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Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics
An accurately calibrated display is essential to getting the best out of
your home theater system. Just about all television sets are incorrectly set up, even when they are fresh out of the box. Leaving the
factory, the image brightness is often boosted to make the set look more
impressive on a salesroom floor. While it might make the set stand
out when in a row of 30 sets, the image will be too bright and details
will be lost. A simple and easy way of getting the most out of your
HD set is by investing a small fraction of the cost of the display in a
high quality calibration disc such as Digital Video Essentials:
HD Basics. This easy to understand and use disc is filled with
very good illustrations of how proper and improperly adjusted sets will
look while displaying images. Not only does this disc cover calibrating
a display, but there are also test tones for getting the most out of a
home theater's sound system.
The disc is divided into several sections. A beginner at display
adjustment will do well to start at the beginning and work their way through.
The video sections aren't long and in under an hour you'll become much
more versed in what can and can't be adjusted on your set.
Introduction to HD: A 22-minute overview of High Definition
including how the HD standards are based on a CRT monitors and how film
is digitized into an HD signal. This gives a nice background though
I imagine most people spending the time and money adjusting their sets
with this disc will already know most of the material presented.
HD in Detail: This section starts to get into the some
of the situations that might crop up when adjusting a system. The
size, shape, and even the color of the walls in a room can affect how a
Blu-ray disc looks and sounds and these various parameters are discussed.
From the placement of the monitor and speakers to the amount of ambient
light and its effect on viewing many different situations that may be encountered
are mentioned. This section doesn't work on solving all of these
problems, rather the time is spend illustrating how and why these are areas
to think about. The various color standards are mentioned,
as well as some of the most common problems encountered such as the clipping
of whites and blacks, pixel mapping, and gamma corrections. Some
of the information is repeated, but it never gets monotonous.
Setting up My HD: Here's the meat of the disc. Projectors,
LCDs, and Plasma sets as well as CRTs are covered. This section presents
a series of test patterns with instructions on how to use them to calibrate
your display. The introduction to each test pattern gives examples
of what the pattern should look like when a set is accurately adjusted
as well as what an improper pattern looks like. When the test pattern
itself is displayed, a pause symbol is put on the screen, notifying the
viewer to pause and take as long as he or she needs to correct that particular
parameter. This section has patterns and instructions for setting
the brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness, as well as determining
the display resolution and if display geometry is correct.
Users can also access the basic test patterns discussing in the previous
section in the Basic Video Setup Patterns section. There are
a myriad of both 1080p and 720p test patterns to further fine tune a display
in the Advanced Video Test Patterns section. There's also
a selection of demonstration material, in both 1080p and 720p, to show
off your system once it's been calibrated.
The image is only half the experience in watching a film however.
This disc also includes a full battery of test-tones and audio signals
to make sure speakers are correctly positioned and calibrated, including
a 15Hz to 22 KHz frequency sweep that will let show just how high and low
a system can go. Note that these audio tests require a sound pressure
level meter, which is not included. They are available at Radio Shack
for around $45 and well worth the investment.
This is a very useful set of calibration tools for any HD display.
The creators did a good job making this disc informative and easy to use
for the novice as well as useful for the more advanced user. There
was a lot of attention paid to details too. The video clips used
in the examples were shot on 35mm film and then digitized at 4K resolution
(4,096 X 2,302 pixels resolution) which was then down converted to 1080p,
and they look great. (There's even a section where viewers can compare
a straight 1080p digitization with the 4K down-rezed results.
There are a couple of minor problems with the disc however. Many
manufacturers have different names for some of the adjustable parameters,
and this disc doesn't always give synonyms. Sony, for example, always calls
contrast "Picture", but they didn't mention that. In the Setting
up My HD section where the test patterns are explained, they give users
time to pause the pattern and adjust their set, but after a brief moment
the pattern fades to black. If a user is a little slow on the pause
the image could be frozen on a dimmer, partially faded test pattern, which
would give incorrect results especially when adjusting the brightness and
contrast. Because of that it would have been better for the patterns
to abruptly cut to black, even if it isn't as cinematically pleasing.
Finally, the creators realized that many users will just jump to the
one section that they're interested in without necessarily understanding
what they're doing. Because of this they repeated a lot of the information
which can be a bit monotonous at times.
This is a great disc that no home theater enthusiast should be without.
For the price of a Blu-ray movie you can make sure that all your viewing
is done under optimal conditions. When many people are spending a
couple thousand dollars on their new televisions, it only makes sense to
invest just a little bit more to make sure it looks as good as it can.
This disc is straight forward and easy to use, and it not only gives a
wide range of test patterns but explains why you want to use them.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.