How To Calibrate Your TV
How To Calibrate Your TV
Would you like to improve the way your display looks? Here’s how to calibrate your TV along with some helpful points to keep in mind.
Importance Of Visual Calibration
So today we’ll be going over (you probably already guessed it from looking at the title) how to calibrate your TV.
With all the focus we place on speakers, we often forget that the visual aspect plays just as important of a role in home theater. Whether it be a projector, TV, or whatever, how it looks contributes immensely to the entire experience as well. Out of the box, a display will not even come close to the potential of what it could look like.
But you know what the sad part is? Most people don’t realize that calibrating is even a thing. Let me tell you right now, if you do it right, you’ll see a tremendous difference even with the TV you have right now. So that’s what we’ll be focusing on, teaching you how to get the most out of your current display!
What’s Different from An Audio Calibration
Now there’s a few things different here from a typical speaker calibration. For one, there isn’t really a specific order you have to do things in. The way I explain things can be done in any way. Another big distinction I want to make is that I’m going to be covering the more general way to calibrate your set.
You can have it done professionally or even do it yourself, but it would honestly be far more difficult. Even then, it’s a point of diminishing returns. I’ve had it done professionally in the past, and surprisingly, I preferred the regular way. So eh… it’s your call really.
What You’ll Need
As far as what you’ll actually need, you have a few options. You’re going to need a way to see the changes made in the menus as you go along. One disc I personally use is called Disney WOW: World of Wonder.
I love this one in particular, because it’s insanely easy to understand, and provides you with pictures to visualize the changes you make. It’s very user friendly for beginners and goes through everything step by step. It also comes with something really cool called a blue filter.
A blue filter is basically a blue film that you look through that ultimately allows you to adjust the color setting more precisely on a display. It’s honestly really helpful. It’ll have patterns similar to what’s talked about here like brightness, color etc.
The other disc that’s really common is called Spears & Munsil HD. This one is a little more in depth but allows you to tweak things a whole lot more. That DVD would be for the more technically minded individuals.
If you have a smart TV, you can also go into YouTube and type in AVS HD 709, and there will be a series of calibration videos by a man named Jim Lange you can use. When you click on it, the YouTube username under the videos will say Manly Powers.
Those videos will be the ones we use for this setup just as an example of how a calibration would go in general. The patterns will be different depending on what material you use, but the adjusting process will be similar.
Feel free to apply what’s explained here to your own reference material. Ideally you will want to use a blue filter, but it is possible to do it without.
Different Modes, Common Picture Settings Explained
Let’s go over some of the most common settings in your TV and explain just what they mean. Since each TV is different, some of the things explained here may be under a different name in your TV just as a heads up.
Brightness – So a common misnomer is that brightness controls how bright the image appears. What it actually does is control how dark things are on screen. This is so that things like shadows have detail, but the image as a whole isn’t too hard to see. Brightness is very important because if it is too bright, it’ll make the image a lot less dynamic and convincing.
Contrast – Contrast is the one that controls how bright things look. If set too high, you’ll lose details in the lighter portions of the scene. When set right it allows just enough balance to see everything the producer intended you to see.
Tint – This allows you to control how red or green an image appears. Some displays have a tendency to appear really red or really green, so this can sometimes be helpful.
Vivid mode – What is common with a display you get right out of the box is that it’s often set on something called Vivid, Dynamic, or something similar. Manufactures use these modes on the showroom to make their TVs that much more enticing. For home use though this is highly inaccurate, and you’ll want to find the mode that says normal.
Game mode – This has less of something called input lag which is the delay between the pressing of a button and what you see on screen. Input lag is an important metric especially in multiplayer games, so this is a mode best used by gamers.
Normal – This mode forgoes all of the fancy characteristics of the other modes and offers the most balanced image. For calibration begin with either this mode, movie, or custom
Movie – Usually the most intended way a director wants you to see content. This mode may seem dimmer than you might be use to.
Custom – Just like the name suggests, allows allots you much more control over image customization.
Color Temperature – controls how blue or red an image appears. There’s usually options like warm or cool. There isn’t necessarily a “best” temperature setting to use but standard is the most common
Gamma setting – this is similar to brightness, but it is in charge of the gradation between light and dark elements on screen. The most common gamma value is 1.2
Dynamic Contrast – Again this up to personal preference, but this is a setting used to artificially enhance the difference between light and dark elements on screen.
Sharpness – a common misconception with sharpness is that the higher this value is, the better the image is. However, that’s not true. When you go past a certain threshold, you begin to introduce what’s called artifacts. This makes the image seem artificial and not the way it was intended to be seen. So if anything, you’ll want it to be set low. This allows a much more natural image.
HDR – If you have a newer television you may see the option of HDR. You definitely want to leave this on. HDR is relatively new standard where the light and dark elements on screen are contrasted to a much more natural degree. The difference that it makes is staggering if your TV supports it.
Noise Reduction – This is a setting used to make lower quality videos look better. For movies and TV’s today, I wouldn’t bother with this because it can actually have a negative effect in how it looks.
Local Dimming – Similar to HDR, if your TV has this, absolutely leave this on. Turn it on if it isn’t already.
Backlight – This is how bright the picture is overall. While it’s up to user preference, I personally use a lower backlight because if you go too high, you’ll start to see the brightness (remember it’s opposite so darkness) begin to raise. If it’s a really well lit room, this will probably need to be higher though.
White balance – Used to adjust how red white portions of a screen look. In general I’d leave this alone unless you know what you are doing and had the equipment to take measurements.
Motion – There may be a menu with motion in the title, and this controls how smooth a picture looks. When set too high, it introduces something called the soap opera effect where content looks as though it were shot using a home video camera. Again, user preference.
First, we’re going to adjust brightness. You’ll see the numbers range from 2 to 25 flashing. If your current display is really dark you might see something like only 22 and up flashing. This is called clipping, where something that should be displayed is getting cut off.
Conversely you may see all of them flashing. What we’re trying to do here is reach something called reference black. Reference black is an agreed upon standard set in the picture industry where dark levels are at the perfect referenced setting.
Reference black here is 17. So really simple, all you’ll do here is go into the menu, go to brightness, and then adjust the value until only 17-25 flash. That way things look the way they should. When your brightness is correctly adjusted, you’ll notices scenes now have a lot more pop and a sense of depth that wasn’t there before.
Now we’ll be adjusting on the other end of the spectrum contrast. Just like reference black, there is also a reference white that we need to be aware of as well. For this, you want to adjust your contrast so that only 230-234 is flashing on screen.
However, here’s something interesting to note. When you adjust the contrast, it will change the brightness you previously set. In other words, you’ll have to go back, readjust, then come back to contrast again to make sure it’s in check as well.
Color & Tint Adjustment
Next, we’re going to be adjusting color. Color is the saturation or intensity of the colors on screen. It is fairly common for this value to be set really high so that’s what we’re going to fix right now. There’s two ways to go about doing this step (3 if you count professional calibration)
The first is with the blue filter we talked about before. To be honest with you, this is the recommended way to do it. In terms of using it, luckily it’s really simple.
While looking through the blue filter, adjust the color setting and the tint setting until the flashing boxes on screen match in brightness with one another. If you do it right, the color boxes will look the same, and the tint boxes will look the same. The other way is visually without one.
Do note that this won’t be the most accurate way to do it, but it will still result in a much better picture regardless. But with the blinking rectangles, you want to adjust the tint and color settings until they’re all blinking at a similar value.
Like I mentioned before, sharpness is the acumination of an image and is often set really high by default. However we don’t want this. What we’ll need to do is set it as it’ll go, then lower it back down right at the point where the image looks normal again. Of course this is going to be subjective, but you’ll know that point when you reach it.
In summation, these are some of the more general settings you’ll encounter in regards to how to calibrate your TV. Of course a television has a lot more than these, but every TV is different so these advanced options will depend on the unit. You can always play around with some of these menus since it’s not like you’ll break anything.
Plus you can always revert something back to its default if you don’t like the way a certain setting looks. But if you employ the basic concepts mentioned here, you’ll no doubt notice a tremendous difference. Leave a comment below if you have any questions, and I’ll catch you next time.
Hey everyone it’s nice to meet you. I’m Jasmere, the founder of Easy Home Theater. I’ve been with this hobby for many years now, and decided to create this site to share everything that I’ve learned from personal experience with you. I hope you find it helpful, and if you ever have any questions, be sure to reach out!