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Tips Section - Viewing By The Rules

The next time you go to a big electronics store, notice the wall of televisions all showing the same video. Each one looks different. Which one is correct? None of them are and none are being displayed to the best of their ability. People tweak the controls to their individual liking and manufacturers deliberately set their displays way off from the standard because they believe it sells more sets.

There is an established standard for calibrating video displays. Professionals adhere to these standards in order to achieve high quality and consistency. You should too. It is a requirement if you want to see what the artist intended, see the picture correctly and optimize your investment. It can also prolong your equipments life.

The viewing environment also plays a critical role. Lighting control, background colors, screen reflections, viewing angles and distances, etc. all influence the viewing experience.

An Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) technician (one with a color analyzer) would be able to properly calibrate the following basic picture controls:

1. Convergence – aiming the red, green and blue guns to shoot at the exact same locations on the screen.
2. Black Level or ‘brightness’ – the base line for video. Correct intensities in dark scenes.
3. White level or ‘contrast’ – distance between the base line and peak white. Correct intensities in bright scenes. Also improves picture resolution, gray scale, geometry errors and eliminates white edges. Factory sets are typically around 80% higher than they should be, shortening the life of the equipment. This is done to look bright on the showroom floor.
4. Gray scale – equal amounts of red, green and blue. Accurate color rendition. Factory sets are usually tinted blue. You want to start out with a white canvas, not a blue one.
5. Color level – correct saturation intensity of colors. Pictures won’t look anemic or cartoonish.
6. Tint – correct decoding of color phase. Flesh tones, etc. look real.
7. Focus – aiming the picture beams onto single elements, thus avoiding bleeding or smearing of the picture.
8. Sharpness – a resolution equalizer. Usually not needed and typically set high from the factory introducing artifacts into the picture.
9. Geometry – Centering, size, width and height.


* Norman Varney of A/V RoomService, Ltd. has been offering onsite video calibrations since 1989 and became one of ISF’s first certified technicians in 1994.


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