Calibration Conundrum

January 24, 2010

Many HDTVs do not show the best picture out of the box.  TVs are set up mainly for showrooms so they can scream “Pick me! Pick me!”.  By changing the settings on your TV you can enjoy a much better picture and potentially lengthen your set’s life (at least for plasmas and tube (CRTs)).

When I purchased my Samsung 52″ Series 850 LCD, I had to recalibrate for each source.  Recently, we had neighbors over to watch the first Lord of the Rings movie (aside: it is not available on blu-ray yet, only DVD).  Since I recently purchased a blu-ray player, I thought I could calibrate it before they came over.  Since I was in a rush, I did it with the lights on which did not yield good results.  I was also using an old calibration disk made for DVD players.  I ultimately resorted to the set’s “movie” mode which was not bad.

So to summarize, here are my tips to help you get the best picture possible from your TV:

  • Keep the lights down when you are tuning your set as if you were about to watch a movie
  • Each device connected to your TV needs to be tuned separately.  Most new TVs remember their settings per connection (older TVs do NOT!)
  • Go to  Go to their forums and look under Display Devices.  Search for your set’s model number and the phrase “owner’s thread” or “calibration”.  The good news is that someone has done most of the hard work for you and you can reuse their settings
  • Most of the recommendations on AVS forum revolve around disabling the additional video processing.  In the Samsung world, they have names such as “Motion plus” and “Edge Enhancement”.  Just making these changes make a BIG difference on Samsung LCDs
  • You can download the free calibration patterns from the AVS Forum.  This requires some time investment but you will learn a lot.  There are PDF instructions on how to use the disk.   This was how I was able to calibrate my TIVO.  (Video can also be uploaded to the TIVO)
  • Apparently, Sony blu-ray movies contain free calibration patterns by entering “7699″ and ENTER from the remote
  • You can also buy one one of the calibration DVDs or Blu-ray discs.  I used the goofy ”Sound and Vision’s Home Theater Essentials” disc with my old DVD player. I have not used one of the blu-ray ones yet but I am thinking about investing in one.  There are two competing ones on the market:  ’Spears & Munsil” and Digital Video Essentials.  I would love to hear from folks which one is better.
  • Last but not least, you can hire a professional to come into your house.  It’s going to cost you at least several hundred dollars.  It would be great to hear from someone who attempted their own calibration and also had it done professionally if they thought it was worth it.
So, I am currently in the process of downloading the free blu-ray calibration disk from avsforum.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

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