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How To Calibrate Your HDTV Using The Top Set-up Discs  Print E-mail
Home Theater Feature Articles Video Related Articles
Written by Adrienne Maxwell   
Monday, 01 May 2006
Article Index
How To Calibrate Your HDTV Using The Top Set-up Discs 
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Select a Picture Mode
HCW chapter 2; DVE title 7, chapter 4
This may also be called “color mode,” and it should include choices like day, night, dynamic, theater, or standard. Each of these modes has preset video adjustments that tailor the image to accommodate a specific viewing environment: brighter during the day, darker at night. Unless your TV is placed in a light-controlled theater room, you likely have to deal with both bright and dark environments, depending on when you watch TV. HCW suggests that you choose one picture mode for daytime viewing and one for nighttime viewing, which means you’ll want to run through the set-up disc twice. (Some TVs can only save one set of adjustments per input, so you’ll have to settle on one picture mode for a bright and dark room.)

If you use the DVE disc, you may notice that the narrator tells you not to use settings like day, fleshtones, or sports. These modes tend to exaggerate the picture to make it more visible in a bright room. DVE wants you to start with a more accurate picture mode and go from there.

Once you’ve selected a preset picture mode, you can fine-tune the individual video adjustments like brightness, contrast, etc. Some TV manufacturers allow you to make these adjustments within the picture mode you’ve selected. Others will automatically default to a preference or memory mode once you try to change the other settings. If that happens, just make sure that your TV is set to the preference mode from this point on (it shouldn’t change unless you unplug the TV or lose power). Some TVs store your adjustments automatically; others require that you save them to a memory setting. If you make different adjustments for daytime and nighttime viewing, you should save each one in the memory so you can easily switch between them. Check your owner’s manual for instructions.

Select a Color Temperature
DVE title 7, chapters 10 and 11
Color temperature describes the color of gray. In a video signal, the black and white portion contains most of the picture information, with color added afterwards. That’s why it’s important to set the color of gray correctly; an inaccurate gray will affect the entire picture. HCW doesn’t address this setting, but DVE provides a great explanation of color temperature and how TV manufacturers derive the names for the various choices in this menu, such warm, standard and cool. Some manufacturers use numerical settings, like 7500, 6500 and 5500.

If you look at the choices, you’ll notice that the TV takes on a different color palette in each mode. This is particularly evident if you have a white image on the screen. The cool setting (or higher numerical values) will look blue, while the warm setting (or lower numerical values) will look yellow. The human eye gravitates toward the bluer image because it seems brighter, so manufacturers usually select the cool setting as the default. In truth, though, the warm or 6500 setting is usually the most neutral and is the one I recommend.

Adjust Brightness
HCW chapter 3; DVE title 7, chapter 2
This may also be called black level, and it adjusts the level of the dark portions of an image. You don’t want to set the brightness control so high that blacks look gray and washed out, but you also don’t want to set it so low that you lose picture information in a dark image. Our test DVDs make it much easier to set brightness, because the test patterns include an image that is actually below the reference standard for video black. Reviewers often refer to this as the PLUGE pattern or below-black signal. When setting your brightness control, you should lower the setting to the point at which that below-black image disappears. If you go lower, blacks may look deeper, but you lose picture information in the process.

Adjust Contrast
HCW chapter 4: DVE title 7, chapters 3 and 8
This may also be called white level or picture. While the brightness control adjusts the dark portion of the image, the contrast control sets the distance between the darkest black and the brightest white in the image. Obviously, brightness and contrast are intimately related, so you may have to readjust the brightness setting if you make changes to the contrast control. Most manufacturers set the contrast very high out of the box, so you’ll likely need to turn it down. This is especially important with a plasma TV; leaving the contrast at a very high setting can contribute to image burn-in over the long term. It’s worth noting that DVE’s explanation for setting contrast in a flat panel or other fixed-pixel display is difficult to understand. The HCW test is much more user-friendly.

Adjust Color
HCW chapter 5; DVE title 7, chapter 4
This may also be called saturation or chroma, and it adjusts the intensity of color. You want colors to be vibrant but not exaggerated. One sure-fire way to spot exaggerated colors is to look at skin tones; if they are overly red, try turning down the color setting. HCW uses skin tones in its test pattern to help you with color, while DVE provides color filters and shows you how to adjust color with a special test pattern. Both can be tricky and you should trust your eyes here. You will know if the color is too high or too low for your taste.

Adjust Tint
DVE title 7, chapter 5
This may also be called hue, and it adjusts the type of color. Like brightness and contrast, color and tint are related, and you may have to readjust color if you make changes here. Some TVs don’t let you adjust tint through certain inputs, so you have to hope the manufacturer set it correctly. HCW suggests that you leave tint at the factory setting, because using a color filter like the one DVE provides is really the best way to precisely adjust tint. In most cases, the factory setting is close enough.

Adjust Sharpness
HCW chapter 6; DVE title 7, chapter 6
This may also be called detail or edge enhancement; it increases the visibility of fine detail in the picture. This sounds like a good thing, but it really isn’t. Increasing the sharpness control may give the illusion of improved detail, but it adds unwanted information to the picture. Both test DVDs provide good patterns to adjust sharpness. When in doubt, just turn it all the way down.

Select a Picture Size
HCW chapter 7; DVE title 7, chapter 12, and title 12, chapters 18 and 19
During the transition from SDTV to HDTV, displaying video signals in the proper shape and size is more challenging. Most SDTV material is still shot in a square, 4:3 aspect ratio, while HDTV has a rectangular (widescreen) 16:9 aspect ratio. The movie on a DVD may be in a widescreen format, while the bonus content may still be in a 4:3 shape.

Many new TVs have a feature called automatic aspect ratio detection. As the name suggests, in this mode, the TV automatically determines what shape the picture should be. Your TV remote probably has a button labeled “picture size” or “aspect ratio.” Scroll through the options and select auto if available. If not, you’ll have to change the aspect ratio manually, depending on the material you’re watching, and every manufacturer seems to use different names to describe each picture size, for example, 4:3, standard and natural for a square picture and 16:9, widescreen, or full for HDTV.

With a 4:3 TV, widescreen material will have bars at the top and bottom. With a 16:9 TV, standard-definition material will have bars to the sides. These bars allow you to see the image as it was filmed, with all of the information that the director intended. Most TVs offer picture sizes that zoom in on or stretch the image to get rid of the bars. As a home theater buff, I just can’t bring myself to condone the use of these settings, since they distort the picture’s geometry or cut off part of the image to fill the screen. But hey, that’s just me. If you really hate the bars, it’s your call.

One last note: when watching a DVD, if the picture shape looks wrong and you can’t fix it using the TV’s aspect-ratio buttons, your DVD player may be set up incorrectly. The DVD player’s set-up menu should include a setting for TV shape, which you want to use to select the shape that matches your TV, either 4:3 or 16:9. Both HCW and DVE include patterns that help you correctly set the size and shape of your picture.


 

 
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