For true television lovers, screen quality is extremely important. Your screen can make or break your high-definition viewing experience. Of all the features in recent HDTV models, the most important is picture quality. If you own an HDTV, chances are that you have not optimized its settings to your custom needs. An HDTV can be calibrated to address the specific needs of the room it’s in. Better viewing quality is possible when you program your television with personalized settings, which are likely much different than the showroom setting that inspired you to purchase the HDTV set in the first place. Unfortunately, the settings that work well for HDTVs in their showrooms are less than ideal for most home-viewing situations.
By learning which display settings to adjust, you can closely control your television and achieve the most brilliant, lifelike display. Start with these four simple steps and you’ll be on your way to viewing bliss whether you prefer to watch DVDs or enjoy free tv online.
1. Control External Lighting
There’s a reason why movie theaters are dark. As simple as it sounds, one of the best things you can do to improve the picture quality of your HDTV is to turn down the lights. The ambient, external lighting in your room has a profound influence on the picture. This is because the brightness in a room causes the TV to lack detail in the darker portions of images, which skews image quality significantly. The general rule of thumb is this: Lower ambient lighting equals higher picture quality. If you can’t completely turn down the lights in a room, at least ensure that direct light is not hitting your screen causing a washed-out picture and an annoying glare.
2. Adjust Brightness
Your HDTV’s brightness settings should be set neither too low nor too high. You’ll know if your TV’s brightness is too low if images appear to lack detail. This is known as “setting the black level.” The ideal brightness setting allows your screen to display rich, deep black tones. On the other hand, if your brightness setting is too high, the black tones will be skewed towards brown and appear muddy, lacking sharpness. An ideal black level for your HDTV will ensure a sharp picture quality that helps to harness the innate beauty of high definition.
To make sure you are setting the proper black level for your HDTV, you can use what’s known as a PLUGE pattern. These are patterns designed to help you tweak your black level to ensure optimum brightness. You can download these patterns from TV tuning disks or from the web for free. These patterns help you calibrate your TV, but are not entirely necessary. If you have a good eye for color, you can adjust the settings without a calibration pattern.
3. Calibrate the Contrast
Once you have determined the optimum brightness setting, it’s time to adjust the contrast and color. It is important to set the brightness first and then tweak the contrast and color. If you try to do this in the wrong order, you can end up with a very confused HDTV.
Adjusting the contrast is known as setting the white level. The general idea is to avoid setting your white levels so high that an entirely white screen on your HDTV resembles the blinding brightness of snow on a sunny day. Just like setting the brightness level, a great method for getting the most from your screen is to invest in a tuning disk that has pre-set patterns to help you notice contrast settings more easily. If you choose not to use a pattern, simply find a very bright image on a movie and pause it. For example, find a scene where a woman is wearing a bright white dress. While focusing on the white dress, adjust your contrast settings so that you can still see details of the dress without it becoming a blinding mass of white.
4. Calibrate the Color
By keeping your HDTV’s color settings in check, you can complete your optimization process. Most HDTV sets display hues that are far more saturated than those you find in real life. This can give a “cartoonish” look to the images. By choosing softer, more natural color settings, you will be more pleased with the realistic picture quality. To adjust the color, first focus on images of people, and adjust the colors until they look similar to how they would in real life; Pay attention to skin tone and hair color. Using images of nature including grass and trees is another effective method of adjusting color — simply tweak your color until nature looks realistic and not like something out of a fantasy film.
Again, you can choose to use calibration disks that use patterns to help you find the ideal settings, or you can rely on your own inner TV-loving guru.
About the Author: Joanne O’Brien is a technology reviewer for several national publications. Her television show and film reviews have appeared on several top entertainment web sites.