Broadcast Calibration, Podcast Questions, Premium HDMI

Calibration Conundrum
It has been mentioned in many articles that a professional calibrator can enter adjustments for different lighting conditions and different inputs. But how do you calibrate something other than a DVD or Blu-ray player that can play test discs? How do you generate test data from a cable box, game console, etc.?

Richard Allen

You've hit upon a big problem—for the most part, there is no way to objectively calibrate a display for source devices that don't have a video-disc drive. THX has developed a version of its Optimizer program for set-top boxes, which provides the necessary setup images, such as the one above that lets you check the color of various skin tones, and can be found in the TiVo Premier XL DVR. I really hope it finds its way into other cable and satellite boxes.

A reader recently suggested using the color-bars test pattern that some channels send when they sign off, which could be used to set the color and tint controls. Some color-bar patterns also include a PLUGE section that helps you set the TV's brightness control. However, in our 24/7 world, very few channels sign off any more, so this might be difficult to find. If you did find one, you could record it to DVR, but even then, different channels can transmit very different colors, so adjusting to them would make other channels look worse.

If you don't have a TiVo Premier, the best you can do is calibrate the picture controls from a disc player and use the same settings for other inputs, tweaking them by eye as you watch program material. Not ideal, I know, but it's probably all you can do at this point.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop a Question
I just finished listening to your podcast with Tom Norton. At the start, you mentioned "watching the live stream." Could you please tell me how to do this? Secondly, you mentioned submitting questions for your guest. Is there a schedule available so we listeners know when to tune in to ask a question?

Bill Carman

We record the podcast on Mondays from 1:30 to 2:30 PM Pacific time, and you can watch the live video stream at In the upper right of that page is a tab labeled "TWiT Calendar," which opens the schedule of all TWiT live events, including the Home Theater Geeks podcast. (We skip a week here and there for holidays etc.)

To submit questions for my guests, join the chat room by clicking on "Popout Chat" just below the video image. Alternatively, you can join the chat room at Then, simply type in a question for the guest. (You don't have to enter a screen name to join the chat room, but doing so lets me identify you on the air when I pose the question.) The show's engineer monitors the chat room and passes questions on to me, and I ask the guest to comment on some of them. I don't have time to ask all questions submitted, but I try to get in as many as possible.

Thanks for listening!

I recently purchased a Pioneer Elite Pro-111FD. Since then, I've been in awe. However, I am using the cables provided by my cable company (Bell in Canada). I have read that high-quality cables are a worthy investment if they are for high-quality displays. I have been looking at cables by the Scottish manufacturer Atlas. Do you think I would notice an improvement in picture quality? The cable run would be 2 meters at most.

Also, I noticed the review of the new LG LED was quite favorable. How does it compare with the Elite?

Vir Sodhi

In my view, as long as an HDMI cable meets certain minimum requirements established and certified by HDMI Licensing, you will see no improvement in picture quality with so-called high-end cables. I don't know if the Bell cable meets these requirements, but 2 meters isn't very long, so it should be fine.

The LG LE8500 LED-backlit LCD TV is indeed excellent, but not as good as the Pioneer Kuro. For example, on outer-space star fields, the bright stars have halos because the local-dimming zones are much bigger than the stars. So far, I've seen no flat panel that can beat—or even match—the Kuro.

If you have a home-theater question, please send it to

Marshall Currier's picture

HD Channel "HDNet" (available on many Satellite providers and few cable providers) offers late night test patterns sponsored by Zenith/LG which come on typically at 5 AM EDT once a week.Definitely worth downloading if you have an HD DVR! I believe the test patterns are geometry, resolution, SMPTE bars, and color decoder bars. Happy staring/calibrating!

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Marshall, that's great news! I'll defintely set my Dish DVR to record these patterns. Thanks for the tip!

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Marshall, I haven't found this material yet on my Dish program guide. Do you know what it's called so I can search for it by name?

EWL5's picture

Scott, the next scheduled pattern will be on Sat, July 3rd at 6:30AM ET on HDNet. Sorry if this comes too late.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Not too late, thanks! However, my Dish Network program guide says that HDNet will be showing "Nothing But Trailers" at 6:30 AM ET (3:30 AM Pacific time) on Saturday 7/3, though the HDNet website says it will show test patterns as you report. I guess I'll record at that time and see which is correct. Thanks again!

Scott Wilkinson's picture

I just searched for the word "test" on the Dish DVR and found it right when you said it would be on! However, it does not appear in the main program guide, which says that "Nothing But Trailers" starts at 3:40 AM Pacific time! According to the search function, the test patterns are 10 minutes long, which is why the trailer show is specified to start at 3:40. I'm glad I kept digging; now I'll have the test patterns on the DVR.

Amit's picture

Can you view the video of the podcasts afterwards? I would really like to see the show, but there's no chance of that happening at that hour.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Amit, at the moment, there is no way to view the video of the show after the fact, only in real time as we record. We're working on adding video to the podcast, but it's not there yet.

Adam's picture

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe professional calibration tools include test signals over coax. With the mention of using the Tivo, I would imagine you would be using an HDMI connection. I know the calibrator I saw had HDMI out on his tools. If this is the case, would the results be different from the TiVo vs professional tools?