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.