What is calibration and how does it affect the image?
Definition of calibration is simple: it is a process of adjusting the image to its paradigm from displays used in film studios. As a result, we acquire a picture just the way the director saw it. For example, we can see “Star Wars” exactly the way George Lucas saw it.
It is crucial as the very same film is displayed differently by two non-calibrated TVs. On the other hand, an accurate reproduction provides an authentic atmosphere and pulls you into the plot.
True Calibration / No Calibration
Do we need to calibrate display separately for each film?
— No. The same calibration fits all movies and programs, as image standards apply globally. Every artist their individual style that will be presented truthfully by a calibrated device. ‘Matrix’ movie is a good example. Originally, it looks ‘greenish’ and so it will be displayed that way by a calibrated TV or projector. Although usually films tend to present natural skin tones, visible details in black, natural texture, and sharpness of the picture.
Let’s take a look at how differently the picture is displayed by various TVs with standard settings:
Take a look at the pictures above. We can see four different TVs, each showing a different image. Is there a way to be sure that our opinion on the movie is not biased by the characteristics of the display? It is hard to tell whether individual settings of our TV influences the image or not. Calibration conducted with specialist equipment can change opinions about TVs. The results resolve many problematic issues such as supersaturated colors, unnatural skin tones, loss of details in blacks, problems with the smoothness of the image, and pixelisation of the contours. Below you can see what a dramatic change we can introduce, just by switching from one ‘Picture Mode’ to another.
Should all modes be calibrated?
— In fact, setting different picture modes stands in opposition to the idea of seeing what the director saw. They allow us to alternate the image, although not answering the fundamental question; how this movie was created? Usually, just one mode is calibrated unless there is a need to calibrate some more (e.g. for UHD HDR content). You can find out more about different calibration options on our price list.
Do manufacturers pre-calibrate their TV?
Aren’t all TVs in a given factory identical? Doesn’t the manufacturer calibrate them once they are assembled? And if not, why is it so?
– The Answer to all these questions is simpler than it may seem.
First of all, each individual TV that comes out of a production line, even within the very same model can differ significantly. Online forums are full of photos showing a few TVs of the same model with visible differences between them, such as display spots or non- identical brightness. There is no point in believing that all displays are the same. The situation is even worse when it comes to projectors as the image they produce is later impacted by the screen and the surroundings. Although, the goal of manufacturers is to produce displays recreating the image truly. That is why, each TV comes with numerous picture modes, among which at least one is designed to present the image with respect to established norms, or at least as close to them as it would be possible with mass production. It would make no economical sense to calibrate each device individually due to the high number of TVs produced and relatively low interest in precise reproduction of colors, another costly factor is the time needed for the process.
– The majority of customers tend to buy TVs that catch their eye first.
Unnatural, dense colors make it possible for the display to stand out of the crowd in bright stores. This rule of thumb goes for all TVs, regardless of the price range. Just take a look at any shop window.
Does my TV need calibration?
Will the effect be visible? Will it make a difference in everyday use?
— Our experience tells us that the results of CalibrateTV calibration are remarkable. That's why the "No visible difference = no costs" campaign turned out to be a huge success. Nevertheless, your perception depends on the display settings you are used to and how much they differ from film studios' standards. It’s highly unlikely that the TV owner would set optimally hundreds of parameters without specialist equipment and the right expertise, it has never been the case in our 10-year experience. In fact, there is even no easy access to those settings.
Below you can find an example of TV calibration performed on Sony XE9405 which underwent numerous tests in our studio. Remember that this is a demonstrative video and the effect acquired on various TV devices may differ.
Adjust display settings
- Factory mode
- Best factory mode
- professional calibration
- reference (studio)
choose a frame from a film
How does Calibration happen
For calibration to be successful, it must be performed on the actual specific device, with respect to its unique environment. Settings from one device cannot be copied to the other, even of the same brand (if that was possible manufacturers would calibrate their TV during mass production). The process must be conducted with the use of specialist accessories. The quality of the equipment influences the effect of calibration. You can find more about it in ‘What makes us better’. Typical calibration consists of connecting measuring devices and generators to your display and using dedicated software. Thanks to our proprietary solutions the whole process takes from 50 to 90 minutes.
Can I calibrate the TV myself, or have it done instore?
— Stores tend to adjust the display settings to ‘look good enough’, occasionally using test boards. Such practice ( that’s our personal opinion based on experience) cannot be called professional calibration, even if the store assistant says so.. To accurately calibrate a device one needs both expensive hardware and extensive knowledge that should be proven by certification. It’s good practice to check opinions about the calibration professionals and take a look at their portfolio.