Purchasing an HDTV can be one of the biggest steps towards a great home theater setup, but to truly enjoy your setup, a calibration is in order!
Well, in broadcast, there are certain references and standards that studios strive to meet. Specifically, there is an exact color temperature that everyone uses as a reference, the 6500k standard. If your TV is set to the exact same color standard as the studio, every color will appear on your TV the way it was recorded and intended to appear, making for a more natural and enjoyable experience.
You might be thinking why they aren’t just ready to go at the factory, then. All HDTVs, even of the same model, even one after another on the production line aren’t created equal. Each of them have slight differences due to the manufacturing process, and it is far too expensive and time-consuming for the manufacturer to calibrate the sets as they leave the factory. Not everyone would want to pay a premium for a service they may not notice, and in some cases, may not even like.
Also, plasma TVs have a break-in cycle, not unlike a brand new car, and perform a little differently in their first one-hundred hours of use. Variations in altitude can also affect plasma TVs.
There are essentially three options that exist for consumers. One is to tweak available settings to get as close to optimal as possible. This is done yourself, without any serious equipment, and costs nothing but your time. However, it will only get you 80-90% of the way.
The next option is to hire a professional calibrator. The Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) certifies individuals for this process, and they will use expensive equipment, the service menu and other tricks to get your TV as close as possible to the 6500k standard. Using light-measuring equipment and complex software, they are able to do this, however, they charge $250 and up, typically around $400-500 for a higher-end TV.
The last option, if you are savvy enough, is to purchase your own equipment and calibrate your own TV. Of course, equipment prices vary widely in price, so this is an option that most people will probably not go with, as it comes with a steep learning curve.
The Internet’s best resource on anything audio-visual is, without a doubt, the AVS Forums. Experts from all over gather and discuss options, problems and more. Specific forums exist for calibration, and that’s the best place to start. If you want to start by tweaking your TV yourself, ideal settings threads can be found, and are an excellent starting point. Remember, each TV is different, so those “ideal settings” are only a starting point, but you can work your way up from there!
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