Color Bars, Audio Switches, TV Settings

Great Idea
I have a DirecTV DVR, and I discovered that some channels display the SMPTE color bars after signing off, so I have recorded them to use when adjusting the TV's picture controls for broadcast content. The color-bar patterns I have recorded do not have 3.5 and 7.5 IRE PLUGE bars, only the 11.5 IRE bar. How do I adjust the brightness without the 3.5 and 7.5 bars?

Brandon Bain

Great question! Adjusting a TV's basic picture controls for a broadcast source is a real bugaboo, and you've hit upon an excellent way to do it. I didn't know that some stations still broadcast color bars after signing off—in fact, I thought that most channels broadcast 24/7 these days.

Actually, 7.5 IRE is probably the level of the background black, so if you can see 11.5 against a darker background, that background is most likely 7.5. The problem is that you can't see "below-black," which is important for setting the TV's brightness control correctly.

Are you sure there is no below-black bar in the test pattern? Have you raised the brightness control way above where it should be just to see if it's there? If it really isn't there, the only thing you can do is lower the brightness until the 11.5 bar disappears, then raise it a few clicks above that point. Admittedly, this is imprecise, but it's probably the best you can do without below-black information in the test pattern.

You might need to tweak that setting after watching some dark scenes. If those scenes look flat with lots of solid dark areas, turn the brightness up a bit; if they look washed out, turn it down a bit. Also, be aware that what works for one channel might not work for another. All channels are supposed to adhere to a standard, but not all do in practice.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Switches!
I have a Yamaha DVD-Video/Audio/SACD player, and my older Pioneer AVR has no HDMI, so I use the multichannel-analog connection. If I were to add a Blu-ray player, I would have to get one with multichannel outputs. I don't want to give up my SACD and DVD-Audio collection. Is there a switching device I can use to switch between the multichannel analog outputs from my DVD player and Blu-ray player?

Also, does Toslink support Dolby Digital Plus? Does multichannel analog support regular Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital Plus if no Dolby TrueHD is available on the disc?

One more thing—does an AVR have to be powered on to pass audio through it? I don't want to waste the power to watch news or weather. I have connected HDMI from the DVD player and DirecTV box to the TV and Toslink to the AVR for movies and certain shows.


Multichannel analog switches do exist; for example, Zektor makes the MAS 7.1, which has three 71.-channel inputs and one 7.1-channel output. At $600, though, it ain't cheap. Since you're planning to get a Blu-ray player anyway, I would recommend buying the Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player ($500), which also plays SACD and DVD-Audio, and it has a multichannel analog output.

Toslink does not support Dolby Digital Plus or any of the other newer advanced audio codecs. However, a player's multichannel output should support any and all codecs.

I suspect that an AVR does need to be powered on in order to pass audio through it, though I've never tried it, so I don't know for sure. Since your AVR has no HDMI, I would connect the sources' HDMI outputs to the TV as you're now doing and the Oppo's multichannel output to the receiver. This is not ideal, but it will work fine until you can get a new AVR with HDMI inputs. And if you don't want to power on the AVR to watch the news or weather, you can listen to the TV's onboard sound system for those programs, since HDMI from the DirecTV box carries the audio to the TV along with the video.

On or Off?
I am setting up my new Panasonic G10 plasma with the Digital Video Essentials disc, but I'm not sure about some settings. Do you recommend turning on 3:2 pulldown and the 3D Y/C filter?


The 3:2 Pulldown control should be enabled for broadcast movies (cable, satellite, over the air), which are delivered at 1080i, but not for Blu-ray movies delivered at 1080p from the player. Unfortunately, the G10's 3:2 Pulldown control has no Auto setting, which would enable and disable this function according to the signal it's receiving. Ideally, you would turn it on when watching broadcast movies and off when watching Blu-ray movies. A pain in the butt, I know, but without an Auto setting, it's the best you can do.

BTW, the G10 also has a control called 24p Direct, which displays 1080p/24 from a Blu-ray player at 48Hz instead of the more common 60Hz. I prefer watching Blu-ray movies at 48Hz, but try it both ways to see which you prefer.

The 3D Y/C filter is used only with composite signals, which are rare these days. If you have a composite source connected to the TV, turn it on; otherwise, the setting is irrelevant.

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John's picture

Off topic question: has anyone shown how to calibrate 3D enabled displays?