Many of you who haven't heard the term TV calibration are probably thinking 'hey what's this all about, don't they do that in the factory?' Well I'm going to clarify this for you in this article.
We've all done it. Walked into the shop, you've seen all those large fancy looking LCD TVs on display. You've fallen in love with one, only to come home with it, set it up and to your dissapointment, the image does not look a fraction of what it did in the shop display
. It's way to bright, the colours are over saturated and after a while of watching, you get eyestrain. You dial into the settings menu, lower brightness and colour and play around with the other settings and try the preset picture modes out. Yes the picture is better but somewhere deep inside you know there is a way to get a brilliant picture from that set you've splashed out on.
Yes, they calibrate them to some extent in the factory but the manufacturers have to shift these products somehow. So the settings are optimized for shop displays also known as demo mode. Each manufaturer's product has to compete with the many rivals on the display floor of a shop. And under the bright fluorescent lights in the shop the best way to do this is to dial up those settings so their product will look the best amongst their rivals. Obviously your home enviroment is very different and those settings will just now work and will cause eyestrain.
This is where calibration comes in and anyone can do it to their set provided you have a DVD or blu ray player. What calibration does is put your TV in a state where you watch material the way the director intended, also known as the 'directors intent'. Colour, Brighness, Contrast and Sharpness will be set to the correct level. After calibration when you view, for example, a red object in an image you will know that is the way the director intended for that red object to be seen. The next section will give a brief explanation of the controls and what they do followed by how to calibrate your High def TV to get the best possible picture it can display.
1. Brightness -The name is misleading as it doesn't actually brightens the picture. This setting in your user menu actually controls Black Level. Set too low and it will clip black. Meaning you will lose detail in the darker parts of an image. Set too high and it will make your blacks look gray or washed out. Basically tou want your blacks to be as deep as possible but still be able to see detail in dark areas as the director intended.
2. Contrast - Another misleading name. What contrast actually does is set the White Level. Set too low and your picture looks dull. Set too high and you loose detail in white areas of a picture. Not too mention eyestrain.
3. Colour -Colour controls mainly the saturation of colours. Set too high and the coulours are oversaturated. Set too low and they look washed out.
4. Sharpness - Pretty self explanitory. This adjusts how sharp an image appears on screen. All material we receive nowadays on our digital TVs are digital. Adding too much sharpness, does not actually make an image sharper. What it actually does is introduce artifacts into the picture around the edges of images. A white halo around the edges of images so that they stand out more. This is not in the original signal and is not what the director intented. Set too low and it blues the edges of images.
5. White Balance - Controls the greyscale or grayscale. This can only be set correctly with special meters and software. A Spetroradiometer or a Colorimeter. If you do not have these then leave this setting alone as it cannot be done by eye. It is worth investing in the services of an HDTV professional calibrator to set this. Greyscale, some call it black and white is the first image your picture is made up of. Followed by a colour overlay. If you reduce your colour control all the way down to zero. Then you are left with this first image 'Greyscale or Grayscale'. Which is also made up of three colours, RED, Green and Blue. Too much red and your Greyscale image takes on a reddish tone. Add an over saturated colour to this grayscale and people begin to look sunburnt.
A broadcast monitor is calibrated to what is known as D65. The sunlight at mid day. To get your HDTV as close as posible to this agreed standard all you need to purchase is a calibration DVD or CD. This CD will get you 70% of the way there, thus improving your picture by 70%. To get the rest of the way you will require the services of an HDTV calibrator. And it does make a huge difference. When viewing HD content the picture becomes more realistic and 3D. I've done a full calibration and the experience was like looking trough a window. To start with, the best picture mode on HDTVs that will get you close to the D65 colour temperature will be called one of the following, movie, cinema, theatre, ISF or something along those line. After calibration alow your eyes a couple of weeks to get used to the new settings. Most people find that the image is more natural and wouldn't want to return to what they had before.
There are several calibration discs on the market. I've tried several and they all produce very similar results. Namely, Spears & Munsil High-Definition Benchmark, Digital Video Essentials HD Basic, Disney's WOW, Get Gray and also some free ones which can be downloaded and burnt to DVD. The comercial ones I've named all come with full instructions while you watch.
These Calibration DVDs or Blu rays calibrate your TV correctly for your viewing enviroment. I hope you've found this brief article informative. All the best with you HDTV!
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