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HDTV Calibration Wizard (Monster ISF Series)

Other // Unrated
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted June 28, 2006 | E-mail the Author
According to the Monster website, "the Monster/ISF HDTV Calibration Wizard DVD is the next best thing to hiring a costly technician to visit your home. The Calibration Wizard uses easy to use live video shots to help you calibrate your TV without complicated test patterns. You will be amazed at the better detail, more realistic picture quality and more accurate black levels and contrast."

Monster is a familiar name to me because of two products they produce, Monster cables and Monster power outlet strips, both of which I've used in part to amass what seems like an enormous conglomeration of cabling and electrical wiring in putting together my home theater setup. Purists will be quick to let you know that a true home theater is one in which the owner has dedicated a room to this purpose, so I'll be properly hazy in saying my system is merely a setup and by no means of the elite category.

There are any number of ways in which we TV/DVD watchers view our equipment, ranging from the types who are satisfied going to the local department store and picking up the cheapest set on the floor to the home theater enthusiast who spends what most of us make in a year amassing a setup approaching perfection, with lots of levels of viewers in between. Being one of those guys who falls in the middle I thought it would be both informative and fun giving this disc a try on my own set, which is a Hitachi 57F515 rear projection HDTV I bought last year. When surfing the net for advice on how to best utilize my $2000 purchase, the HD equipment forums were insistant that in order to get the most out of ones' investment the buyer needs to schedule a house call from a video calibrator/technician- at a cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $500. I have absolutely no doubt that is the most useful way to go here, but hey, I got bills to pay, my kid needs a new skateboard and there is there is always that next 20 percent off sale on the Deep Discount DVD site to consider. So rather than putting the money into the cost of a technician I figured I would try this route and see if there are marked improvements in my picture.

Disc Chapters-

1. Introduction From The Head Monster 10th Anniversary ISF/Monster
2. How This DVD Will Make Every Other DVD Better!
3. How Black are Your Blacks?
4. How Bright are Your Whites?
5. Are Your Pictures Colorful Enough or Way Too Colorful?
6. Is Your TV Sharp?
7. Am I Too Fat?
8. Time to Enjoy Your TV
9. Are You Well Connected and Properly Powered?

Easy-to-use live video shots help you calibrate your TV without complicated test patterns.
Hosted by the Head Monster, Noel Lee, and singer/songwriter Jenna Drey.
Includes Jenna Dreys music video--the first recorded in WMV HD (720p) with 7.1 digital audio.
Created by Monster, the Imaging Science Foundation, and Microsoft.

Having gone through the calibration process with the disc, there are several plus points I found. Its very easy to use and is a 'patient' process that gives the user time to locate appropriate controls and settings regardless of their make and model television set. Setting the colors according to the skin tone of three different models was a good tool, using the premise that each is a bit different- one is pale, one is overly red while a third has healthy color. Adjusting your set for proper screen size is useful, putting several 'fit' models on the screen and asking the viewer if they appear fit or fat.

The black level walk-through is simple enough, and should allow you to set your brightness to a watchable level; in my case I felt that it encouraged me to adjust my own TV a bit on the high side, but I'm a bit fussy about black levels. You're also given some white video clips here to do a decent comparison. The disc is a bit fuzzy in some areas such as setting for sharpness, encouraging the user to adjust according to the sharp lines of a pool cue used in the demonstration. For setting the picture in order to not lose any onscreen information it was also a bit on the useless side for me in regards to my own set as there is no simple picture alignment adjustment I can find that allows me to do this, so it might frustrate a user or two. On the other hand, it is a nice feature for those who can use it and in fact one I wish I could have taken better advantage of with my Hitachi.

Also included on the disc is a music video by Jenna Drey, shot in Windows Media Video HD. Its okay for the purpose of showing off the colors and sharpness you just adjusted, but I'm more likely to throw in a disc I like to check my settings. Clocking in at around 30 minutes, this disc isn't too long or too short for the job it undertakes; in about the time it would take you to watch a sitcom you can tweak your TV to give you a better overall viewing experience.

As for how my picture looked before and after the runthrough, I'd say it looks a bit better as a result of the tools utilized on the disc. While the THX Optimizer option on some discs is a useful tool, it does seem focused more on the movie with which its incorporated as opposed to an overall set of tweaked settings with which to watch a wider array of programming.


Presented in what appears to be 2.35:1 widescreen with some other aspect ratios incorporated for the process. Picture for the most part is clean with good colors, but it does look a bit soft from time to time.


The audio switches about a bit from stereo to 7.1 Dolby Digital in the case of the music video included.



Final Thoughts-

The price is probably much more in line with what average users are likely to pay to fine tune their sets, as well as being easier to use than comparable discs from companies like Avia and DVE. Their offerings are more comprehensive but also more involved and can be a bit frightening to the novice HD owner. This disc isn't going to replace a pro, but most people I know wouldn't spend the money professional calibration costs anyway; on the other hand, they would fork over enough cash for a tool such as this. Monster has done an admirable job in bringing to the normal viewer a user-friendly product that will assist them in getting a cleaner, sharper image without having to spend alot of cash in doing so. Recommended.
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