Optimization Consternation

Steven Lassair asks a perennial question that all TV owners should heed:

I'm going to get the Samsung A650, and I want to optimize the colors. Can you recommend a DVD I can use to do that? I found Digital Video Essentials on Amazon, but it doesn’t get good ratings.

First, I applaud your choice of television. I reviewed the LN52A750, which is essentially the same as the A650 with a few more bells and whistles, and it is one of my favorite LCD TVs.

I'm not surprised that DVE on DVD did not get good ratings on Amazon—it's menu navigation is not at all intuitive. On the other hand, if you have a Blu-ray player, Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics is much better in this regard, and I can recommend it highly. In fact, I use it all the time in my TV reviews. HD Basics has all the test patterns you need to optimize a TV's basic user controls (brightness, contrast, color, tint, sharpness) as well as instruction on how to do so.

If you're limited to DVD, there are several choices in addition to DVE. One of the industry standards is Avia II, which I haven't used myself, though I hear it's pretty technical. Another option is HDTV Calibration Wizard from Monster Cable and the Imaging Science Foundation, which is very user-friendly for the average consumer. This disc uses real-world clips instead of test patterns to optimize the basic user controls.

Perhaps the most widely available setup program is THX Optimizer, which many consumers already have, even if they don't know they have it. This program is included in the bonus materials on some DVDs, including most Pixar titles (Cars, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, etc.) and all the Star Wars movies. Unfortunately, THX Optimizer can't be purchased separately at this point, but THX is considering making it available as a standalone product.

If other readers have a favorite setup disc, please share that information with the class.

If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.

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Bruce in CO's picture

Is THX Optimizer only on DVD or does it also come on the Blu-Ray of those titles? Also, since ATSC and NTSC use different color points (I think that they do, do they?) will calibrating with a DVD not do the best job for HD/Blu-Ray? And vice-versa (calibrating with a Blu-Ray disc not look as good when playing a DVD)?

Bruce in CO's picture

Also, I have used the DVD DVE for years, though I would never call myself good at it (I had to stop tweaking because I was just driving myself crazy). Not terribly user friendly, but just making simple adjustments, such as tint, contrast and brightness were enough to turn an okay HDTV into a beautiful HDTV picture. I can't imagine what a full professional calibration would do. That will come with the big screen, which hopefully be soon.

Frank's picture

I tried THX Optimizer on blu-ray, but actually found it somewhat un-intuitive. So it is on DVD and BD. When optimizing I'd suggest using a DVD when optimizing your DVD only TV inputs and use the BD version for the BD only TV inputs. (Personally, I've just used the DVD (yes, Digital Video Essentials) on everything at this point and have a pretty nice set of adjustments that work well for both DVD and BD). Haven't really felt my set-up has needed much beyond that (i.e., my TV is "close enough", colors look just about right). Although, now that I think about it, I do sometimes wonder about "solarization" I see from time to time, particularly with black and white films, but also color DVDs and sometimes with blu-ray. Can't help but think something is not set quite right somewhere along the video chain. Any suggestions for taming solarization?

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Bruce, you are correct that the color points for HD and SD are different, but that difference is very small. It's also important to understand that adjusting the basic user controls does not affect the color points. Unless the set has a true color-management system

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