January 29, 2014 by Grant Clauser
It’s football party time, and we know a lot of you are planing to invite the neighborhood over for wings and other finger food so you can show off, I mean, share, your home theater system. If this is your first big-screen party, here are a few tips to make sure your system is working at its peak so your guests come away suitably impressed (and hoping for more invites when March Madness rolls around).
1. Do get a big TV. I’ve almost never heard someone complain that their TV is too big, but I’ve frequently heard people complain that they should have splurged for a bigger one. There are several ways to calculate the proper size of a TV, but my favorite is the THX calculation. I like this one because it’s based on the ideal field of view rather than an abstract notion of the eyes’ ability to perceive resolution. Here are two good reasons you want a big TV for your game day party: 1) a big screen will mean your guests won’t have to crowd around close to the TV to see what’s going on, so there will be room for you to walk by with the guacamole bowl; 2) great deals on TVs are happening now. Outside of the November/December holiday season, this is the best time to buy because manufactures are preparing to release their new lines in a month or two and want to get rid of existing inventory.
2. Don’t put your TV into Sports Mode. Just because it’s called Sports mode doesn’t mean it’s the best setting for watching football, or anything really. Sports mode does different things in different TVs, such as engage motion interpolation (AKA 120Hz, 240Hz etc. processing), boost image brightness and other things that may do more harm than good to your TV’s picture. The picture specifications from the broadcaster don’t change from movie to sitcom to sports depending on the content, so neither should your TV’s settings. Sports mode does different things in different TVs, but the main reason it exists at all is so the manufacturer can claim to have 18 million picture settings (and 99 percent of them useless). With most TVs, the movie or cinema (it’s called something different by every manufacturer) will be produce the best picture, but a full professional calibration is the only insurance that your display is set to show its full potential. If that’s more than you want to put into your TV, then use one of several available TV setup discs that include basic video test patterns.
Check out this football fan’s awesome home theater.
3. Do know your room’s limits. I’m not talking about that fire code maximum occupancy thing (though that’s important). What I mean is you need to know how many people can comfortably and adequately enjoy the view of your display. Some TVs, notably LCD flat panel TVs, have limited viewing angles. That means that people who sit too far off center will get a reduced picture experience than those sitting closer to the sweet spot. If you have a plasma TV, this isn’t really a problem, but many LCD TVs, especially if it’s more than two years old and not from a manufacturer’s top line, will have this problem. You don’t have to know the TV’s specified viewing angle. You can simply test it out yourself by moving to the left or right and noting the point where the picture drops off. That’s the widest part you should place any extra seats for guests.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.
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