Technical & Editorial

Professional Display Calibration: What It Is and What It Means to Your Home Theater Experience



For the past three years or so, we have seen a tremendous surge in display technology.  During this time, the last rites for the venerable CRT have been read, 50" displays have become the new 32", and 1080p has become the de facto standard for resolution.  One thing hasn’t changed however and that is the need for precise calibration of your HDTV.  Despite tremendous advances in consumer displays, the specifications for color, grayscale, and gamma have not changed since the 1950s.  With all these new features available, it has become more confusing than ever for the typical home theater enthusiast to achieve a correct calibration and realize the best performance from your flat panel or projector HDTV.

The need for professional display calibration has been hotly debated in Internet forums for many years.  Is it really necessary?  Quite simply, it is if you want your TV to match the cameras and monitors used to create film and video content.  The standards for display calibration are set by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE).  They specify precise numbers for a TV's color gamut and grayscale.  There is also a set range of values for minimum and maximum luminance (brightness) and gamma.  We will explore each of these areas individually.  Suffice it to say that the proper balance of all these areas makes for a display that performs at its maximum potential.  As home theater enthusiasts, we spend a large amount of time and money to get the best experience possible.  Calibration is a crucial step in that process.