking to buy one, remember that your new graphics card must match the graphics bus on your computer. The most current bus is called PCI-Express, but many computers still have AGP graphics. Check the specs on your computer or, better yet, pull your current card out of your computer and take it down to your computer store.
In addition, make sure you get sufficient on-board RAM to support the formats you’ll be editing. Though Premiere Pro doesn’t have specific graphics requirements for HDV, some applications require a minimum of 128MB of video RAM, while others demand as much as 256MB. If you’re editing HDV, or plan to, get at least 128MB and possibly 256MB. Finally, either make sure the output ports match your current or future monitors or that you buy the necessary adapter.
Step 2: Update Your System
Whether you’re buying a new graphics card or using your old one, now would be a good time to make sure you have the latest graphics driver. You might also consider downloading the latest updates to Windows XP, which will help ensure the smoothest possible installation.
After installing any updates, shut your system down, attach the cables to your second monitor, turn it on, and start your system. Windows should boot on your existing monitor and the second should remain dark.
Step 3: Enable Dual Monitors in Windows
Once Windows is running, right-click on your desktop and choose Properties, which opens the Display Properties window (Figure 1). Click the Settings tab and you should see a window that looks like Figure 1, with both monitors showing and the second monitor grayed out. If you don’t see the second monitor, that means Windows doesn’t see it, so check your cable connections, and make sure it’s powered on. You may have to reboot to make Windows recognize the second monitor.
Figure 1. Your second monitor will be grayed out until you click the Extend Windows Desktop clickbox.
Click the Display drop-box and choose the second monitor. Then click the Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor checkbox and choose Apply (which will become active after you click the checkbox). Your primary monitor will go black for a moment and then both monitors should light up. Since you extended your desktop to the right, it should be totally empty. To test whether it’s working, drag your mouse to the right past the boundary of your original desktop. You should see the cursor appear on the new monitor. A couple of finer points. First, suppose you installed your new monitor to the left of your original monitor and want it to become the primary monitor. In that case, in the Display Properties window, drag the second monitor (signified by the number 2) to the left of the first monitor (number 1) as shown in Figure 2. If you ever get confused over which monitor is which, click Identify, which will display the number in the respective monitor.
Figure 2. To switch monitors around, just drag monitor 2 to the left of monitor 1.
Second, as you can see in Figure 2, the monitors can have different display resolutions and even color depths, so there’s no need to standardize, at least for operation under Windows. However, depending on how you plan on using your dual monitors, having uneven resolutions could cause problems when running Premiere Pro (more on this below).
Finally, as shown in Figure 3, most graphics companies build other dual-monitor display modes into their software programs, like horizontal and vertical span. Note that once you move out of the default setting, there’s a chance that Premiere Pro’s dual-monitor features may stop working. So stick to the default here, or remember to return to it before you start an editing session.
Figure 3. Stick with the default settings to ensure smooth dual-monitor operation under Premiere Pro.
Step 4: Working with Dual Monitors in Premiere Pro
Once you’ve got dual monitors working in Windows, you can move Premiere Pro panels around your expanded desktop as desired. One editor I know keeps his timeline in one complete window with all other windows in another. I like moving my Program Monitor over to the second monitor for full-screen preview.
You can also extend the entire Premiere Pro application across the dual desktop by clicking the bottom right corner and dragging it across. However, this works best when both monitors have the same resolution, however. Otherwise, if your primary monitor has a higher resolution than your secondary monitor, some portions of the application may be obscured when you drag it over to the second monitor.
Note that you can save your favorite multiple monitor configurations as a Workspace in Premiere by choosing Window > Workspace > Save Workspace, and typing a new name into the Save Workspace dialog that will appear (Figure 4). This will make it simple to toggle back and forth between single- and multiple-display configurations.
Figure 4. You can save your new dual-monitor configuration as a workspace in Premiere Pro.
Step 5: Video Preview in Your Second Monitor
Once you’ve created your multiple-monitor environment in Windows, you can always drag the Premiere Pro Program Monitor (preview window) into the second monitor and preview your work at higher resolution. In addition, when working with DV video in 4:3 mode, you can also display the contents of the Program Monitor in full screen in your second monitor.
To set this up, right-click the “wing” menu in the Program Monitor, or that little triangle on the upper right, and choose Playback Settings, which opens the dialog shown in Figure 5. Choosing Monitor:2 displays the video preview on your second monitor; choosing DV displays it on your DV device or a monitor attached thereto.
Figure 5. You can also preview in full screen in your second monitor, but this option only appears when working with 4:3 DV projects.
If you’re a DVD producer, of course, this raises a point that’s important even when running a single monitor. Specifically, video looks different on your computer from how it will appear on a television set. If you install a second monitor to serve as your large preview screen for operations like color and brightness adjustments, it’s important that you use a second monitor that accurately represents how your video will look on a television screen.
To guarantee this kind of accuracy, you have several options. The best is to find a color-calibration tool like ColorVision’s popular Spyder2PRO studio, a hardware/software combo that lets you calibrate all the monitors in your facility for about $299. A less expensive option is to manually calibrate your monitor using Color Correction tools provided with most graphics cards, like that shown in Figure 6, which you can access by clicking the Advanced button in the Display Properties dialog. This works well when you have a printed picture or other reference item but is obviously less accurate than a true color calibration.
Figure 6. You can manually calibrate your monitor using Color Correction tools provided with most graphics cards and accessed by clicking the Advanced button in the Display Properties dialog.
Probably the best alternative is to preview your video directly on an NTSC monitor or television set, which is another option available in Premiere Pro’s Playback Settings window (Figure 5). The simplest configuration is to connect your camcorder to your computer via FireWire as normal, then connect a television set or monitor to the analog outputs of the camcorder.
Not to be pedantic, but if you’re not using a professional NTSC monitor, color calibration is an issue here as well, especially with older television sets that tend to darken over time. ColorVision also has a color-calibration system for television sets, which should help eliminate this problem.
Other Hardware Considerations
If you have a little extra cash, consider buying a multi-monitor combination, which includes two monitors and a convenient stand. For example, at www.monitoroutlet.com, we found a 19″ dual-monitor bundle with NEC Multisync monitors for just under $1,000. Google “dual monitor stands,” and you’ll find a host of roll-your-own and turnkey options.
Finally, perhaps the least expensive way to assemble a dual-monitor system is to combine two current systems with a dual-monitor KVM switch. For example, ATEN’s CS-1744 switch allows one keyboard, one mouse, and dual displays to control up to four computers—a great way to configure a dual-display system while decreasing desk clutter at the same time.