How To: Calibrate Your HDTV

Back in the days when a decent TV cost $4,000, I never hesitated to recommend spending $300 or so on professional calibration. But now you can get a pretty good set for less than $1,000. Far be it from me to tell you what your priorities should be, but to me, spending three bills to have a $900 TV calibrated seems as silly installing a $10,000 Viking range a 30,000 mobile home. Does this harsh nancial reality leave TV bargain hunters at the mercy of the factory calibration? Absolutely not — at least not those bargain hunters are willing to spend a few bucks on a calibration disc and a few minutes reading the rest of this article.

Sure, there are times when you need to call in a pro: if your picture is a real mess, or if you’re a demanding videophile who insists that your set deliver the absolute best picture it possibly can. Most of today’s TVs, though, are fairly well calibrated at the factory, and most of us are content to have them running at, say, 95% of their capabilities. A few basic adjustments are usually all that’s needed to get your TV looking good. The only things you need to make those adjustments are a Blu-ray Disc with the right test patterns and a little bit of knowledge.

The steps we’ll outline here will work great on anything from a $200 19-inch LCD TV to a $20,000 three-chip DLP projector. The only difference with a projector is that you have to center, zoom, and focus the image before you begin calibration. One bit of advice before we get started: It’s a good idea to let any TV, be it a flat-panel or a projector, warm up by displaying images for a minimum of 30 minutes before you calibrate it. Now, let’s get on with the calibration.