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Thread: Anybody know anything about calibrating a television?

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    Just The Big Picture macro's Avatar
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    Anybody know anything about calibrating a television?

    I've been doing some reading, and apparently people pay professional calibrators upwards of $200 to come to their house and adjust the picture settings on their televisions and the audio settings on their surround sound systems. For those not wanting to spend as much, there are $25 calibration DVDs that can be used by do-it-yourselfers.

    I just bought a new 50" Panasonic plasma, and am VERY happy with the picture for all HD programming, based on the settings I have come up with by using my own eyes. (The settings I'm referring to are Picture, Tint, Color, Bright, etc. and some other less-typical settings.) SD, on the other hand, is hit or miss as far as picture quality. Some channels and programs can be made to look decent if I tinker with the settings long enough, while other SD channels are almost hopeless.

    According to the videophiles at avsforum, calibration is something that every big-screen TV owner should do to get the best picture from their investment. I'm have no plans to pay anyone $200, but I'm open to buying a $25 DVD if it will help, particularly with SD programming.

    My question is: is calibration something that is done exclusively by adjusting the picture settings with the remote, or does it require going into the TV's service menu? Once calibrated, does that mean that I shouldn't mess with the picture settings (using the remote) ever again? If this involves messing with the settings in the service menus, is that dangerous for someone who has never done this before? There appears to be some risk of doing some serious damage to the tv by wandering into the service menus without knowing what you're doing.

    I've read avsforum, but have only found pretty technical discussion among people who know all about this stuff already. I haven't found a "newbie" thread that starts at my very shallow level of understanding.

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    Member durl's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody know anything about calibrating a television?

    It's true that you should calibrate your TV. You can calibrate your set just fine by adjusting the picture settings yourself using a calibration DVD and your remote. In some rare instances, the service menu might need to be accessed, but you're right in that should be done only by someone who knows what they're doing.

    I recommend the Digital Video Essentials DVD. It's great for newbies and you can pick it up through Amazon for around $25. It will walk you through the entire process with very simple explanations of each aspect of the picture (along with visual examples) and how to it adjust them properly. After each section a test pattern will appear where you make the adjustment. Then you move on to the next section. It's straightforward and very simple.

    After you make adjustments you shouldn't have to recalibrate your set unless something unusual happens.

    When you're finished calibrating, I wouldn't bother adjusting your set for the various channels. You will have set your TV up to properly display a picture but the content coming into your set is beyond your control. Set it up and leave it. With an HD set, SD channels are typically going to look worse than they would on a non-HD set.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the picture may not look right after you're done calibrating. Don't be surprised if it takes some time for you to get used to an accurate picture.
    Last edited by durl; 04-10-2007 at 12:12 PM.

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    Just The Big Picture macro's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody know anything about calibrating a television?

    Thanks for the reply, durl. I've done more reading since I posted the thread, and the professionals who make calls do, in fact, use the service menus extensively. If I can help it myself with a DVD and remote, I think I'll at least give it a go and see if there's improvement. Like I said, I couldn't be happier with my HD stuff, it's some of the SD that's so much less desirable, and some networks are worse than others. FSN is not among the best, by the way.

    I realize that SD is always going to be SD, so it may be beyond help, but I'm willing to risk $25 trying.

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    Member durl's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody know anything about calibrating a television?

    From what I've read, the service menu is used when there is a problem that can't be adjusted with the typical video settings. With my previous set, a rear-projection CRT, I would go into service mode to do a convergence (to align the 3 color projectors) because it was more precise than the automatic push-button option.

    I highly recommend doing the calibration yourself. For most sets I believe that's perfectly acceptable. You may not have to do a lot of tweaking, but at least you'll know it's properly calibrated.

    Regarding picture quality, are you on cable or satellite? I'm on Direct and the sports regionals aren't the highest quality picture, that's for sure. A lot of it depends on the network and how much effort they put into the quality.

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    Score Early, Score Often gonelong's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody know anything about calibrating a television?

    I have the calibration DVDs and would recommend them to everyone. I originally purchased it to calibrate a projector I have, but immedietely worked on all my TVs once I saw the difference even a bit of fiddling will accomplish.\]

    I usually calibrate them once, and then run through it again. You'll make very minute adjustments (if any at all) the 2nd time through.

    You ought to see if someone in the area is getting their set done, maybe they'd let you come by and watch it being done so that you could both report back to AVS and have two opinion of the same procedure.

    GL

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    Member Reds Fanatic's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody know anything about calibrating a television?

    I don't know if you get HDNet on your cable or satellite but if you do they broadcast calibration test patterns every Sunday morning at 6:50 AM ET. You can record that on a DVR and use that to calibrate your system.

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    Re: Anybody know anything about calibrating a television?

    Used a calibration DVD, very straightforward. Also, any DVD that is THX certified (the Star Wars ones off the top of my head) have a calibration menu as well that is pretty basic but is a step in the right direction.
    "You're drunk again. No, I'm just exhausted 'cause I've been up all night drinking."
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    Just The Big Picture macro's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody know anything about calibrating a television?

    Quote Originally Posted by durl View Post
    Regarding picture quality, are you on cable or satellite? I'm on Direct and the sports regionals aren't the highest quality picture, that's for sure. A lot of it depends on the network and how much effort they put into the quality.
    I'm with Directv, and am still using a non-HD Hughes receiver from 2003. It was a great receiver for its day, with component video outputs and optical audio output. I guess I'll keep it until I take the plunge and get HD service from Directv. They're going to have to increase their HD offerings first, though. I've noticed that the digital SD signal I'm getting with my OTA tower-mounted antenna is MUCH better quality than the SD locals I get from Directv. Is that because Directv compresses the signal while the OTA signal I'm getting is pure and non-compressed?

    Also, I guess this is as good a place as any for this question: Will my SD stuff look better once I replace my 2003 Hughes Directv receiver with a new HD one? In other words, do the newer receivers do a better job with SD than they did three or four years ago?

    Quote Originally Posted by gonelong
    I have the calibration DVDs and would recommend them to everyone.
    gl, which DVDs did you buy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Reds Fanatic
    I don't know if you get HDNet on your cable or satellite but if you do they broadcast calibration test patterns every Sunday morning at 6:50 AM ET. You can record that on a DVR and use that to calibrate your system.
    Unfortunately, I'm still with Directv's SD package only. When they (supposedly) get the two new satellites launched later this year and add several more HD channels, I may make the move.

    Quote Originally Posted by KYRedsFan
    Also, any DVD that is THX certified (the Star Wars ones off the top of my head) have a calibration menu as well that is pretty basic but is a step in the right direction.
    KY, I had seen the term THX mentioned at avsforum and had no idea what that meant. After I read your post, I remembered that some of our DVDs have the THX logo at the beginning. I checked one out and, sure enough, there's a set of calibration steps included! They are very basic, but like you said, at least a first step. It turns out that I made almost no changes from what I had chosen with my naked eyes.

  10. #9
    Score Early, Score Often gonelong's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody know anything about calibrating a television?

    Quote Originally Posted by macro View Post
    gl, which DVDs did you buy?
    Digital Video Essentials. Check out Deepdiscount.com ... they generally have them pretty reasonably.

    GL

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    Member durl's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody know anything about calibrating a television?

    Quote Originally Posted by macro View Post
    I'm with Directv, and am still using a non-HD Hughes receiver from 2003. It was a great receiver for its day, with component video outputs and optical audio output. I guess I'll keep it until I take the plunge and get HD service from Directv. They're going to have to increase their HD offerings first, though. I've noticed that the digital SD signal I'm getting with my OTA tower-mounted antenna is MUCH better quality than the SD locals I get from Directv. Is that because Directv compresses the signal while the OTA signal I'm getting is pure and non-compressed?
    The digital SD signals will most definitely look better than the same channel coming through cable or satellite. Compression is a big factor in that. Honestly, I'm not sure if locals send Directv an analog based signal or a digital one. That could have something to do with it, also.

    Directv is a little limited in their HD offerings, but I like what they DO have. It's worth the extra $10/month to me. There's plenty of baseball on ESPN (although it's mainly Yankees and Red Sox ) and DiscoveryHD has a lot of good stuff as well. I believe their new satellites will start becoming operational later this year so the offerings should expand a little bit.

    Quote Originally Posted by macro View Post
    Also, I guess this is as good a place as any for this question: Will my SD stuff look better once I replace my 2003 Hughes Directv receiver with a new HD one? In other words, do the newer receivers do a better job with SD than they did three or four years ago?
    How your picture looks basically comes down to the source and your display device. A receiver probably won't make a big difference in how SD looks. SD on most HD displays just looks...off. Now when I upgraded to a Sony SXRD set, I thought the SD stuff did improve slightly over my previous CRT display. I can't speak to how your set displays SD, I just bet it looks awesome with HD, though.

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    Just The Big Picture macro's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody know anything about calibrating a television?

    Quote Originally Posted by durl View Post
    How your picture looks basically comes down to the source and your display device. A receiver probably won't make a big difference in how SD looks. SD on most HD displays just looks...off. Now when I upgraded to a Sony SXRD set, I thought the SD stuff did improve slightly over my previous CRT display. I can't speak to how your set displays SD, I just bet it looks awesome with HD, though.
    I chose the Panasonic based on the rave reviews at avsforum and elsewhere on the Web. I haven't seen another plasma display SD, so I have nothing to compare to, but supposedly this one does a better job with SD than any plasma except for the pricier Pioneer.

    I have found that the longer I look at SD, the more I get used to it. The past couple of nights we have watched HD stuff before I switched over to the Reds game. When I first switched to the Reds, the picture looked brutal. But by the time the game was over, I wasn't as displeased. The TV has three picture setups to choose from, so I have one dedicated to HD programming and another to SD stuff.

    I hope it's not too many years before everything is in HD, but to just have Directv carry my locals in HD and to have FSN/Directv offer all Reds games in HD would be an outstanding step forward.
    Last edited by macro; 04-11-2007 at 10:41 AM.


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