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How To Get The Best TV Picture

By SmartHouse Team | Thursday | 22/03/2007

We reveal how installers and dealers can help you get the most of an ISF-certified display. You can enjoy footage as close to its original colour, contrast and brightness as possible, so you can watch the footage as the original filmmakers intended.

In home cinema terms, THX is a well-known and highly regarded brand when it comes to quality-guaranteed home theatre audio.

As you may know, THX is a high-fidelity sound production method that was originally developed by George Lucas' production company Lucasfilm in the 1980s for use in the Star Wars movies.

Click to enlarge
THX is not actually a recording technology or format. Instead, it is defined as a quality assurance system so you know the sound you're listening to is the same as it was when it was mixed by the original filmmakers.

There is, however, another certification standard, which, if adhered to through calibration, does much the same for video; helping bring the colour, contrast and brightness to a home viewing standard that the original filmmakers had intended.

The Imaging Science Foundation (ISF), originally created by Joel Silver and Joe Kane (of Digital Video Essentials fame), is dedicated to improving the quality of electronic imaging, specifically in the display market. Its ISF/professional calibration training for AV dealers, and the access to advanced picture parameters that ISF-enabled kit provides, are big news for any AV enthusiast looking for the best possible picture performance, and who want the most natural-looking images displayed on their home theatre setup.

The reason for this is that correctly ISF-calibrated displays tend to look more natural when it comes to colour because the display is matched to the same D65 (6500K) standard of white as the original lighting and cameras. (See below for more on D65K).

While calibration is possible on any type of conventional screen - using contrast, brightness and colour controls - it's only TVs and projectors with the ISF C3 (Custom Calibration Configuration) feature that can be accessed by trained calibrators for total conformity to the original.

TVs are generally shipped with typical picture settings or, worse still, intentionally over-tuned for a retail environment, which

Click to enlarge
invariably overcooks the colour gamut (or range), and blasts the brightness to counteract the typical bright shop lighting).

Of course, accurate measurement and calibration must be done in the ambient lighting conditions in which the display will be used.  Indeed increasing or lowering your room's lighting will have an impact on the perceived levels of brightness/contrast that are being displayed on the screen.

In the case of Pioneer ISF-enabled plasma TVs for example, fine tweaking with software such as Datacolor's ColorFacts Professional, which interacts with the ISF C3 controls, will allow the setting of an ISF day and night mode, already embedded and laying dormant within the TV's menu. Although this software must be purchased, there are many websites around that will give you a free trial of it as well.

These settings can be calibrated and applied to each individual input/source and enable correct colour parameter settings for typical daylight viewing conditions (ISF Day) and those lights down (ISF Night) home cinema moments.

So what is D65K?

There are many different shades of white, as those who have tried to buy 'white' spray paint will know. Warm whites from tungsten lamps, cold whites from some florescent tubes.

For television we need a standard white. It comes in the form of Illuminant D6500K, corresponding to the white light given off by a black body, like a lump of carbon, when it's heated to a temperature of 6500° Kelvin. As it heats up its colour changes from black to dull red, bright red and then white. This white 'colour' is entirely dependent on surface temperature, so it's a clear and reliable reference.

Click to enlarge
Most flatscreens aim to get as near to 65K as its possible, via the available picture control parameters. However few screens can manage it. The backlights in LCD TVs in particular are intrinsically 'warm,' so getting 65K is difficult.

Illuminant D6500 is a slightly bluish white, corresponding to 'average daylight', in practice a mixture of direct and sky-scattered sunlight. Its hue embraces the whole of the visible light spectrum from 470 nanometres (purple), to 680nm (red), with a broad peak around 480nm. D6500 can be seen near the centre of a chromaticity diagram (pictured right), and for TV purposes is made of carefully-proportioned contributions from the three primary colours, red, green and blue; in fact from approximately 30 per cent red, 59 per cent green and 11 per cent blue.

All TV systems, analogue and digital, encode their pictures in the form of a luminance (Y) signal, which conveys brightness and detail information; and 'add-on' (chrominance) signals, which specify the difference between the Y value and the actual colour at each point in the image.

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