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How to Adjust Your Picture Using Video Test Patterns (Page 1 of 3)

Why adjust my TV?

Have you ever adjusted the picture controls on your TV?

If you haven't, then you need to know that the current settings you're currently using are most likely NOT intended for home use.

It's true. Manufacturers have to assume that every TV leaving their factory has an equal chance of ending up on a sales floor, so most TVs are usually set up with many of the image settings cranked for viewing on a showroom floor when shoppers are looking for the brightest set money can buy. If the TVs image controls were properly adjusted with home use in mind, they would look dull and muted compared to the inflated settings of other TVs. Advanced TV users know that showroom settings do not provide captivating, detailed images with proper color and depth.

One big problem with TVs that are too bright is that they can be damaging to your eyes if viewed at night. If you often find it fatiguing to watch television at night or often get headaches when doing so, then your television could be too bright; proper calibration should reduce or eliminate these conditions.

If you sit a good distance from a smaller display you may want to consider adding a backlight behind your TV. The human eye will not adjust for the brightness of the TV if majority of of your field of vision is black. A backlight will help your eyes adjust properly.

About adjustment

All color televisions provide the user with at least five basic adjustments. These adjustments are the keys to setting up your monitor to show you TV images the way they were intended to be seen. Many users try to adjust these settings by eye, which can be done with a relative degree of success. However, without a basic knowledge of what those controls really do to the picture, some often make the image worse than when they started. The challenge with proper TV adjustment is that without special patterns to put on the screen, its difficult to know if the controls are in the proper place.

Today, home users can adjust their TV sets with the aid of those special patterns, which are now available on DVD. You can get test patterns from a few different sources. Many commercial movies come with the THX optimizer in the special features section of the DVD. It's refreshing to see that studios are helping to provide tools to make the home viewers experience better. However, the THX optimizer does not include color filters, which are necessary to properly adjust color and tint. The two most popular complete kits for television adjustments are Avia and Video Essentials. Both are fantastic, however for home users Avia would probably be the better choice. It's easier to use, and it's black level patterns do not require your DVD to pass PLUGE signals (information below black), making it much more universal. Both kits include color filters. Since most home users use Avia, it's pattern names will be used in this article. Video Essentials has similar patterns to all of these. Any differences will be covered below.

Another way to calibrate your display is to hire an ISF technician do it for you. They have sophisticated equipment and access to additional adjustments within the TV's service menu. Their calibration will be more accurate than what you will be able to do yourself, however they usually charge around $400 to calibrate your display. You can get admirable results with the use of test patterns.

Getting ready for adjustment

Before you begin to make adjustments to any CRT or Plasma TV, allow the TV to play a TV program for at least 15 to 30 minutes prior to adjustment; many TVs drift slightly as they approach their operating temperature. LCD and DLP based televisions do not require a long warm-up period.

Set the lighting in your room

Set your lighting at a level that is common for your typical viewing. This will make a difference depending on the flexibility your TV allows. It's important that if you are adjusting for evening use, only adjust the TV with the lights off if that's where you normally have them.

  • Some televisions allow only one universal setting for all inputs. If yours is one and you often view programs during the day and in the evening, you may want to turn up the lighting in the room for calibration. With only one setting for all inputs, some minor adjustment might be necessary during daytime use.

  • Some TVs offer both a day and a night setting for individual or all inputs. If yours supports day and night for all of the TVs inputs, you'll want to configure it once during the day and again in the evening with your lighting set to where you would normally have it. If your TV supports separate settings for each input, you will only need to do it once, then copy the values over to the other inputs.

  • Other televisions allow one individual setting per input. If this is the case, make your DVD input an evening setting then copy the values to all inputs. Adjust those settings for the sources that you would commonly watch during the daytime hours.

  • Other TVs have different picture modes like sports, vivid, and standard. Adjust one of the modes for daytime use, and another for evening. Just remember which one is which.

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