About the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark 2nd Edition
Help your TV look its best
Help your TV look its best
If you have an HDTV and a Blu-ray player, the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark calibration disc can help you make sure you're getting the best-looking picture possible. Whether you're a home theater novice or a seasoned veteran, you'll find all the tests you need to correctly set up and adjust your TV and Blu-ray player. We were big fans of the previous version of this disc, and the new edition keeps all the features of that disc and adds new capabilities that reflect the latest TV technologies.
The first Spears & Munsil disc was the go-to choice for many reviewers and other video experts, and this new one is a worthy successor. The test patterns on the HD Benchmark are all designed by Spears and Munsil. Rather than using the standard patterns found on other calibration discs, they have designed their own patterns that are easier to use. This is the most complete calibration disc we've seen, with advanced features like 3D patterns and motion patterns to evaluate 120Hz and 240Hz performance on LCD TVs.
Other calibration discs we've tried have tended to be either too basic, or so complicated that you needed to be a video engineer to use them. With the HD Benchmark, you can make as few or as many adjustments as you want. Each test is clearly explained, with examples of correct and incorrect settings, so you know what you're doing and why. A basic calibration usually takes 30 minutes or less. There are even some audio tests for speaker setup and calibration.
- includes all the features of the first edition disc and adds dozens more
- calibration patterns for all major TV picture controls
- setup and evaluation patterns for optimizing your TV's and Blu-ray player's settings
- 3D stereoscopic calibration and evaluation patterns
- motion patterns to evaluate 120Hz and 240Hz interpolation modes
- audio tests for speaker setup, calibration and A/V sync
- all 3D patterns require a 3D Blu-ray player and 3D TV; the 2D material will play in any Blu-ray player
- warranty: 60 days
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
- MFR # Spears & Munsil HD3D
What's in the box:
- Blu-ray high-definition calibration disc
- Bonus DVD
- Storage case
- User's Guide
Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark 2nd Edition reviews
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More details on the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark 2nd Edition
Overview: The Spears & Munsil High-Definition Bench Mark Hand Forged Video Disc is a Blu-ray audio/video test and evaluation disc to help you get the most out of your HDTV and Blu-ray player. All test patterns and clips are created at 1080p in native color space using custom software. Note that all 3D patterns require a 3D Blu-ray Disc player and 3D television. The 2D material will play in any Blu-ray Disc player.
Note: Using the tests on the Spears and Munsil High Definition Benchmark to adjust your display is not difficult and performing the basic calibration should take 30 minutes or less
Video Calibration: The Blu-ray test disc collects in one place the patterns that are most useful for setting up a display and player with no special equipment necessary other than the Spears & Munsil blue filter (included with disc).
- Brightness: Bring up the PLUGE Low pattern using the Blu-ray
remote, then bring up the Brightness control using the display remote. Raise
the Brightness control all the way and then lowering it all the way and
watch what happens to the pattern. With the Brightness control at maximum,
on most displays you will see four vertical bars on screen and a
checkerboard pattern in the background. With the Brightness control at
minimum, on most displays you'll see a completely black screen. If you never
see the two leftmost bars no matter where the Brightness control is
positioned, then your display or player is clipping the below-reference
image data; use the Alternate Brightness Adjustment mentioned lower down.
Otherwise, use the standard adjustment, below.
- Standard: Turn the Brightness control up until all four bars are visible on screen. Then turn it down until the two leftmost bars disappear and the two rightmost bars are visible. The far-right bar will be slightly easier to see than the middle-right bar. If there are several settings of Brightness that make the left bars invisible and the right bars visible, you may be able to get a more precise setting by looking for the setting that makes the background checkerboard just barely visible.
- Advanced: Turn the Brightness control up until the two right bars are clearly visible. Turn the Brightness control down until the middle-right bar disappears, but the far-right bar is visible. Now turn the Brightness control back up slowly until the middle-right bar just barely appears.
- Color & Tint: For this adjustment you'll need to use the included
colored filter. The included blue filter allows you to select 1X, 2X, or 3X
strength to help get an accurate calibration with different displays with
different color spectra. The colored filter works by showing you the blue
color channel only, filtering out all the green and red. First bring up the
Color and Tint pattern and look through the 1X side of the filter. Look at
the left side of the screen. Through the filter, the interior of the three
bars should look black, just like the background. You may still be able to
see the edges of the bars faintly, which is perfectly fine. If any of the
bars is at all brighter than the black space around them, then switch to the
2X side of the filter. If any bars are still brighter than the background,
then you'll need to fold the filter in half to make a 3X filter. The 3X
filter is nearly opaque, and to use it you may need to make the room
completely dark or nearly so. This is the exception to the rule about
calibrating in the same light you normally watch movies in; for this
adjustment, if you need to make the room dark or wait for nighttime to make
the filter work, do so.
- Color: Look through the filter and watch the large blue rectangle in the upper right and the white rectangle around it as you move the Color control up and down. You'll see the relative brightness of the blue and white areas vary. Moving the control one way will make the blue bar brighter, and the other way will make it dimmer. Adjust the Color control until the blue and white areas are as close in brightness as you can make them (when viewed through the filter).
- Tint: Look at the magenta and cyan rectangles in the lower right corner, without the filter. The large magenta rectangle has a cyan rectangle inside it. The object is to set the Tint control so that the magenta and cyan areas have the same brightness when viewed through the filter. Look at those rectangles through the filter and move the Tint control up and down to see how the brightness varies. Then adjust the control so that the colors are as close to the same brightness, when viewed through the filter, as you can make them.
- Sharpness: The Sharpness control is perceptual, so it has no "calibrated" setting other than the one that works best for your particular display, seating position, and eyes. Sharpness is generally a good thing, but not if it makes the image look strange, so the goal is to turn it up as high as possible without adding artifacts to the image. Try taking the sharpness control all the way up to see what happens. On most displays you'll see white "halos" around the darker lines in the image, and sometimes even several concentric halos. You will also generally see that the diagonal and curved lines look stairstepped or jagged. You may also want to turn the Sharpness control all the way down and see what happens. On most displays, the lines will be smooth, with no jaggedness or halos, but the lines will not look crisp and sharp. You are trying to strike a balance between the crisp & sharp look and the artifacts like halos and jaggedness. While sitting in your normal viewing position, turn up the Sharpness control until you see the artifacts clearly, then turn it down until the halos are no longer clearly visible and the lines look smooth and not jagged. The lines should look crisp and sharp, but should not have extraneous artifacts, noise, or blockiness.
- Color Temperature: This pattern has two rows of 11 gray steps from black to white. Now run through all of the available color temperature settings on the display using the display remote and look at the overall tint of the gray steps. The goal is to pick the color temperature that looks closest to a neutral white. The correct color temperature setting may well look dimmer than the others, but the brighter settings often have an overall blue color cast.
- Color Space: Many current Blu-ray players offer a range of output
color spaces, for example "4:2:2", "4:4:4", "RGB", etc., and most displays
can handle all or most of those spaces. At some point, all video has to be
converted to RGB, and the video on the disc is always stored in 4:2:0 Y'CbCr,
so the choice of which color space to output from the player is really a
choice as to which device will do which portions of the color conversion
process. The whole conversion chain is 4:2:0 Y'CbCr to 4:2:2 Y'CbCr to 4:4:4
Y'CbCr to RGB (which is sometimes redundantly called "4:4:4 RGB"). In real
processing chips, some of those steps may be combined for speed, but
conceptually those are the processing stages. So if you output 4:2:2 Y'CbCr
from the player, the display will do the rest, converting to 4:4:4 Y'CbCr
and then to RGB.
- Chroma Alignment: The center of the Color Space Evaluation pattern contains shapes that are designed to show any horizontal misalignment between the chroma channels and the luma channel. These misalignments can be caused by mistakes or shortcuts in the chroma upsampling, and it's not uncommon to find that changing the format sent from the player to the display changes the amount of chroma misalignment. Look at the eight long thin diamond shapes to the left and right of the center of the pattern. Each of them has a single straight line of chroma pixels laid on top of a long skinny diamond in the luma channel. When the alignment is correct, the chroma should be centered on the diamond, and the diamond should look completely symmetrical, with the same amount of color overlap on both sides. Most people find it easiest to see the alignment clearly against the gray background. The difference can be quite subtle, on the order of a half-pixel shift.
- Chroma Bursts: Near the four corners of the middle section of the pattern are twelve sets of thin colored straight lines, three in each corner. There is one horizontal, one vertical, and one diagonal in each corner, and each corner has a different color combination. These sets of lines are called "bursts" or "frequency bursts". Next to each is a small "zone plate" pattern, which is a set of concentric colored circles. The bursts should have clear, bright colors that look identical to the colors in the circular patterns next to them. If the colors are muted, or the burst looks solid gray or any other color, it shows that chroma resolution is being lost during one of the upsampling conversions. If the horizontal burst is muted, that shows a problem in the 4:2:2->4:4:4 conversion. If the vertical burst is muted, that shows a problem in the 4:2:0->4:2:2 conversion.
- Chroma Upsampling Error: For this test, just look at the diagonal chroma bursts. If the Chroma Upsampling Error is present when you use one or more of the modes, the diagonal lines will look very jagged, or sometimes will actually have small horizontal zigzags on the edges. It can be hard to tell the difference between nearest neighbor upsampling and chroma upsampling error, both cause jagged diagonals and both are bad, so if you're not sure, leave either or both boxes unchecked. In general you want the smoothest chroma diagonals for the best picture possible. After viewing this pattern with all of the different output modes selected sequentially, put a check in the row labeled "Diagonals smooth" for the mode that has the smoothest-looking diagonal lines. If they all look the same, put a check in all the boxes
- Ramps: A "ramp" is a smooth gradient of color or gray that goes from one color to another or one level to another as you move across or down the screen. There are six ramps on this pattern: two vertical ramps on each side (one luma and one chroma per side), and two horizontal red and blue ramps just above and below the chroma alignment patterns. Each of the ramps should look smooth and even, with no bands or streaks anywhere along it. The two ramps in the center should not have a wide solid colored area in the center, but should vary from black to full red or blue at a thin peak in the center and back to black
- Clipping: For this test, look at the Clipping section in the top center. In each of the six rectangles you should be able to see four darker square. The white clipping (labeled "Y" on the middle left) is the most important to check, but clipping in any of the six channels is bad. Note that the leftmost square is just slightly darker than the main rectangle and can be hard to see, especially if your room isn't dark
- Color Conversion: The boxes at the bottom center of the pattern are to check for two common errors in doing the color conversion from Y'CbCr to RGB. All HD signals are supposed to be converted using the equations in the BT.709 specification, not the BT.601 specification (which is for standard definition NTSC TV). The three boxes at the bottom are to check which color conversion standard is being applied. The middle white box is just to check for clipping, which would invalidate the rest of the check. You should see a darker gray box in the middle of the white box.
Advanced Video Calibration: This section of the Blu-ray test disc contains test patterns that are designed for the advanced video enthusiast or video professional to use. Some of them require a light meter to get the most out of them, but most can be evaluated with your eyes.
- Setup: These patterns are useful for setting up a display. Some of them are repeated from the Video Calibration section for convenience, though in some cases the help text is more detailed for the pattern in this section.
- Evaluation: These patterns are useful for evaluating the picture in various ways. They can be used for making decisions between different components, for example if you've borrowed a component to see if it's worth adding to your system, or for evaluating the differences between different picture and video processing modes on the display and/or player.
- SD Evaluation: These patterns are essentially the same as the Evaluation patterns, but encoded in 480-line (SD) resolution. Many displays have different processing for SD and HD content, so if you watch DVDs on your system, these patterns can help you evaluate how well your player and display handles them.
- Contrast Ratio: These are the patterns needed to measure ANSI contrast, using a light meter. The ANSI contrast standard is titled "ANSI/INFOCOMM 3M-2011," and can be purchased from the ANSI standards committee at www.ansi.org.
Video Measurements: These patterns are generally designed for quantitative analysis with a waveform monitor. Some of the patterns can be used with the naked eye to do rough qualitative analysis, especially once you have seen the pattern on a variety of displays and know what the pattern should look like on a properly calibrated display.
Video Processing: These patterns are primarily designed for evaluating handling of motion and motion processing, including how well the player or display converts interlaced content to progressive (also called deinterlacing).
- 24P: These patterns are all encoded at 24p. They should play smoothly and without artifacts on any display that has a 24p mode. If you see judder (staccato movement rather than smooth) or anything other than smooth motion, you should check to see if your player is set to produce 24p output and if your display is set up to handle it.
- Source Adaptive: These patterns are designed to test the conversion of interlaced content to progressive content (or "deinterlacing"). Most of the sequences in this section were derived from progressive sources, and the very best deinterlacing will use "film mode" deinteracing, where it restores the original progressive frames. When everything is working properly, the wedges should look identical to the wedges in the 24p test patterns. There should not be extra moiré, blurriness, or other visible artifacts. If the deinterlacer cannot reconstruct the original progressive frames, it switches to "video mode", where it interpolates frames from a single field. This cuts the vertical resolution in half, and in video mode the wedges will turn blurrier with very visible moiré and jaggies.
- Edge Adaptive: These sequences are all encoded in video mode, where the picture changes every field. Since there are no progressive frames to reconstruct, the deinterlacer must interpolate extra scan lines to fill in the missing information in each field and make it into a full frame. The very best deinterlacers are able to interpolate smooth diagonal edges by detecting edges in the video and doing special processing to make the edges clean. When this is done well, the various diagonal lines in the video will look smooth and clean and not jaggy.
- Motion: This section contains tests to check for loss of resolution and dynamic range on moving objects. These tests are primarily to test the effectiveness of the "120 Hz" or "240 Hz" modes on many modern displays, especially LCD displays. These modes may be called "MotionFlow" "TruMotion," "ClearScan" or some other proprietary name.
Equal Energy Patterns: The Blu-ray test disc contains the following Equal Energy Pattern tests to make sure the entire screen's total energy is constant. The patterns are "equal energy" in that each of the target levels is surrounded by a pattern that is adjusted in level to make the entire screen's total energy constant as you move between the various gamma levels. This is useful for measuring displays that cannot display large window patterns without lowering their total light output, most notably plasma display panels.
- Equal Energy Gamma: This section contains patterns for checking the effective gamma of a display by eye. The idea is to put up one of the gamma patterns and then use the left and right arrow on the remote to move to higher or lower gamma until the fine-grained patterns around the center window have the same apparent brightness as the center window. When the patterns match the window, the effective gamma can be read numerically off the label on screen.
- Equal Energy Windows: This section contains window patterns, typically used for measuring gray-scale tracking and gamma using test equipment.
- Equal Energy Gamut: This section contains colored window patterns, typically used for measuring color gamut and adjusting a Color Management System (CMS) using a colorimeter or spectroradiometer.
Stereoscopic (3D): This section contains patterns useful for evaluating and setting up a stereoscopic (3D) display. In addition to the patterns in this section, almost all the HD patterns on this disc have been encoded in "flat 3D", so that you can view the pattern while the display is in 3D mode. The patterns will still appear flat, but this mode is useful for setting up the 3D mode of the display and making sure brightness, contrast, etc. are correct. Most displays have a completely different set of presets for 3D mode, so it's necessary to run through the same calibration steps for both 2D and 3D modes.
- General: These are miscellaneous patterns useful for checking for proper 3D display setup and functioning.
- Visual Crosstalk: This is a set of patterns useful for visually estimating the amount of crosstalk between the left and right eye that your display has. To compare two displays numerically, you need to know the actual gamma of the display near black, in 3D mode, which generally requires measurement equipment. If you don't know the gamma and just want a rough idea of how much crosstalk the display has, choose 2.4 gamma, but don't expect the numbers from one display to be comparable to another display unless you are confident the two displays have near-identical gamma near black, in 3D mode.
Audio Calibration: The Blu-ray test disc also contains signals to help you set up and test your audio system. Test tones are available for 5.1 and 7.1 audio systems in Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. By default, the disc is in 5.1 speaker mode. You can use the setup menu to change the disc to 7.1 mode and select between Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA. For the audio level and audio phase tests, there is no video component of the test, so the help information is visible on-screen all the time.
Demonstration Material: These are high-quality clips that you can use as reference material or to show off your home theater. The DTS Living World clip and the Montage are both encoded in 3D, but will play in 2D on a 2D player.
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