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Picture Perfect Step 3

We show you how to set up the main picture controls
In Step 3 we show you how to optimise your TV image using the main picture controls and easily available test patterns.

Now it is time to use the main picture controls on your TV to optimise your image to suit your viewing environment. Thankfully every TV uses the same names for these picture controls although, as you will discover, some of these names don't necessarily describe the control's actual purpose. These main picture controls are called Backlight, Brightness, Contrast, Colour and Sharpness.

In the August 2012 Home Cinema podcast, the editorial team behind Picture Perfect discuss the Step 3 guide. Click the play button to hear more about correctly setting the common TV controls.


Time:00:54:23 | File Size: 50mb | Direct Link

Test Patterns

In this video we tell you where to get the test patterns you will need to correctly set the brightness and contrast controls.


Test Patterns. Where to find them. More information
In order to set the main picture controls on your TV you will need to use test patterns as a visual reference.
These test patterns contain a series of images which should look a certain way when your TV is correctly set up.

The good news is that you may already have some test patterns in your DVD or Blu-ray collection. The menu system of every THX certified DVD and Blu-ray disc includes the THX Optimizer. This is a selection of test patterns that cover most of the controls we will go through in Step 3.
Alternatively, if you own a Sony Blu-ray, enter the code 7669 whilst in the menu screen and you will see a series of helpful test patterns you can also use.
If you don't  own any THX certified DVDs or Blu-rays or Sony Blu-rays, you can either pick one up from your favourite retailer or buy a dedicated calibration DVD or Blu-ray such as the Spears and Munsil Benchmark.
You can also download video test patterns from the internet for free and burn them to a disc yourself.
Finally, if you have BBC HD and a digital recorder, you could record BBC HD's test patterns which they currently show as part of the HD preview. Whichever route you take in obtaining these test patterns, they are all designed to do exactly the same job.

Backlight

In this video we tell you how to set the Backlight control of your TV. Plasma TVs don't need a backlight, so only LCD and LED LCD TVs have a Backlight control.


Backlight. How to set the control. More information
Unlike Plasma display technology, where the pixels create their own light, LCD display technology needs a light shone through the LCD pixels to create the picture. Traditionally, the light is created by thin fluorescent bulbs behind the LCD panel. But recently, manufacturers have started using LED lights to provide thinner, more energy efficient backlighting. These LCD TVs with LED backlights are what are known as LED LCD TVs (some people are mistakenly calling them LED TVs. They are not LED TVs, they are LCD TVs with LED backlighting).

So we only find a Backlight control on LCD and LED LCD TVs, and it adjusts the brightness of the backlight and therefore the overall brightness of the picture.
Since the Brightness and Contrast controls adjust the video signal rather than the overall brightness of your TV, you can adjust the Backlight without worrying too much about it affecting the other controls.

We recommend leaving the Backlight control at the midpoint, which is where manufacturers usually set it in the factory.
However, if you watch TV mostly in a bright room, you may find that setting the backlight above the midpoint will help your TV cope with the ambient light by raising its overall brightness.
If you mostly watch TV in a darker room you may find that a backlight setting below the midpoint will suit your viewing with a more subdued, more comfortable image.
You may find that if you watch TV during the day with a bright setting and also watch at night in darker surroundings you may prefer to have two Backlight settings, one for day and one for night viewing. On most modern TVs you should find separate day and night settings in the picture menu where you can set the backlight control at different levels to suit the lighting conditions.

Brightness

In this video we tell you how to set the Brightness control of your TV. Don't think that just because you need test patterns that setting the brightness is a difficult job, because it really isn't.

If you make a mistake... don't be concerned that you might break your TV. All TVs come with a reset or factory default setting which you can always use to return it to its factory settings and start again. If you do reset, don’t forget to repeat Step 1 and Step 2.


Do not use this video to set up your computer monitor or your TV. We have artificially raised the brightness of above black in order to make the illustration work on monitors which are not correctly set up.

Brightness. How to set the contol. More information
Despite its name this control does not actually control the brightness of your TV; it actually adjusts the black level.

If the Brightness control is too low you will lose detail in the shadows and if it is too high your blacks will be dark grey. It needs to be set correctly so that the blacks are black but you can still see fine details in the darker areas of the picture. This can’t just be done by eye, so do this properly we need to use a test pattern called a Black Pluge.

In the first part of step 3, we told you where you can get various sets of test patterns, and they will all contain a version of the Black Pluge pattern. Whilst these various Black Pluge patterns may look slightly different, they all work in essentially the same way and have three areas of black, all with slightly different levels of darkness. If you turn up the Brightness control you can see all three areas - the darkest area is called below black and the lightest area is called above black. Between them is the correct setting for black which we call video black.

You will need to carefully turn down the Brightness control until below black and video black look the same but you can still just see above black.
By using the Brightness control to correctly set the level of black, you will ensure that you have accurate blacks but still be able to see all the shadow detail.

Contrast

In this video we tell you how to set the Contrast control of your TV. Don't think that just because you need test patterns that setting the contrast is a difficult job, because it really isn't.


Do not use this video to set up your computer monitor or your TV. We have artificially adjusted the contrast in order to make the illustration work on monitors which are not correctly set up.

Contrast. How to set the contol. More information
The contrast control sets the white level, or the brightest part of the image.
It needs to be set correctly so that you can see fine details in the bright areas of the picture and this can't be judged by eye alone. We need to use a test pattern called a white pluge.
In the first video of step 3, we told you where you can get a set of test patterns, and you'll need that to set the Contrast control.

Since it's most widely available, we're going to use the white pluge pattern from the THX optimizer found on most THX certified DVDs and Blu-rays. But all video white pluge patterns work the same way. They all contain several areas containing subtly different shades of white.

The White Pluge pattern has several areas of white, each of slightly different levels of brightness. The brightest area is called Reference White.
On most TVs when you turn the contrast control up, you will see the various white areas merge together with Reference White as they all become the same brightness. If you were watching movies like this, you would not be able to see detail in the brightest areas of the picture.

Now as you carefully turn down the contrast control, we want to be able to distinguish between all the different areas of white. Once we can see them all individually, we have set the contrast correctly using the pattern.

If you fully turn up the contrast control on your TV and are still able to see all the individual shades of white, look to see if there is a colour tinge to the brightest whites. They might have a very slight red, blue or green tinge to them because one or more of the primary colours is running out of energy. If you can see a trace of colour, carefully turn the contrast control down until it disappears.

We have now set the contrast control for your TV.

Colour

In this video we tell you how to set the Colour control of your TV. This one is easy - you may not have to do anything.


Colour. How to set the contol. More information
If you followed Step 1 of this Picture Perfect guide, you will have put your TV into the Cinema, Movie or THX mode.
Because you are in the correct picture mode, the TV will have automatically set the colour points to match the industry standards as closely as possible. It is for this reason that we do not need to adjust the colour control in the picture menu unless you already changed it.

If you have ever changed the colour control on your TV, change it back to its default position. If you don't know what the default position is, then we recommend that you reset your TV's picture by choosing the reset option. You will then have to follow all the Picture Perfect steps again up to this point. By now you should be able to complete the whole process in very little time.

And that's all we need to do with the colour control.

In the past it was recommended that you use blue filtered glasses, like these THX glasses, to set the colour control. The problem with this approach is that the blue filter material rarely matches the blue colour of the TV, so there is no guarantee that the results are accurate. We therefore do not recommend you use the blue filtered glasses to set up the colour of your TV.

In some modern TVs you may find a colour filter option in the picture menu which is a more accurate example of the blue filter approach to setting the colour control. Some TVs also include Red and Green filters to further check the colour setting.
If you have the filter option and want to double check that the colour control is correct, you can use the THX Optimizer Colour pattern or a SMPTE BARS pattern found on DVDs and Blu-rays. These are the steps to follow:
  • Select your test pattern and then find the colour filter option and set it to blue.
  • On doing this you will notice that the blue and white areas of the pattern are now both blue.
  • If there is a slight difference between the blue areas, adjust the colour control until they look the same.
  • When both the blue areas look the same, then that is the correct setting for the colour control.
If you have a TV which has red and green filters, you can quickly check that the areas of red match each other and areas of green also match each other.
You have now checked and set the colour control.

Sharpness

In this video we tell you how to set the Sharpness control of your TV.


Sharpness. How to set the contol. More information
Sharpness is perhaps the most misunderstood of all the TV settings for one major reason - it does not add sharpness to the image.

It would be nice if the sharpness control could magically conjure up more detail, but unfortunately you cannot add in detail that doesn’t exist in the original material.

The sharpness control actually adds emphasis to the edges of objects to give the impression of greater sharpness.
But these false edges actually cover up genuine detail in the original image and can add artefacts - items that shouldn’t exist within the image.

To set the sharpness control you will need a test pattern from one of the many available calibration discs such as Spears and Munsil Benchmark (please note that the THX optimiser does not have a suitable pattern), or you can pause a TV show or movie where there are lots of straight edges and detail within the scene.
Turn the sharpness control up until you start to see white lines appearing on straight edges. Then turn the control back down until the false white edges disappear but the straight lines are still sharp.
That is the correct setting for the sharpness control. Broadly speaking it should be nearer off than at the control's midpoint.

Congratulations!
You have completed the Picture Perfect guide
.

Did the guide make your TV look better? Was this guide useful?

Please share your experience of following our guide in our Television forums.

If you want to take your TV all the way to picture perfection, then find a professional calibrator on our calibrator map.


  • Published
    Oct 6, 2013
  • Page views
    228,231
The AVForums Picture Perfect Campaign
AVForums' Picture Perfect Campaign to raise awareness that most TVs will look better with a bit of easy tweaking.
We explain why, and show you how to improve the picture.

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Step 1 Step 1 - start with the basics
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