Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Video Calibration - The Best looking Bikini Destination
or, how about some FREE BEER!

The situation:
You buy your lovely HD Display, take it home, hook it all up with everything else and sit back and watch some lovely HDTV programming, DVD's or new HD Blu Ray or HD DVD's. It looks pretty good, right? Well in almost all cases it could look a whole lot better. The ugly truth is that almost all TV's are pre-adjusted by default to show the brightest, sharpest picture they possibly can. Well, that does certainly sound good, so what could be wrong with that?
There are a bunch of reasons, some of which are a bit counter intuitive. Here's one, you know how you can "whiten your clothes by adding bluing for extra whiteness"? Well you can make whites look whiter by adding blue in video as well. Guess what? A lot of manufacturers use this trick to make their displays look brighter in a showroom. As a matter of fact, most manufacturers default settings use every trick in the book to make their displays (your display) look brighter and more colorful at the expense of accuracy. It may look great at first, but you will never see the movie the way it was meant to look using a display as it comes from the factory. Overly Sharpening the picture is another trick used by manufacturers to make their pictures "pop". Unfortunately, this usually creates a lot of visual "artifacts" that many people would never guess are caused by that overly high "sharpness" setting in their video displays setup menu.

It is true that a full ISF calibration will usually give you the best possible picture your display can provide, but it is not inexpensive and somewhat difficult to justify for an inexpensive display.
You could go by the settings posted on your favorite home theater forum web site. Some spudnik claims they have an even more 3D image than "supervidman1"'s settings with a "15" rather than a "7" for their "contrast" setting. Are you really going to go for that?

Well, thankfully, there are alternatives. There are Calibration DVD's which will not only give you the instructions on how to calibrate your display, but give you the test patterns to do so. Avia and Digital Video essentials will pretty much walk you through the process. It is very hard not to get a better looking picture after using these disks.
The next step up in Calibration technology is a system with a colorimeter (video brightness/color meter) and software that allows you to use it to get the best picture possible without having to use your eyes to "guesstimate" your settings. The Datacolor Spyder products are easy to use and do a great job. You can even use them to do all the TV's in your house. Do you have friends with HDTV's? Do they know your absolute favorite beer?

Read our DVD Video Calibration Guide

Friday, February 02, 2007

Q) Can somebody help me out? I don't understand all the technical jargon I am reading about Blue-Ray vs HD DVD, but I need to make a decision on which to buy because soon I am purchasing a 52" Sharp LCD TV. If someone could just tell me in layman's terms the advantages and disadvantages of those two units, I would truly appreciate it.

A) It is very hard to recommend one over the other. Either one could end up the winner or loser in the format war. A good strategy as far as we are concerned is to rent movies rather than buy them and to try and pay the least possible amount of money on your player. HD DVD drives are generally less expensive, and shopping around or getting a used or open box player are options you may want to think about.
The Blu-Ray bargain is the Playstation 3. If you think you will be even remotely interested in games at all, it becomes that much better of an option. In any case it is a very good Blu-Ray player and is likely to hold its value since even if Blu-Ray were to lose the format war, it would still have value as a game console.

Besides keeping in mind the cost of the player, you need to see which titles are available and upcoming for each format to help decide which will give you the most satisfying content from your perspective. Some of us have gone "format neutral" by getting a PS3 as well as a Toshiba HD DVD player.