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Squeezing the most from your Home Theater (part II) VIDEO


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#1 of 45 OFFLINE   Mike Knapp

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Posted November 25 2001 - 06:01 AM

This is the second segment in a three part series about squeezing the most performance from your Home Theater set-up. It is intended to educate and stimulate discussion so that others may benefit.

Lets have a look at the video portion of our Home Theaters.

First we will look at TV’s in general.

TIPS:

1) Watch in the dark. Room light will remind you that you are watching a TV. There are many that recommend a soft diffused light behind the set, I have found this to be distracting. Total darkness will allow you to lose yourself in the image…no matter the size.

2) Make some blanking bars. These are used to cover the letterbox bars on films that are not the same ratio as your screen. I have seen few tweaks that produce as dramatic an effect. No matter what type of set you have, the letterbox bars are not black. By covering them up you create a “floating” image. You will notice more detail in the shadows and the contrast will seem better. I cannot stress how much they help. Run a search on almost any forum and you will find instructions on how to make these most useful devices.

3) Turn that sharpness down. This is covered in the calibration discs but I see it ignored all too often. Many times the “ringing” seen on DVDs is caused by the sharpness being up too high. Use the test patterns and then leave it alone!

4) Use a calibration disc! If this list were in order of importance this would be first. TVs come out of the box poorly calibrated and they need to be adjusted. The image may appear dark to you when you are done but you have been looking at poorly adjusted TV most of your life and so this should not be a surprise. The whites should not bleed all over the place when you watch the credits and the reds should stay on that cardigan the newscaster is wearing. The calibration discs will get you in the ballpark and perhaps be close enough for comfort. But if you want it to be absolutely right….

5) Have an ISF tune-up. You cant do the gray scale by yourself without the proper tools. Call a professional. Gray scale is like the bass/treble controls on your receiver. They need to be flat and neutral. If the gray is off, so will be all the colors.

6) Sit the proper distance away from the screen. Too close and the scan lines can be seen (non HD sets) too far and the image does not fill your field of vision. You don’t want to have to move your head to see the whole screen but you don’t want to need field glasses to see it either. Twice the diagonal of the screen is a good general rule.

7) SVM (scan velocity modulation)….have it disconnected or disabled.


PROJECTION TV TIPS:

1) Geometry, geometry, geometry. Before you do the convergence make sure the geometry is correct. Circles must be round, not oval. When a scene pans up to down we don’t want to see “waves” in a mountain range. Make a geometry grid or buy one from your manufacturer or just have the ISF tune up done but be sure the geometry is correct.

2) Convergence, convergence, convergence. This does not mean the little cross-hairs that come up when you press the user menu function. Pull up that 64 pt (or whatever) grid and get those colors aligned. If you go to the service menu, always do the green first…it is the reference gun. Align the blue and red to the green and then clean up the overall convergence. A poor convergence job can make a grand set look like one on a showroom floor.

3) Adjust your Over-scan. You want ant the most image possible, don’t you? Set the over-scan using a calibration disc pattern. Most sets come from the factory with too much over-scan. You can be missing as much as 10% of your image due to an incorrect over-scan adjustment

TWEAKS & CAVEATS:

Use a power conditioner on your TV. Get a good one. Once I put one on mine I had to re-calibrate to lower settings. Lower setting means less wear on the tubes. That is a good thing.

Watch for burn-in. Excessive video game use, watching lots of programming that does not excite all the phosphors in the tube (doesn’t fill your screen with image) and those annoying channel ID bugs can all cause screen burn-in. I had to replace my green gun because of my kids watching the Disney channel in its correct OAR (4:3) on my 16:9 set, so no one is immune from this. Prudence and vigilance should help avoid this (I was remiss). After a 2:35:1 movie let the set run with a full image for a while to balance it out. Not much effort for big dividends.

Do not de-activate the gray bar feature. My trouble came from making my gray bars black. I now either use masking bars to cover the gray or I just suffer the gray sides. This WILL help preserve your tubes, don’t give into the temptation to defeat the gray bars.

Use good quality cables. Unlike in the audio realm, video cables can make or break an image, especially a large image. Don’t skimp here. I repeat, don’t skimp here. The differences can be astounding.

Don’t run your video signals through your processor for switching. Go directly to the display whenever possible. Use macros on your remote to automatically change the TV inputs or do it manually. You will almost certainly obtain a superior image with a direct connection from the source to the display.

Room wall color. Black is best, gray will do….If you must use color, dark colors are going to give the best results. Try hanging a black sheet from the ceiling on either side of and behind your display, you will be getting out the paint soon after. Anything that helps the display to disappear visually will be useful.

MOST IMPORTANTLY:

Watch all your programming in its OAR (original aspect ratio). Don’t stretch your newscasts, don’t zoom your sitcoms…pay some respect to the creative team that composed the image. A little balance between 4:3 OAR shows and 16:9 OAR shows will stop the 4:3 burn in on your widescreen sets. Many people feel that OAR should only apply to movies, I disagree and I recommend watching all your programming in its original aspect ratio. Just my opinion.

These are some of the things that I have learned from experience. They may or may not work for you. I post them here as a reference for starting. Since the goal of this piece is to educate I welcome additions and corrections. Thanks for reading

Mike


#2 of 45 OFFLINE   KrisK

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Posted November 25 2001 - 07:53 AM

Mike, Do you have more details on how one can do the "Projection TV Tips"? Pointers on how to tune a Sony RPTV would help.. Thx, Kris

#3 of 45 OFFLINE   Jim A. Banville

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Posted November 25 2001 - 08:04 AM

"Use good quality cables...The differences can be astounding"

So "astounding" that many people can't see a difference. Hmm?
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#4 of 45 OFFLINE   Jeffrey_Jones

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Posted November 25 2001 - 08:21 AM

Jim,

Hasn't this argument been discusses to death! It would be more useful to this forum if you actually took the time to write a concise and useful account of your own experiences with A/V then it is for you to attempt to discredit this one, or start an argument, with a one line remark about quality video cables.

Mike - Excellent post. Thanks for taking the time to share your own experiences and opinions.

Thanks,
Jeff

#5 of 45 OFFLINE   Mike Knapp

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Posted November 25 2001 - 08:37 AM

Jim,

Thank you for your comments.

Mike

#6 of 45 OFFLINE   Mike Knapp

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Posted November 25 2001 - 08:56 AM

Kris,

There is another website that will have the info you seek. I know that links to other forums are frowned upon here so if you email me I will pass that info on to you.

Mike

#7 of 45 OFFLINE   NickSo

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Posted November 25 2001 - 09:45 AM

For cables, what kind of cables would be good enough for say, a 53" HD-ready RPTV with an Interlaced DVD Player using Component Video?

Should i shell out the $ to go for like BetterCables or ARs, or Monster, or would like 3 gold-plated shielded composite video cables from Radio Shack be okay?

#8 of 45 OFFLINE   Scott-C

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Posted November 25 2001 - 09:45 AM

Mike,

Thanks for a well-written and informative thread! Your tip about masking re-inspires me to consider this idea further. At this point I have no idea what's involved, but I'm going to start looking into it.

Thanks again.

#9 of 45 OFFLINE   Mike Knapp

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Posted November 25 2001 - 10:13 AM

Nick,

"Good enough" would depend on how critical your viewing habits are.

I have a 65" HD monitor and a reference progressive DVD player so my video path is very critical to me. When I had my FPTV I could only use the composite input so I bought the best cable I could for it as well because the image was quite large. In some of my secondary systems (with smaller screens), I use standard quality interconnects and video cables with no problems or complaints.

The larger the screen and the more resolute the source the better the cable you need in my opinion. Also the more critical a viewer you are will have an effect the quality you demand.

If you opt for the Better Cables, they can be with you throughout your upgrade path. The Radio Shack ones may work fine for you now but perhaps not in the future. Or, you may find the Radio Shack cables will do the job nicely for you into the future as well.

I hope this helped in some way.

Mike

#10 of 45 OFFLINE   NickSo

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Posted November 25 2001 - 01:00 PM

Hmm.. maybe i can do some research on how to make my own cables... Posted Image

I have an 11 year old 37" Mitsubishi TV, so i think even with crappy video cables with a rough avia calibration would look much better, let alone fancy video cables... Posted Image

#11 of 45 OFFLINE   Keith Plucker

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Posted November 25 2001 - 01:52 PM

Hi Mike. I have a question regarding watching in a dark room.

I have a Tosh TW40X81. The primary viewing position places the viewer about 9 ft from the front of the screen. I have found that backlighting is required for comfortable viewing at this distance. Do you think this suggests I am sitting to far from the TV? If I was closer, the TV would take up a larger percentage of my field of view which might reduce eye strain. Would you agree with that assessment?

-Keith

Guess I could just try sitting closer and see how it feels. That would be too simple though. Posted Image
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#12 of 45 OFFLINE   Mike Knapp

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Posted November 25 2001 - 01:58 PM

Most people prefer some light on for the very reason you stated. I dont suffer any eye strain diring a 2-3 hour film, I may if I watched a double feature though.

I simply dont like any lights on when I am watching a film, this goes against every rule I have read but I dont color inside the lines much! Posted Image

Try sitting closer...sometimes the simple answer is the right one....expirement some with it and report back on what you found out.

Mike

#13 of 45 OFFLINE   James Slade

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Posted November 25 2001 - 03:14 PM

Excellent post Mike! Video cables do make a difference, I have seen it on a 32 inch Vega, and a 61 inch Toshiba, I also wouldn't spend a whole lot on audio cables. The law of diminishing returns kicks in really quickly.

I think you are supplying great information in a consise forum which is grea for the newbie. And it's a good review for persons like myself.

The only thing I'd add, which you kind of implied is TV size. Don't try and get the biggest set you can possibly afford, buy a set that fits your room. One that you can sit far enough away from, and leaves room for the rest of your gear!!

#14 of 45 OFFLINE   Andy Stocker

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Posted November 25 2001 - 03:31 PM

Ok, what is a calibration disc and how do I get one??

Thanks in advance,

Andy Stocker

#15 of 45 OFFLINE   NickSo

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Posted November 25 2001 - 03:55 PM

Calibration discs that are most Popular and most thurough (complete) are Video Essentials and Avia Guide to Home Theater.

These will help you calibrate your TV's settings and the audio.

You can find them at many online DVD retailers, but it may be harder to find at B&M stores. Out of all the big chain electronics stores taht sell DVDs in my area (about half a dozen stores), none of them sell Avia or Video Essentials. THe only place i found Video Essentials was at a small CD Store...

#16 of 45 OFFLINE   Andy Stocker

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Posted November 25 2001 - 06:11 PM

Ok, I've found both the Video Essentials and Avia calibration disc. The Avia disc seems to be geared more for the high-tech system, what do you all prefer? Also, the Video Essential disc seems to have been discontinued (although their website says there are still copies left). Thanks again, in advance...

Andy Stocker

P.S. By the way, Reel.com says that most Hollywood Video stores have Video Essentials available for rent, has anyone found this to be true?

#17 of 45 OFFLINE   Andy Stocker

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Posted November 26 2001 - 05:23 AM

I have just one more question. I searched the site for information regarding making blanking bars, but I couldn't find any threads (I'm new here). Is there any way you or someone else can tell me how to make them, if it works as well as you say I definately want to try it!!

Thanks,

Andy Stocker

#18 of 45 OFFLINE   Bruce N

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Posted November 26 2001 - 06:51 AM

It works great! Do a search for "mattes". Basically it's just two pieces of anything black that you can put across your TV to block the "grey, not really black" bars. You could use poster board, heavy black cloth, photo matting, etc. and attach them with velcro or elastic.

I think one benefit of mattes is the sharpness of the line at the top and bottom of the picture. If you look closely the line is soft and rough, when you use mattes that line is sharp and well defined. I believe this increases the perception of a sharper picture. Does anyone else agree?

Bruce
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#19 of 45 OFFLINE   Brian Treinen

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Posted November 26 2001 - 07:08 AM

Mike, great post!

Bruce: Totally agree. I thought (like many apparently do) at the beginning that these mattes were pure bunk - like coating CDs with Armor All to improve soundstage! Guess what, MATTES WORK! My wife laughed at me - my friends still ridicule me, but you know what, as soon as I fire up a movie, turn off the light and show them with and without they understand - but still make fun of me!

To make them I used that foam centered posterboard stuff they use for picture framing. Got it at a local craft place for like $11. For cloth I used some leftover duvytene fabric I had but anything black (i.e. felt) will work. I would NOT be without these. Bang for buck I can't think of anything I've done that comes close.

I've used both Avia and Video Essentials. I think both do a great job and don't have a preference. I bought Avia cause I got it cheaper - it could just as easily been VE.

#20 of 45 OFFLINE   Mike Knapp

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Posted November 26 2001 - 07:21 AM

There is an archived thread about mattes. Look in the archives.

Mike