There are so many awesome deals on TV’s out there today. LED, LCD, Plasmas can all be had for a fraction of what they sold for just a couple of years ago. Now is a great time to get a HDTV. Don’t forget a BluRay player! The only true full 1080p source you can get to display full resolution from your set is from a BluRay disc.
But if you spend that money, you will need to calibrate that TV once you get it home. Trust me, its worth your time and whatever money you’re willing to put into it.
Calibrating your TV will be the best time and money you can spend above and beyond what you have already spent on your new flat screen. This applies to LCD, LED, Plasma, DLP and even those few remaining CRT’s.
TV’s out of the box are generally way off when it comes to the picture quality being “accurate” (more on that below). TV’s now also have a whole gaggle of features and settings that are unneeded – many of which actually make the picture less accurate.
Here are some explanations and links to calibrating your HDTV and getting the most accurate picture:
There are a set of standards, by the broadcast industry, that define what an “accurate picture” is to be. This is insure that all aspects of a picture are consistent from display to display. Think of it this way… When you are looking at your TV’s picture you want it to look “real”, just as it would if that same scene was playing out in front of you in person. You want people’s skin colors to be as they are in real life. Many TV’s will give everyone a tan or sunburn out of the box… Or make your favorite football field look way more green than it really is when you’re sitting in the stadium in person. Also, “black levels” are very important. Things that are supposed to be black, should be, not some shade of dark grey. REALLY look at your TV, pause a frame and look at it. Think about what you’re looking at and then compare it to what you know it would look like in real life. Here is where you begin to understand picture quality and the idea of “accuracy”.
First, check out tweaktv.com – This is a community forum of regular people sharing what settings have worked on their specific brand/model of TV. This can be a little hit or miss, but it is free and can be a good beginning on teaching yourself more about calibration.
The next step is more advanced. Go out and purchase either or both of two great calibrating DVDs or BluRays. The first is Spears & Munsil and the other is fromJoe Kane, “HD Basics”. These are great educational tools, not only to explain all there is to know about TV calibration, but also all the test patterns your little heart can desire. They are both great and I can’t recommend one over the other. I will warn you, these can be very intimidating for the beginner, but with some patience and time you can do a very solid calibration by yourself.
The last option is hiring a professional video calibrator to make a house call. Best Buy offers this service, but I have no idea if their techs are as capable as many independent providers, and their $300 is mysteriously cheaper than the going rate for calibration. It is important that you make sure that whoever you hire, they are ISF Certified. Now, be forewarned that ISF Certification isn’t what it used to be. There are shady people that have gone thru the course, but if someone shows up at your house without the proper analyzing equipment, they probably aren’t up to the task. Take the time to do some research and find an experienced tech, with the proper equipment and is willing to spend the several hours it takes to properly calibrate a display and its separate inputs. Check here to check out ISF’s offical list of techs they recommend. Call several different ones in your area and ask them about their experience level.
Here is a good basic starter from ESPN, of all places, that discusses the benefits of getting your display calibrated.
And CNET has an outstanding reference guide on all specific points of calibration.
If you have any questions, please email me.