CAUTION- Do this BEFORE upgrading  iOS or before getting a new iPhone
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(Note, this article was originally published September 17, 2013 when the iPhone 5 was released.  It has been updated for newest iOS 10–steps haven’t changed since iOS7)
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How to Get the Best Picture From Your TV- Video Calibration

Submitted by on October 12, 2010 – 11:41 pm4 Comments

Now that you can spot a good quality picture on a TV, did you know that you can make the picture even better by adjusting it? TVs have come a long way from basic adjustments– like dialing the horizontal and vertical control to keep the picture from flipping, or turning a knob to adjust the color so people aren’t orange or green. Today we can make subtle adjustments that bring about a better looking picture than when we first take the TV from its box.

Whether you buy a top of the line TV model, middle of the road or bargain basement, the default picture settings are not set to their best capabilities.  That is, your picture will look a whole lot better if you make a few adjustments.

TVs are adjusted so that when they come out of the box the picture is vivid and extremely bright.  In a store, this helps catch your eye as you walk by.  However, it is a bit overpowering to leave your TV on those settings once you put it in your home.  Few living rooms have florescent lights (and even if you had those lights, it’s still preferable to watch your TV in lower light conditions).

If you leave the TV on the default settings after you unpack it from the box:

  • You won’t get all the picture quality from the TV that you paid for.
  • The higher brightness levels will waste energy (cost more in power bills and raise your carbon footprint)
  • Your TV screen will wear out faster (burns out the pixels).
  • And…movies and TV shows won’t look the way the filmmakers intended.

How to Adjust the Picture on your TV, aka Video “Calibration”

“Video Calibration” is the technical term for adjusting your TV to display the best picture possible. Simple adjustments will make a big difference in both the performance and the energy consumption of the TV.

Hire a Professional to Calibrate Your TV

If you are the kind of person who shutters at pushing more than the power, channel and volume buttons on your remote, you may want to hire a professional installer to make the adjustments for you.

The installers at the store where you bought your TV typically offer calibration services. While it is worth it to get the best picture quality, it is not cheap.  Expect to pay as much as $200 for a single calibration. You want an installer that is properly trained and is using the right equipment. Be sure that you that the installer is“ISF” certified.

Buy a Calibration DVD to Walk You Through the Process

If you decide to make the adjustments yourself, you don’t have to do it “alone.” There are DVDs available to walk you through the process of adjusting your picture. These DVDs show a picture onscreen and describe how to make adjustments on your TV to match the picture. This takes much of the guesswork out of the process.

My favorite simple calibration disc is Monster Cable’s ISF HDTV Calibration Wizard. Using people and objects, the DVD forgoes a lot of technical talk, taking you through the process step by step.  In each step, you are told what to look for and how to know when the picture has been adjusted correctly.

For a more thorough, technical calibration, you can get Digital Video Essentials:HD Basics produced by Joe Kane a recognized expert in Professional television monitor expert who has applied his expertise to consumer TVs. This calibration Blu-ray Disc uses test patterns to take you through the adjustments process and explains the process at length.  If you just want to get the calibration done, the Monster Cable DVD is the better way to go.

Choose a TV with a Calibration Wizard

LG's LE5500 Has a Picture Wizard to guide you

Many LG TVs have a feature that makes it simple for you to get the picture you like best.  It is called the “Picture Wizard. ” When you click on the picture wizard icon, it walks you through a process that asks you to compare pictures and instructs you what to do to make the pictures match.  The result is picture quality that suits not only the lighting in your room, but your personal taste as well.

Do it Yourself Calibration

If you don’t want any help but you want to improve the picture quality of your TV, you can wield the remote and travel to the inner reaches of the video menu on your TV.  Here you will find the various adjustments you need.

For a basic calibration you need to adjust the black levels, the white levels and the sharpness.

  • The black level-You will adjust the black levels so that you can see details in the shadows (“shadow detail”). Black buttons on a black shirt should not disappear. Bad guys lurking in the shadows shouldn’t fade away into the blackness. This is particularly important in many video games and suspense shows like 24. Check out the picture about black levels and their affect on all colors.

  • The white level – Likewise, you don’t want the whites to blare brightly without any texture, nor become murky gray. Using the “contrast” or “picture” adjustment, so you can see all the detail in the highlights.
  • The sharpness level – Objects have crisp edges not “bleed” into each other becoming fuzzy.  This is a more subjective adjustment.  Some people like a softer look, others go for detailed crisp pictures.  At the very least, you want to be the whites don’t mix with a dark color next to that object or reds bleeding into whites, etc.

It’s a matter of getting the most for your money…and getting the picture you like the best.


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