Anyone NOT like ISF calibration...?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Rich H, Jul 21, 2002.

  1. Rich H

    Rich H Second Unit

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    I know most people seem to feel that having their screen ISF'd is the cat's meow. In fact, I've been waiting for the opportunity to get my plasma screen ISF'd at some point. But occasionally I encounter opinions about the ISF calibration that give me pause.

    Recently I spoke to an AV salesman/installer who said that, overall, he felt that the guidelines for ISF calibration are not realistic for most people's viewing purposes. In other words, that the black/brightness/contrast levels are ISF'd to look correct in a "black" environment, like a movie theater. Since most people do not view their sets with the lights off, an ISF'd screen often looks dark, and the contrast is not ideal for normal viewing rooms.

    I really don't know what kind of experience this salesman has in calibration. But I've heard many people say that their display looked dark after ISF...but they got used to it. A couple people said they never really got used to it, and were somewhat disappointed in the picture change.

    Anyone care to comment? Subjectively (or objectively) Is ISF not always "better?"

    Thanks,

    Rich.
     
  2. BruceSpielbauer

    BruceSpielbauer Second Unit

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    Okay, here is my take.

    Many users who have had their sets ISFd, as well as many users who have merely done their own do it yourself calibrations (typically using one of the Home Theater Calibration disks as a starting point) have set their contrast down to approximately 30% to 40% of full.

    I did this, and my immediate reaction was "it's too dark," and I was tempted to turn this right back up. The disk I was using advised me not to do this, and said this was a normal reaction. Also, I read some advice from someone who said "Give it a week -- you'll see." I did not believe this would make any difference, but I went ahead and decided to give his advice a fair chance.

    Guess what -- It did not take a week. It took two days, and I can never go back. I see detail that I never saw before. I see beautiful blades of grass, individuallly, some of them dark green and some lighter, where I used to see a solid block of just green. I see strands of hair where I used to see a "block" of brown. I see depth in the black level (shades of gray, shadows, etc.) that I never knew existed. Scenes where I used to just see a large black shadow, now I notice that "shadow" is not black. It is actually a very dark gray, to a medium gray where it crosses this part of the floor, to a still lighter gray where it runs up the wall... I SEE DETAIL. It is MUCH closer to a movie theater quality of image. Even my NTSC 480i signal is closer to (nowhere near as good, but closer to) the image I see on a Progressive Scan DVD. I see DETAIL.

    I do sometimes adjust the brightness control to adjust for my room lighting (I have two large windows in the room). In the morning, the brightness gets "ticked up" about four or five notches. In the evening, it gets "ticked right back down." This is often the advice of the calibrators, and essentially the advice on those calibration discs. They urge you to calibrate in the lighting condition you will use most of the time. They also urge you to use the brightness, and not the contrast, to adjust to room lighting.

    The contrast on my set remains where it was, though. It does not move. IF I turn it up, I will do three things, by the way:
    1.) Lose a lot of detail, and settle for the artificial "brightness" which you see on sets in the showroom, which is NOT a high quality image.
    2.) Increase the risk of "burn-in" of any static images by a huge amount.
    3.) Severely decrease the life expectancy of the three cathode ray tubes (the guns) which will burn bright tat the first, and then gradually get dimmer, and dimmer, and dimmer. This can make a difference of thousands and thousands of hours, over the life of a set.

    The fact is that your salesperson WAS speaking a DEGREE of truth. This is because of a deception which has occurred (brighter is always better). Yet, ironically, he is a part of the same industry which has caused this "deception" to be. Manufacturers wanted their sets to stand out on the showroom floor. So did dealers. They wanted an artifical perception of "brightness" on their set(s), so it would sell. They adjusted some settings to create an artifically brighter image (added red push, added edge enhancement, and turned up the contrast to an incredibly high level). So, what happened? They created a false expectation of what a quality image is, in many consumers. They made their image *BRIGHTER*, so people would notice them. "My, dear, look how "bright" that set is!" "This set is so much 'brighter' than the one over there!" Now, the customer wants to see that "brightness," and does not realize what he or she is missing, in pure beautiful DETAIL, and NUANCE, and SUBTLETY. They all know that the experience in a movie theater is somehow so much better, but they cannot explain WHY it is so much better. Well, some of us can explain it. Some of us can even (almost) achieve it on our sets.

    I cannot watch a set in "torch mode" without being horribly distracted by the lack of detail (and the neon garishness). I cannot watch a set with red push, without noticing the sunburnt flesh tones. I am spoiled. I am picky. I know that the image in your home can be every bit as nice as that image in the theater, even with a modest degree of ambient light.

    These are just my thoughts...

    -Bruce
     
  3. Rich H

    Rich H Second Unit

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    Excellent Bruce. Thank you very much. I will have to do the ISF calibration. After all, as I understand it, the calibration leaves you with standard "home base" for settings. With settings at "neutral," the display is ISF'd,
    but one can always alter picture settings to suit taste (if one is a tasteless Neanderthal [​IMG] ).
    Am I correct?
    Thanks,
    Rich.
     
  4. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Rich,
    You are correct. On most sets it's possible in the service menu to change the factory default settings (the ones that you get when you mash the "reset" button).

    In many cases, the ISF guy will set things up so that when you go back to "default" settings you're actually getting the calibrated settings and not the ones the set came with. There's nothing to prevent you from altering these in the user menu to suit different ambient light.

    To get a basic idea of what you'll be dealing with, it wouldn't hurt to try a do-it-yourself calibration with AVIA or VE using just the user controls. This will give you a basic idea of what kind of brightness you'll be dealing with.

    Bruce's post made a very good point about showroom settings. Many of the best sets will not produce as bright a picture as some decidedly inferior models. The super bright sets often use very high gain screens and various other tricks to achieve that brightness, and a super high gain screen is going to have hotspots (areas that are a lot brighter than others on the screen) that can't be tuned out by any amount of calibration.

    With rptvs especially, you don't necessarily want the brightest set on the showroom floor, you want the most accurate with the most subtle color gradations.

    My first HD-ready widescreen was an Hitachi 53UWX10B, capable of a very bright picture but otherwise lacking any kind of subtlty of color or detail.

    I swapped it for another make which won't go nearly as bright, but bright enough for normal viewing and capable of a beautiful array of colors and details I never saw on the Hitachi.
     

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