- Written by Chris Heinonen
- Published on 11 October 2012
There are a few different programs out there to assist in calibrating a display, but CalMAN from SpectraCal is currently the most prevalent. CalMAN is used for ISF Level I and II training, and is available in a variety of different configurations ranging from the DIY user to the full time calibration professional. CalMAN has been at work on Version 5 for two years now, extensively testing it and making changes and improvements in response to the feedback received.
With so much that has changed from the previous version (Version 4) to the new version (Version 5), I will focus on an overview of the changes, then do an in-depth exploration of the changes and interface, and finally focus on what these new features mean for reviews that will use CalMAN in the future. Refer to the CalMAN Version 4.1 Review for comparison purposes, published in 2011.
CalMAN 5 Calibration Software
- Basic License: $199
- Control License: $299
- Control License: $299
- Enthusiast License: $399
- License Differences: Link (http://store.spectracal.com/calman5-licenses)
- Expert License: $1,495
- Professional License: $2,495
- Ultimate License: $2,995
- SECRETS Tags: CalMAN, Calibration Software, Video Calibration
New Features Overview
Many years in the making, there is a lot that has changed in CalMAN 5, so let's look at some of the new or updated features and what they bring to the calibration world.
With all these changes, and I’ve only touched on a few of them, it will take a while to go into depth on them but I will give it a shot.
The immediately apparent change is a total overhaul of the user interface that is in CalMAN. In my option, the re-organization has made it a more intuitive interface that works better in daily use. Controls for your meter, pattern source, and display control are now at the top of the screen instead of being buried in the Options menu. As you work with these choices for every single calibration, moving them out to a more visible location makes more sense.
This change, along with the switch to a menu system that is more like a Windows application, really improves the ease-of-use of CalMAN. Adjusting to the new layout only took a couple of tries. The location of items is now more intuitive for new users, and for first time users the process of getting started has been made much easier than before. The new UI is a much better experience, and a large improvement to the software.
Pictured: Pre and Post Calibration Result Workflow Screens
AutoCal has been thoroughly revamped in CalMAN 5 compared to previous versions. In prior versions you could usually calibrate the gamma and grayscale automatically, but adjusting the gamut was still done manually through the CalMAN interface, or through your CMS device. Now in supported devices, this can all be done automatically from CalMAN. Additionally you no longer need a dedicated workflow for easy device that can be calibrated automatically. Once you have selected your appropriate Target Display from the tabs at the top, screens that are designed for grayscale, gamma, or gamut will have an AutoCal button associated with them. For devices that support this functionality, a list that grows all the time, it allows you to quickly get results that are very good to fantastic, and still allows you to dial it in more if you wish to do so.
Pictured: Grayscale/Gamma and CMS workflow screens.
Along with this, Lumagen has updated their Radiance processors (reviewed previously at Secrets of Home Theater) to support a 5x5x5 color matrix for precise gamut control. Most CMS systems, including the Radiance previously, have you setup the 100% saturation and luminance value for the primary, and often secondary, colors and then try to calculate the other values correctly. This lets you instead make a full series of measures at different intensities and saturations, calibrate each of those correctly, and then it will calculate the intermediate points.
The common method works perfectly in any display that has perfectly linear response from 0-100% for all saturations and intensities, but really no displays have that. This allows you to have a far larger set of data to work from, and to get all of those other values dialed in much better. As CalMAN can do this automatically in around an hour, it’s likely the quickest, most beneficial upgrade you can do for an existing home theater setup that I’m aware of.
Updated and New Features – Test Pattern, Color Check, Reporting
My favorite improvement to CalMAN is the addition of new test patterns and charts. Included now are luminance and saturation sweeps. These have been available previously in ChromaPure, but now are available in CalMAN as well, and with finer resolution (any increment for luminance and 20% or 25% in saturation, as opposed to 25% for each in ChromaPure). One of my main complaints about display reviews is the reliance on how well a display calibrates to the primary and secondary color points, when really those just tell you how well a display does at 6 color points. Using multiple saturations and intensities lets you see how well a display performs across more points and provides a better representation of how well it performs.
Additionally a Gretag Macbeth color checker test chart has been added for those with supported signal generators. Gretag Macbeth consists of 24 color and grayscale samples, meant to represent common color elements like green leaves, blue sky, skin tones, and so forth. Since none of these are point that you calibrate to, performance against this chart gives you a better idea of how well a display will perform with general content. I’ll be trying to include this in as many reviews as possible going forward, as I think it provides a much more accurate picture of how well your display will look with real content.
The reporting engine in CalMAN has had a complete makeover compared to prior versions. Previously you could spend a lot of time making a report, but that report was tied to a single workflow, even though you often report the same information from many workflows. Since displays with a full CMS and those with only minimal controls have different workflows, this meant creating the same report twice to get the same information out. With CalMAN 5, this has been entirely changed.
Now your reports are free to move between different workflows, letting you design and maintain a single report or two, and continually reuse them between different workflows. For professionals that want to provide the best information to their clients, and for users that want to adjust what they see in their own reports, this really improves upon what was available. Combined with more data being available from the updated charts and patterns, this means we may see more in depth, through reports about displays and projectors being available in the near future.
There are countless more updates and features in CalMAN than I can hope to address. There are gamma target editors, allowing you to create your own targets if you need a special solution that isn’t among the presets. There are alternative color matching functions that help to account for how the human eye will perceive different light sources (CFL, LED, Xenon) differently, even if the standard CIE chart says they are the same. You can better match two displays to be identical if you have a video wall, determine the maximum dynamic range of your display, have a full, 3D view of your colorspace instead of only the traditional 2D charts, and far more. CalMAN 5 is a massive upgrade from the previous versions, with far more features and usability than before.
In the end, the most important thing about calibration software is the results that you can get from it. I’m fairly certain that there isn’t anything as flexible as CalMAN out there right now and it can get you to what you are after. Of course, more options often means more complexity, and some first time users will still be intimidated by CalMAN. I think it is easier to use than before, but I’ve also gone through ISF Level II training with it, as well as been using the beta version for months now, getting used to how it performs. For the first time user, it can still be a bit daunting.
One concern for DIY users is that with all the power and flexibility, it can be expensive to use compared to having a calibrator come to your house. Many of the options require more powerful, and so the cost of doing everything yourself can rise quickly. For the part-time or hobbyist calibrator, this might cause them to think twice about doing it themselves instead of hiring a professional.
My other main concern is with the AutoCal integration with devices. While ChromaPure and CalMAN both interact with the DVDO Duo and the Lumagen Radiance series, CalMAN has a much larger selection of displays it can control, including JVC, Panasonic, Elite, Runco, and more. I’m hopeful this is just due to CalMAN being able to devote more resources to this issue and not to having an exclusive license to work on them, as I feel that is a bad direction to go. However, if these devices remain open for anyone to control and calibrate automatically, then having this feature is very nice for getting great results in a hurry.
For professionals, there is a lot to like in CalMAN 5 and it might be an easy upgrade for most users. I know the additional patterns and reporting are very useful for me, and will be showing up in a lot of my reviews going forward. The improved interface and workflow makes it easier for everyone to use, and then get good results from. I’m highly looking forward to the PC monitor control that is coming soon as well, so everything I work on will be perfectly dialed in. Overall a powerful, customizable program that does everything you need and will continue to be a staple for many professionals and hobbyists.
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