Today, in a dark room somewhere inside the Sony building in midtown Manhattan, I saw the future — finally, Sony is poised to release a new line of OLED monitors that seem set to surpass old-school CRTs as reference monitors for broadcast and post-production applications. The new line is led by the 24.5-inch BVM-E250 ($26,000). (For more details on this display and its 17-inch little brother, see Debra Kaufman's report on the announcement from HPA last week.)

Video pros have long prized CRTs, though they haven't actually been manufactured for the pro market for years, for their accurate colors, deep blacks, and representation of contrast in an image. LCD screens represent a serious compromise, especially where black levels and contrast range are concerned. To show the new screen, Sony ushered guests into a room where the new BVM-E250 was flanked by comparable LCD and CRT monitors, and then turned out the lights. The results were quite dramatic, even from a distance.

For starters, it was startling how milky the blacks appeared on the LCD screen, at least when it was viewed right next to both the OLED and the CRT. The CRT seemed to fare much better, although on closer inspection it was clear that the BVM-E250 was showing more detail, especially shadow detail, in the same images. A blob of dark pixels with a few lighter blotches in the foreground of one shot on the CRT, for instance, was revealed to be a mass of leafy foliage if you glanced over to the same spot on the OLED screen. The OLED screen also did a nice job of holding highlights without blooming or color fringing. Based on the images I saw, the grand old CRT has finally had its hat handed to it. Once the lights were turned on, the poor CRT showed the age of its technology even more clearly, with glare from the room lights making the image on screen appear nearly unwatchable in comparison to the other panels.

Obviously, Sony had control of the demo material, which was played back from HDCAM SR tape at a 24p frame rate that did the CRT no favors (it induced quite a bit of flickering in some shots), and pro users will be ready to throw a ton of real-world footage at it the day it ships . But the images I saw today — nighttime cityscapes, daylight helicopter shots, test charts — made a compelling case for this gorgeous monitor.

I want a 47-inch model for my living room, of course, but even if I could afford such a thing, Sony officials assured me that a larger version of the product will not be made in the foreseeable future, mainly because the start-up costs of a plant to make such a panel would be prohibitive.

You don't even have to take my word for it — Sony assures me that a similar demo, with three screens side by side in a nice, dark space, will be at their NAB booth in April. If you get a thrill out of quality video displays, be sure to take a look.