Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Finally, I was able to conclude the basic calibration of our new TV. It was worth the wait and the effort: the picture, although not half as flashy as it was on its factory setting, is much more realistic and comfortable on the eye. When playing quality material the difference shows: it shows on DVDs (although it also clearly shows DVDs should now go the way of the dinosaur) and it shows on Blu-rays and other high definition material. I have never seen Call of Duty this spectacular!
This post is here to urge you to do the same for your TV. I will point out some of the differences between the pre and post calibration in an attempt to show you how wrongly set your TV probably is: our TV’s color setting defaulted at 50; through my own visual estimates I reduced the setting to 38; but the properly calibrated setting, the realistic looking one, had the color set to 19! How wrong could I be? (And how wrong could the TV manufacturer be!)
Assuming I managed to convince you of the need for calibration, or at least arouse your curiosity, here’s the how. Basic calibration, like the one I have done, is really easy: I just used the THX Optimizer available on virtually all THX certified DVDs (alas, I don’t recall seeing them on Blu-rays).
You put your THX certified DVD in your player, navigate to the THX Optimizer section, follow the instructions for calibrating your TV using the provided test patterns, and then sit back to relax with your TV looking like you’ve never seen it before. The only catch is the need for a special filter to adjust the color setting with (that was the reason why my calibration was held up), but that can also be solved at a minor expense by ordering special “glasses” from THX.
Allow me to qualify myself and make it clear the THX Optimizer calibration is quite basic. For a thorough calibration of your TV, there is no substitute for getting a technician that knows what they're doing and carries proper analysis equipment. With this equipment they should be able to adjust the color temperature of your TV across the range, something manufacturers seem intent on not doing (they tend to make everything appear bluer than it should be; the exception is Samsung on some of their higher quality sets' Movie mode).
Allow me to also say that you may not even need to perform the calibration yourself. If your TV is a mainstream model from a reputable brand, you should be able to Google your way to a reputable source that tells you exactly how to calibrate your TV for reference viewing. My point is simple: there is no excuse for a non calibrated TV, really.
I take note that my newly calibrated LED backlit LCD panel TV’s picture now looks much more similar to my old rear projection TV’s. Which is a good thing, because that old TV was properly calibrated, too. Most notably, the picture looks less “video like” and more “film like”; I like it better this way.

Image by Denelson83, GNU Free Documentation License


Uri said...

well, there is one excuse - I don't really see the difference.

Oh, I can see that one is brighter than the other, I just don't think it's much worse (or better).

Moshe Reuveni said...

The question I have is whether you are making the statement you are making because you’ve calibrated your TV and see no difference, or whether you are dismissing calibration before even trying (perhaps under the assumption of “I’ve seen calibrated TVs before and I could not tell the difference). If you’re with the former then fine; I have nothing more to add.
If you are with the latter then I do have something to add. I will add that the difference between a well calibrated TV and a manufacturer’s default setting TV is rarely of the type where you can compare two frames and say “wow, that one is much better”. If anything, the calibrated TV is almost guaranteed to lose in such a comparison because our eye tends to go for the brighter and the perceived sharper image. That is exactly why the manufacturers set their TVs up the way they do!
Instead, what you should be able to get from a calibrated TV is that refined experience whereas you watch a film you’ve seen many times before and then, at the end, feel like you’ve seen it for the first time around.
I’ll give you my own example. In general, I am relatively well trained on the matter and I can detect the better calibrated picture from the not-so-good relatively quickly (through shadow detail, flesh tones, etc). However, it took me quite a while before I was able to recognize that subduing the color setting on my TV from 50 to 38 to 19 is a good move; I needed truly high quality material (in my case, Black Ops) to convince me that less is better. Since then I have been repeatedly re-convinced, though.
To give you an analogy from a world you know much better. Imagine yourself in a world where the only books you could read are Barbara Taylor Bradford ones. You read them and you’re fairly happy. But then you put your hands on an Asimov. Would you say it’s just another book?

Uri said...

Well, I’ve read plenty of Asimov, but no BTB. Does that mean I can’t say Asimov’s good enough for me?

I’m basing my claim on the fact that watching things at your house was just like watching them in my house. You may have properly calibrated picture and sound, but I don’t see the difference, and even when I do, it doesn’t really matter to me. I remember you letting me listen to two modes Dolby Digital and … well, something. I could hear the difference, but I didn’t care.

Some of our cable channels have HD versions. This means that I can choose to watch some programs in HD. You know what? I usually don’t. Oh, I can see how HD is different (I’ll even say better), but I don’t really care.

And finally, I would like to protest you’re insulting comments, in the name of Will, Heart and Substance’s wife.

Moshe Reuveni said...

First,thanks for helping boost this post's hits.
Second, I will concede: if everything's alright with your setup and you still can't tell the difference between high and standard definitions then calibration may not matter much for you.
However... There are a few points worth considering:
1. Setup: Perhaps you can't tell the difference with high definition because of your TV's setup and/or cabling? Don't expect high definition, for example, if your cable box is connected to your TV through a composite cable and/or if your cable box is set to output an inferior signal. Then there is the question of your TV's particular capabilities.
2. What is HD anyway? In Australia all stations broadcast in standard definition digital, which is 576i. Anything on top of that, including 576p, is considered high definition. But is it? With the way modern TVs de-interlace the signal you'd be very hard pressed to tell the difference. Even I would. Which begs the question: what high definition do your channels truly deliver?
3. Compression: with the way cable bandwidth (and aerial spectrum) are restricted, channels tend to be heavily compressed. Which means that you get crap views of channels even when they're broadcast in, say, 1080i.
4. Assuming you're affected by some of the above (I can guarantee you're affected by heavy compression), then the main way of standing a chance to enjoy the advantages of high definition IS to properly calibrate your TV.
5. Even if you're blind, by not calibrating your TV you're condemning the rest of your family to a life of mediocrity.

I'll put it another way: it takes less than 15 minutes (color calibration aside), and your kids will probably enjoy it.
Personally, I can say that other than matters of picture quality, a well calibrated TV is much easier on the eye. On its own that is a very important difference that would allow you to repent and read Barbara Taylor Bradford when you're old and all the rest of your home's mates (with their non calibrated TV) have long lost the ability to read.