How Dad improved his HDTV's picture in 15 minutes


A TV's out-of-the-box settings are rarely ideal for home viewing -- usually, the brightness, contrast, and sharpness are turned way up to help the picture out-shine other sets on a bright, fluorescent-lit showroom floor. So when my parents bought themselves a home theater system for Christmas -- complete with a 52" Toshiba HDTV, Mirage surround sound system, and Samsung combo HD DVD/Blu-ray player -- I knew they would be facing the problem of getting their new set's picture right.

Now, as much as my parents love their system, and want the best possible performance, they're not A/V geeks. They would not be willing to, for example, spend hours tweaking and fine-tuning every aspect of their picture. So rather than walking them through a really complex series of adjustments, I bought my dad Monster's HDTV Calibration Wizard for his early January birthday. This DVD is designed to help you optimize your HDTV's picture, so it can look its best in your specific room and lighting. Best of all, it has a reputation for using everyday examples, as well as straightforward instructions, so that just about anyone feels comfortable adjusting TV settings.


It turned out that reputation was well-deserved. In fact, it only took my dad about 15 minutes to make a huge improvement in his picture. The disc starts with brightness, a setting that's notoriously high out-of-the-box. One of the first things we'd done when we hooked up the TV was turn the brightness way down -- from 100 to 65. But once we used the disc, we found out we were still pretty far off the mark. My dad ended up turning it down to 55, which gave him richer blacks without compromising shadow detail. He also tweaked color and contrast, and turned sharpness way down, from 80 to 37. The result was a smoother picture, without harsh, artificially sharp edges, and more lifelike color and flesh tones.


We could see a dramatic improvement in the picture with everything we watched - from the strikingly pure, white snow and lush, vibrant flowers in Planet Earth, to the gritty, shadowed scenes from 300. And now that my dad has this disc, he can recalibrate the picture to fit a new space with new lighting whenever he needs to, like when he moves this set to a new home.


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