Kevin Miller is owner of ISFTV, which provides consulting services to HDTV manufacturers and calibration services to HDTV owners in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. ISFTV.com
Millions of HDTV owners aren’t getting the high-quality TV picture that they paid for. HDTVs often are set improperly, and the cable boxes and DVRs wired to them can cause problems. Five ways to improve your HDTV picture…
1. Set it to the best viewing “mode.” The mode meant for movies (which might be called “movie mode,” “theater mode” or “cinema mode,” depending on the manufacturer) typically is the best choice if you want to select one viewing mode and then not fiddle with HDTV settings again. This mode tends to provide accurate skin tones and a bright but not overly bright picture.
If you don’t know where to find these modes in the settings menu, look for a submenu with a name such as “screen settings,” “picture settings” or “viewing mode.” There may be a button marked “mode” on your remote control.
Warning: HDTVs sometimes initially are set to a mode called “dynamic” or “vivid” that features oversaturated colors and excessive brightness. This mode is meant to catch shoppers’ eyes if the unit is put on display in a store. It’s far from ideal for viewing at home.
2. Turn off frame interpolation. Frame interpolation decreases the blurring when fast-moving images are viewed on an LCD TV. Unfortunately, most TV viewers don’t care for the way it looks—it can be like watching a low-budget soap opera shot with a camcorder. Turn frame interpolation off to check whether you prefer the picture without it. Consider turning it back on to watch sports or other programs with fast-moving images if blur becomes an issue.
Every LCD-TV manufacturer uses a different name for this. Look for a setting in the menu that has “motion” in its name. Frame interpolation is much less common with plasma TVs, though some do offer it.
3. Find online setting recommendations for your particular HDTV model. Professional HDTV calibrators or fellow TV owners might have posted their recommended settings for your HDTV on the Internet. These are sometimes very specific, with precise levels for many different settings. Enter the make and model of your TV set along with the word “calibration” into a search engine.
4. Buy a calibration DVD. These Blu-ray discs use on-screen test patterns to walk HDTV owners through the calibration process. A Blu-ray player is required.
Example: Spears & Munsil HD Benchmount and Calibration Disc is effective and relatively easy to use (Amazon.com, $29.95). To properly account for lighting, use this disc at night if you tend to watch TV mostly at night…or during the day if you tend to watch during the day. Otherwise you might not set brightness levels properly.
5. Set your cable box to a “pass-through” mode so that the cable box does not process the video.With an HDTV, you’re better off if the cable box doesn’t do the processing—your HDTV can do a better job. Access the cable box’s menu, and look for a setting called “format” or “video output.” Select this, then choose the option called “pass through” or “native.” Unfortunately, not all cable boxes offer this option.