A Home Theater Build Project - Part III


Video Calibration

The merits of calibrating ones display have been widely documented. In short: displays do not arrive performing their best and proper calibration can improve not only picture quality but also efficiency and longevity. However, what we are talking about here is things that we, as users, can do to improve our theaters. Well, luckily, what once was the purview of expensive professional calibrators is now within the grasp of enthusiast users.

Several years ago a company called SpectraCal began utilizing moderately priced testing equipment, not originally intended for display calibration, for the calibration of all display types, including front projectors. Their efforts materialized in CalMAN, software designed and marketed towards enthusiasts looking to tackle calibration themselves. I was one of the very early adopters of the CalMAN platform. Since then, other software, including some free platforms, have popped up giving enthusiasts more options than ever to get into doing video calibration.

The question that is almost always asked when people begin looking at getting into video calibration is: Is this hard? My answer is almost always: depends. If you are a technically minded person, and willing to struggle a bit, video calibration isn't unapproachable. Some display are easy to calibrate than others and while the number of displays amenable to calibration is ever increasing, the process can still be frustrating at times. Like learning many tasks, it isn't something that you are going to pick-up in a few hours. However, with a few evenings and some experimentation, it is well within the grasp of almost anyone. If you want to get an idea of the "process" of calibration, I would eagerly point you to the following document at Curtepalme.com that walks you step by step through all aspects of the video calibration process. Another great resource, though not free, are the basic training courses offered by SpectraCal. Their "Enthusiast Bootcamp" is a one-evening course that serves to give users an introduction to the ins and outs of video calibration along with hands-on instruction on actual displays. If you'd like to learn more visit the SpectraCal website, or take a look at the Bootcamp review that I wrote here at Secrets or go to the SpectraCal website.

If reading the above document or attending an introductory class doesn't frighten you, you are in luck: for a few hundred dollars you can purchase a basic calibration set-up, including both a meter and software, and begin learning how to calibrate your display on your own. Unlike when I started, there are multiple options on both the software and hardware front that allow for fairly sophisticated set-ups to be procured at reasonable prices. We did a review of the consumer targeted software solutions here at Secrets last year: http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/diy/diy/diy-calibration-overview.html, and these options remain available today and have gone through a few new versions since this review was published. We will have an updated review of CalMan 4.0 shortly.

My personal video calibration set-up is based around the Chromapure platform, which just won a Secrets "Product of 2010" award for Calibration Software. In addition to Chromapure Pro, I use an X-rite Hubble Colorimeter and Sencore MP500 pattern generator.