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Gregg Loewen calibrates my Hitachi 43UWX10b - DETAILED REVIEW.

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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   Jeremy Anderson

Jeremy Anderson


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Posted April 16 2003 - 09:35 AM

Thanks to this and other forums, I've done just about every tweak I could find to my Hitachi short of cracking it open. Hey, I've been zapped enough times by air conditioners to know that my hands are too large and shaky to go reaching into high voltage areas. Despite the fact that I've been pretty pleased with the picture on my 43UWX10b, there was always that nagging voice saying "it could be better." I was also always displeased with how one-note the blacks on my set appeared. Shadows on people's faces were never gradual or shaded; they just went from light to black and gave the overall picture a very dark appearance. When I heard that ISF calibrationist Gregg Loewen was doing a tour of my area, I was on the fence despite his overwhelmingly outstanding reputation. I had all of my family and friends telling me "Your TV looks great! You're just throwing money away." But since I don't listen to those silly bastards anyway, I booked the calibration.

Due to the fact that I was the only calibration he had in South Alabama, Gregg politely asked if he could bump me a month and add me to his Florida tour. As the date approached, I was fighting the urge to cancel right up until the day he arrived. Gregg had me scheduled for Sunday 04/13/03 between 5:00 and 6:00pm... and sure enough, he was at my door and ready to go by 5:30. Thanks to his trusty GPS, he didn't even have to call for directions.

First of all, let me say this:
1. Gregg is a very personable guy, and I absolutely enjoyed talking to him. He was able to answer all of my stupid questions without the slightest note of condescension, which is a rare quality (especially since I was kinda' out of it at the time and must have seemed like a blithering idiot).
2. Whoever is spreading the rumor about him liking peanuts, STOP IT! Sure, Gregg enjoys a good peanut as much as the next American, but apparently this is an internet rumor that has gotten out of control. Do be sure to have Diet Coke on hand for him, but it seemed to me that this last trip soured him on peanut products for quite a while. I'm sure he was thankful and all... but for the love of God, the man isn't the Jimmy Carter of the ISF world!
3. For all-in-one universal remote users: Have your original remotes ready with batteries. It's easier for him to swap between the ones he needs rather than trying to interpret your remote.

The first thing Gregg told me is that we had to disassemble the whole top of the set (mirror included) to get the front screen off on my unit. Maybe it's just me... but there's something about seeing my RPTV spread out in pieces across the floor that makes me more nervous than Michael Jackson at a Kinder-Care. Still, Gregg tolerated my nervousness and proceeded to cut the tape that held my protective screen to the lenticular and fresnel layers. At this point, Gregg drops the glare screen on the dining room floor and starts weather-stripping the other two layers to shim them up so they fit tight. I was like "Uhm... aren't you restacking that?" He told me to just trust him that it wasn't necessary. Hey, what am I gonna' do? Tell a surgeon how to transplant a heart? Hell no!

He then buffed all three of the color guns to make sure there was no dust and made sure everything inside was clean. After we got the screen back in place and put the mirror assembly back where it belongs, Gregg did the manual focusing through the back of the set. He then went to the front and did the electronic focus. Long story short, Gregg breezed through all the steps with ease. Grayscale, color decoder, convergence, etc. went quickly and with every step my set looked better than it had before. Luckily, my set required no lens-striping because the color temperature didn't vary enough on the edges to bother.

Pre-calibration, my grayscale ranged from 4300k around 10 IRE to around 13,950k between 70 and 100 IRE (hence the reason my shadow details were all out-of-whack). Afterwards, Gregg had my set at 6500k +/-100 or so across the whole grayscale range. Then, Gregg popped in THE FIFTH ELEMENT to make some final tweaks to the settings and show me the improvements in detail and skin tones. It was almost like looking out of a window! Contrast was reduced from my Avia setting of 20 to about 6 by the time he finished grayscale, and the picture didn't appear any darker because of it. Whites looked brilliantly white and grays actually looked gray. The whole thing took him only 3.5 hours from arrival to completion.

While he was packing his gear, I popped in a disc that would obviously show off my complaints about the black level on my set -- SIGNS. In chapter 4, Mel Gibson looks out the window and sees an alien on the roof of the barn. Before calibration, the alien was almost indiscernable and looked nowhere near the way I recall it looking in the theater. After Gregg worked his magic, the alien was crystal clear. So much so, in fact, that I could see the alien move his arm. Then I threw in Charlotte Gray -- one of my favorite discs for skin tones and color. My problem with faces not having subtle shading were all fixed. The movie looked just like I remember it looking in the theater, which is the highest praise I can possibly give.

After Gregg left, I ran through various scenes on about 20 different discs and was LOVING the picture. However, I admit it -- Gregg had bumped my black level to 51 when he was doing his final tweaks and after he left, I turned black level back down to 50 like it was when he calibrated grayscale. It looked a lot better to me with my room lighting. A 10 IRE window was still clearly visible and blacks actually looked black. Not that I am in any way second-guessing Gregg, because he knows what he's doing... It just looked better TO ME (and that's what it's all about). There are some minor issues inherent to the smaller lens-to-screen distance of the 43" sets (which no calibrationist can do anything about) but at this point, I was pretty happy and was feeling no remorse about the expenditure whatsoever.

However, last night was when the difference really hit me. I picked up THE TRANSPORTER after work and settled in to watch it around 8:30. My jaw just DROPPED to the floor. Skin tones were outstanding! Fine detail almost appeared hi-def! Most importantly, despite how sharp and well-defined the picture was, it still looked very film-like. After seeing the picture last night, I can honestly say this: What Gregg Loewen did to my Hitachi would have been a bargain at twice the price.

If you are at all on the fence on getting your set calibrated, fight those evil voices and book a calibration immediately. Gregg's passion for his work and knowledge of the Hitachis were both apparent. I know it has been said before on this forum and others, and probably by more critical people than me, but Gregg Loewen gets my strongest recommendation. You can contact him and view his current tour schedule via his website -- www.lionav.com.

#2 of 6 OFFLINE   Michael Silla

Michael Silla

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Posted April 16 2003 - 10:41 AM

Jeremy, Ugh - still on the fence. I have a 53UWX10B that next month will be a year old. No matter how much i tinker I am never satisfied. Problem is I'm having a hard time justifying the expense right now. When I read stories like yours I *almost* want to pull the trigger. Michael.

#3 of 6 OFFLINE   Gary Lisker

Gary Lisker


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Posted April 16 2003 - 12:49 PM

I have a 51SWX20B and I concur with everything Jeremy said. Gregg calibrated my set a few weeks ago and the difference is amazing. I've been watching a lot of my old DVDs to appreciate how good they can look. Last night I watched Powaqqatsi and the colors were absolutely stunning.

#4 of 6 OFFLINE   Jeremy Anderson

Jeremy Anderson


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Posted April 16 2003 - 03:51 PM

Michael, I understand. Between the IRS and Gregg, I'm gonna' be broke until my next paycheck! But GOD it's worth it. I watched SPIRITED AWAY on it tonight, and it was just breathtaking. If you have that nice a TV, I promise you the extra expense is worth it!

#5 of 6 OFFLINE   Joe6pack99


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Posted April 16 2003 - 03:51 PM

I am debating on getting my 65swx20b calibrated by Greg. He comes back to Fl soon hmmm decisions decisions!

#6 of 6 OFFLINE   TimTurtino


    Stunt Coordinator

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Posted April 16 2003 - 04:32 PM

Jeremy-- thanks for the amusing, well-written and informative tale. Me

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