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How To Calibrate Your HDTV

SpyderHD Walkthrough, Part 2

After measuring your TVs default white and black levels, the actual calibration begins.

The first step is Contrast. A white field is displayed and you take measurements at both ends of the control’s range. Then, SpyderHD zeroes in on the correct setting for you. It can take up to seven readings to generate a recommended number.

Step two is the Color Temp adjustment. The same white field is measured while you change the color temp presets on your TV. SpyderHD picks the one closest to D65. We’re a little disappointed that there’s no way to adjust the RGB sliders most televisions have. In our experience, it’s rare that a preset can’t be improved with the two-point white balance controls.

After each measurement, you’re told to either change a particular setting or move on to the next adjustment.

Brightness is adjusted the same way, except with a black field pattern. We’re used to setting brightness on HDTVs by eye with a PLUGE or low-luminance step pattern, so this method is new to us. After seven measurements, Spyder HD decided level three was correct. We verified this with our own black level pattern and it worked just fine.

The last adjustments are to Color and Tint. For these, you go back and forth between four different patterns, so take our advice and use the chapter skip buttons on your player’s remote rather than returning to the disc’s main menu each time.

After seven measurements, SpyderHD suggested a setting of 17 for our Pioneer’s Color control. This seemed quite high. But after viewing the flesh tone photo at the end of the wizard, we were convinced.

Tint is adjusted the same way: seven measurements of two different patterns. It’s similar to looking through a blue filter the way we did with the Spears & Munsil disc; SpyderHD simply lets the meter do all the work.

At the end of the measurement run, SpyderHD suggested a setting of 5 for the Tint control.

Finally, you’re shown the complete set of values. They’re automatically saved to your computer so you don’t have to write them down. Clicking Report pops up a PDF document showing the changes you’ve made. They aren’t traditional graphs. Rather, they show the display’s before and after state, and what measurements were taken during the process.

The pattern disc has several graphics to help verify your new settings. The photo of the five teenagers is especially useful for checking the all-important flesh tones. Even though we were surprised by how much we were told to raise the Color control, the results looked fantastic.

The biggest feature offered by SpyderHD is the ability to calibrate an HDTV without training or experience. All you have to do is follow the on-screen instructions, which are very clear and concise. The process is efficient and only took me about half an hour. I would like to see some sort of advanced mode to walk me through a gamma and grayscale calibration. Almost all HDTVs have gamma presets and a two-point white balance control. It seems a shame to leave that extra performance boost on the table.

Christian Eberle
Christian Eberle is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He's a veteran reviewer of A/V equipment, specializing in monitors.