Outfitting your home with a new television is an exciting experience. However, an essential step that often gets lost among all that excitement is calibrating the display settings so that your new TV looks and performs its best. While Century Stereo does basic calibration for all TVs installed by our team, if you’re a DIY type who opted to install your own TV, we have some tips to help you calibrate your new display. For true enthusiasts, we can also do ISF calibration for an additional charge. It may not make much sense, but manufacturers oftentimes do not prep their TVs to look their best inside a home.
Instead, they’re thinking about how their product will look inside the store, on a wall, surrounded by dozens of other TVs. How do they do that? Usually by tweaking most of the available settings on a TV to their maximum level, which results in a bright, head-turning picture that can grab shoppers’ attention. The flipside is that these settings have nothing to do with how the TV will look inside your living room, effectively turning an expensive home appliance into a misused toy.
In order to experience the vivid colors, balanced contrast, fine textures, and deep dimension that new TVs are capable of displaying, a bit of time needs to be spent properly calibrating an out-of-the-box TV. The first step is a good old-fashioned eye test. To start, pick the best-possible viewing source, which is usually a Blu-ray player. If one of those is not available, a newer gaming console will definitely do the job, followed by a cable or satellite box equipped with DVR. Of course, quality HDMI cables should be used, as they are the current standard for high-definition viewing. Using good HDMI cables is an important part of getting the most out of your TV. Would you expect to get the best performance out of a Lamborghini on an ill-maintained highway with lots of potholes? Cables are another subject entirely, though– more on that in our cables blog post.
When performing at-home calibration, you should also pick the proper show or movie. Preferably it’s filmed in native HD, and has a great mix of colors, as well good contrast between dark and bright scenes. For example, Gravity offers great contrast, but it does not feature a wide range of colors. Something like Planet Earth or Avatar would be a great pick.
Next, it’s best to start with one of the TV’s available preset modes, and to go from there. Surprisingly, most of these pre-saved settings are somewhat unimpressive. In general, many presets are too bright, which can tax your new TV and decrease its long-term life. Usually, the movie or cinema preset is a good starting point, so play around with that until you’re satisfied with the picture, and make sure to save the settings as a custom calibration. Also, make sure that image-assist functions are turned off, because they normally do more harm than good. This includes any settings that perform motion-smoothing, add filters, and include “enhancement,” “correction,” or “reduction” in their name.
When tweaking the custom settings, it’s important to make sure that the brightness isn’t set too high, and the black colors on the screen actually look black. For contrast, you’ll probably want to slide it over to about 50% of the max settings. When looking at white objects on the screen, make sure their edges are not blurred. For the color setting, this is more of a personal taste. However, you should make sure that actors do not look like they’re sporting a deep tan, and that colors look natural. Finally, for sharpness, most modern HDTV sources have made this setting almost obsolete. It’s mostly useful for low-quality broadcast and cable signals. You’ll likely want to keep this setting near zero.
Hopefully at this point, you’ll be satisfied with your improved image. However, those who want to squeeze all the juice out of their TV can also pick up a calibration disc, which will assist in tweaking the settings with the aid of on-screen clips and other features. The Disney WOW: World of Wonder Blu-ray disc is an intuitive calibration disc, and Spears and Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray offers clear directions and online support. Meanwhile, the THX Tune-Up, which is available for iPhones and iPads, uses the device’s camera to assist in calibration. Century Stereo can also provide ISF calibration services for those who just want to get the job done right by an experienced professional.
Ready to take your TV’s display to the next level? Stop in at Century Stereo and have one of our helpful staff members walk you through the process, and help you pick out anything you’ll need.