HDTV Buying Guide 2008

How to Get the Most Out of Your HDTV

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Calibrate Your Picture

Calibration is the final step to getting the best possible picture from your new HDTV. Most new televisions come with picture "presets"--for specific inputs like movies, games, and sports--that take the work out of adjusting contrast, brightness, hue, color temperature, and sharpness. But the quality of these presets can vary. Some manufacturers do a good job with them, and some don't, so test them before buying to make sure that they deliver the picture you want. TVs often emerge from the factory with their color temperature and brightness set too high, or with their hues set too vivid, to give their picture a boost in a brightly lit showroom. If you want accurate color reproduction customized to the lighting level in your viewing room, you should do your own calibration.

Quick and Easy Calibration

Many DVDs containing THX audio, like "Pirates of the Caribbean," also include the THX Optimizer, which will help you calibrate your TV's picture. Source: "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl."
Many DVDs containing THX audio, like "Pirates of the Caribbean," also include the THX Optimizer, which will help you calibrate your TV's picture. Source: "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl."
For a quick and easy "free" calibration, you can use almost any DVD that features THX audio. Star Wars director and THX developer George Lucas wanted viewers of his movies to enjoy accurate reproduction of both audio and video, so he provides a set of calibration tools in the DVD setup area of the disc. Just click THX Optimizer, and then follow the on-screen instructions.

Before you start calibrating, be sure to do three things:

  1. Adjust the room lighting to its level during the time when you'll typically be watching TV.
  2. Turn the set's sharpness down to normal.
  3. Make sure that the color temperature is set to 6500 degrees Kelvin (the video standard).

The THX Optimizer Brightness adjustment should show ten levels ranging from gray to black at the top and bottom of the screen, and yet be dark enough to cause the drop-shadow behind the THX logo to disappear.
The THX Optimizer Brightness adjustment should show ten levels ranging from gray to black at the top and bottom of the screen, and yet be dark enough to cause the drop-shadow behind the THX logo to disappear.
When you're ready to calibrate, the THX Optimizer will lead you through five test patterns for adjusting contrast, brightness, color/tint, aspect ratio, and sharpness to their optimum levels. The optimizer presents a simple instruction screen for each adjustment, telling you what to look for, and what parameters to alter. Do this while you are standing close enough to the screen to see any necessary detail.

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