October 26, 2017
field test

Field Test: Teradek Serv Pro Gives Every Crew Member a Monitor

Teradek's Serv Pro lets every crew member view the action and set their own controls for maximum information flow during production.

Every crew member needs to see the monitor for a different reason. The gaffer likes to see if their flag is sneaking into frame. The first AC wants to see if focus is sharp. Hair & makeup want to see how the performers are looking. Clients want to see how the product looks. Traditionally, this means that on a small production, five to ten people are crowded around a small monitor trying to get the vital information they need to do their jobs. That ends with the new Serv Pro from Teradek, which turns every smartphone and tablet on set to a fully customizable monitor for less than the price of buying another broadcast monitor.

Your script supervisor can now monitor live video on their own tablet, taking continuity frame grabs on the go.

The Serv Pro takes advantage of the fact that practically every crew member comes to set with at least a smartphone, or a smartphone and a tablet, and that new tablets and phones can purchased for a very reasonable cost. Hook the small blue Serv Pro into your video signal path, and up to 10 devices can connect to it to get real-time monitoring with only two frames of lag between what's happening on set and it appearing on your device. The Serv Pro supports both HDMI and SDI, and can generate its own WiFi signal or plug into your network over Ethernet, making it a flexible solution for getting video to multiple team members.

Credit: Charles Haine

App control

Best of all, the "Teradek VUER" app offers a host of preview tools, including false color, frame lines, frame grab, audio monitoring, magnifiy image, and, most amazingly, custom LUT support. Your script supervisor can now monitor live video on their own tablet, taking continuity frame grabs on the go from within the VUER app, while hair & makeup simultaneously run VUER in the honeywagon and grab their own continuity stills of key looks as well without having to get them from scripty, allowing them to keep an eye on the shoot while prepping for the next setup.

VUER can even connect to up to four cameras, making it an excellent tool on multi-camera productions.

Credit: Teradek

Custom test signals

One particularly interesting detail is that the Serv Pro can be used to generate a custom test signal, which is useful when dealing with users viewing from a variety of platforms. If your gaffer complains that the monitor looks too warm, throwing off her gel choices, you can put up a test pattern to let her politely know that it's actually the night shift mode on her iPhone creating that warm cast, not the Serv Pro.

Frustrations

Now that everyone carries a camera in their pocket, they expect to be able to see footage more quickly, and the Serv Pro addresses that need properly. The frustrations with this unit are minor but deserve mention. Currently, there is only one method for powering the Serv, via a 2-pin lemo connector. 2-pin lemo is industry standard and exceptionally durable, but it's also pricy. The Serv Pro comes with a wall power adapter, but to power it via D-tap will require an adapter. This is definitely not a dealbreaker, but the market is moving towards more flexibility. While there isn't really a competitor for the Serv Pro, items in a similar arena (like small monitors) increasingly offer multiple power options. Some combination of options like a 2-pin lemo, a USB, and a Sony LP mount would be a dream.

H.264

The Serv Pro uses the H.264 protocol for video encoding instead of the newer H.265, but this actually makes sense and shouldn't cause too many hiccups for your on set life. H.265 does offer better picture quality for a smaller file size, but picture quality isn't incredibly important here. This is for clients to see framing and crew members to see focus, so if there is some banding or other artifacts from the encode that doesn't matter since the camera is presumably recording a much more robust format. H.265 still requires licensing fees, and by sticking with H.264, Teradek is able to keep the price reasonable.

Construction

With its custom-milled aluminum construction, the physical device will survive years of life on rigorous shoots. It's designed to be easy to mount in a variety of positions using the industry standard 1/4-20 thread. 

1/2 20 mounting threadsCredit: Charles Haine

Easy setup

With the simplicity you get from all Teradek engineered products, you can get up and running on the Serv in minutes, and it's exceptionally easy for new crew members and day players to get started monitoring on the system without a long complicated setup. This makes Serv Pro useful not just on set, but also in education scenarios, when you can use it to allow many students to get a window into what you are shooting quick and efficiently for anything from a semester long class to a single afternoon lighting workshop.

With a maximum quality of 1080p 15Mb/s and a built in scaler and de-interlacer, the Serv Pro delivers a clean image that your crew members, students, clients and directors will appreciate.

Credit: Teradek

Tech Specs:

  • HDMI or SDI connection
  • 1080p 23.98/24/25/29.97/30/50/59.94/60
  • H.264, Baseline, Main and High Profile
  • 15 Mbps (wired), 10 Mbps (WiFi) video bitrate
  • Custom Test Pattern Generator
  • 4.75"W x 3"D x 1.1"H [120.7 x 76.2 x 27.9mm]
  • 11.6oz [328.9g]
  • 2.4/5GHz 802.11 ac/a/b/g/n MiMo, Gigabit Ethernet
  • 6-28V DC via 2 pin power supply, 8W draw
  • 1/4" 20 mounting holes for verticle or horizontal mount

Available now at B&H for $1,790.00.     

Your Comment

7 Comments

The technology looks great and Teradek makes very robust products. But here's the rub....do we need to give crew members yet another reason to be distracted by their phones?

Phone use has increasingly been a major issue on my sets (my crew sizes average 4-7 people). In my call sheets I have a policy that states very clearly that phones can only be used during breaks and it's still a constant problem. While yes, I could see the client being potentially interested in looking at an iPad or their phone while recording, I don't see this being something I'd ever want to make use of with my crew...

Any directors or producers want to chime in?

-George

October 27, 2017 at 2:35AM

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George Mihaly
Director at storyfirm.com
110

I hear you.
My first thought, tho, was how nice this will be.
I direct, and I my sets (usually 15-30 crew), everyone crowds around the few monitors there are to see picture. And the reasons are often legitimate. Art department wants to know what is being seen and how. Hair and make up wants to know what adjustments they should be making. And etc.
How nice it will be when not everyone is crowded, looking over my shoulder, or the focus puller's shoulder.
But yes, I could also see it being a distraction for those who don't need to see it.

October 27, 2017 at 11:55AM

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Hmm...yes, the idea of the signal not being limited to a fixed number of monitors does present a solution for larger sets. Good to hear this perspective.

Cheers -George

October 27, 2017 at 7:47PM

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avatar
George Mihaly
Director at storyfirm.com
110

Yeah phone use is an issue, but I would imagine crew is only going to use this to check frame and will then quickly switch over to text/twitter/IG, etc which is the problem. Also, I would imagine it's password protected so if you don't want crew on there just don't give them the password.

November 2, 2017 at 9:32AM

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Kyle Doyle
Producer/Director @ Honest Motion
81

Did you guys actually field test this thing? If so, what is the range? WiFi is sketchy to say the least...I would assume that range would decrease sharply in dense city environments versus an open field.

October 27, 2017 at 10:30AM, Edited October 27, 10:30AM

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i could see this being viable going from the village village out monitor. I doubt the range will be great and with steadicam shots i can almost guarantee that the signal will lose. So having it as a secondary teradek in combination with a 600/1000/2000 would probably work a lot more flawlessly.

October 27, 2017 at 2:53PM

0
You voted '+1'.
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Andy Huynh
1st ac
81

The >>GRIP<< likes to see if their flag is sneaking into frame.

There, fixed! Don't want any union troubles now do we!

October 30, 2017 at 10:07PM, Edited October 30, 10:07PM

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Taras
81