The Importance of Video Calibration

What is the importance of video calibration? Is it really necessary? It's a question we are regularly asked when providing an estimate for a home cinema or screen installation that has Video Calibration as a line item - "do we really need to calibrate the screen?" The simple answer is an absolute "yes". But in case further justification is needed...

Whether you are spending £1000 on a TV for your living room or £100,000 on a projector for your home cinema you should strive to get the best performance it is capable of producing. Expecting the out-of-the-box settings to suit your environment is simply being naive. What you watch, where you watch, and when you watch all have an effect on the quality fo the image you will see.

So when calibrating a video display these are the questions we ask a client. Do you mainly watch movies, or sport or concerts? What is the lighting in the room like? Is there a lot of ambient light from windows? In which case do you generally watch at night or during the day? Or is it a home cinema where the light is very controlled. When we know the parameters we need to work to then we can make sure that the display is performing at it’s best for that client in that environment.

Calibration is now mainstream. With manufacturers trying to get every competitive edge they can – calibration has been an area that has now trickled down from the top-of-the-range sets costing tens of thousands of pounds, to the TV’s costing just a few hundred. Now you may not get the brightness or contrast from the cheaper TV but you will get a great picture.

Nits

When considering video display we measure light in “nits”, a slang term for candela per square metre. This is essentially the power of the light emission, and with HDR  (high dynamic range) screens, power is of paramount importance. Before we had flat-screen TV’s, the old cathode-ray TV’s would struggle to output one hundred nits. Nowadays with high powered LED’s we are approaching 2000 nits. This means that your TV can compete with the light coming in through a window in broad daylight. Remember having to get to close the curtains to watch a Sunday afternoon movie? Well now, screens are able to emit enough light to make closing the curtains unnecessary.

So we are now able to calibrate the video performance of some consumer TV’s to come close to the picture quality of the reference monitors used by studios. And that represents fantastic value.

Video Calibration Automated Settings

It’s easy to think you have set your TV or projector up correctly. The fact is that you simply can’t merely by eye. There is specialist equipment and tools used to make sure you are getting the very best performance from your video display. And even if you could, if you were the world’s best calibrator, it may look amazing at whatever time of day you calibrated your TV. But what about 5 or 10 hours later, when it’s dark and the curtains are closed?

Calibrating the TV during daylight means making the image bright enough to compete with the ambient light in the room. Brightness washes out colour so you also have to add more colour. Then in the evening when it is dark the image is too bright, so by turning down the brightness and reducing the colour to something more natural you get a more realistic image. Now you don’t want to be doing that yourself every time the light level in the room changes. Your installer should be able to use logic in your control system (if you have one installed) that will set a night-time video calibration setting for the evening, then automatically switch to a daytime setting during the day.

Imaging Science Foundation

Seven Integration has ISF (Imaging Science Foundation) Calibration Certification and are professionally trained to calibrate video.

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