Secrets Q & A

CalMAN Calibration Bootcamp: A Crash Course in the Science of Calibration


CalMAN 4 and Automated Calibration

Truly one of the most exciting things that was demoed at our training session was CalMAN's new, interactive, calibration technologies. By taking advantage of recent advantage in video processing technology, CalMAN 4 is able to begin automating the calibration process. First a few notes about video processors.

The value of external video processors has somewhat diminished over the last few years. Originally conceived as scaling and de-interlacing solutions, these boxes used to be essential to producing a decent picture by expertly taking the multiple resolutions that existed in any home theater, and processing them in the best way possible for display on TVs that had less than stellar processing capabilities of their own. However, over the last few years, with advancements in video processing becoming less expensive and very competent implementations of video processing capabilities showing up in everything from Blu-ray players to receivers, adding external video processing devices became less valuable for all but the highest-end installations. In addition, with the dawn of 1080p panels and Blu-ray discs, we have seen a matching of resolutions in our sources to the native resolution of the panel, meaning scaling and de-interlacing is less essential. However, there has been a resurgence in the relevance of video processor technology in the last three years.

While our TVs are more advanced in characteristics such as resolution, they continue to fall short in accurate color reproduction. TVs have always shipped with large inaccuracies in colors, but advances in processing power have allowed video processors to begin to pick up the slack. Now, external video processors not only work to optimally process resolution, but also act as external calibration boxes, adding a level of picture control that allow many TVs to achieve accurate colors that otherwise would have been unable to. While at the beginning these features were only available in the highest-end VP solutions, they are now readily available in pieces costing only a few hundred dollars in the case of the AV Foundry VideoEq (an external "calibration" box which can do color calibration, but no scaling or de-interlacing). Even though many displays are beginning to ship with complete color control settings, Jeff pointed out that in their testing, these controls were often poorly implemented and/or insufficient to produce an accurate picture. Therefore, there is still a need for external calibration solutions.

The interactive calibration feature that we were able to play with allows the CalMAN software to take advantage of the advances in video processing capabilities that I describe above by automatically integrating data collected from a color sensor with changes being made on an external calibration system. The software is able to take measurements off of a display using a color sensor, and then make necessary changes using an external calibration box and measure the subsequent results. I will save specifics of how this system works to our full review of CalMAN 4 (videos of the process are available at the SpectraCal website for those interested) - suffice it to say: this technology appears to represent a significant advancement in the speed and efficiency by which one can calibrate a display. It has obvious advantages for the time-constrained professional looking to get on to the next job quickly while still providing a thorough calibration of their installed displays. We look forward to playing more with this system so that we can give you more details about how it pertains to a home user.

Right now the only devices that CalMAN 4 supports for this interactive feature are external calibration devices such as video processors from Lumagen and DVDO, but SpectraCal promises that they are beginning to work with display manufacturers to try and place this type of interactivity directly in the TVs, alleviating the need for an external processor.

Enthusiast vs Professional

The course that I attended was first and foremost for A/V professionals, though it was certainly accessible for an enthusiast. SpectraCal is also offering an enthusiast bootcamp, though one was not offered in Durham due to lack of interest. While the material presented was not too advanced for an enthusiast, the length of the class might have been a bit much for someone only wanting a brief introduction. I would encourage SpectraCal to continue to look at offering this type of introductory training as they grow. The ability to effectively communicate to non-professionals the value of calibration is an important service.