January 03, 2012
| by Phil Lozen
If the sales numbers from holiday buying season are to be believed, a lot of you reading this have a new TV in your living room right now.
Maybe you bought one for yourself or maybe you wanted mom and dad to finally ditch that 24-inch set so you can watch football in HD during home visits (how thoughtful of you).
Unlike that relic in your parent’s basement, however, new TVs offer myriad options beyond color and contrast controls. If all you do is unbox your new TV and put it on the wall, you’ll be missing out on all that a new set has to offer.
So try these tips to make sure that new friend is humming along, delivering HD goodness to one and all.
1. Don’t overuse motion enhancements – This applies mostly to LED/LCD sets, which in 2010 represented a market 10 times the size of plasma display, and that market is still growing. The feature is designed to improve the stuttering sometimes seen on LCD TVs during motions scenes. You may see it listed as a Hz specification (120Hz, 240Hz …) or a clever marketing name (TruMotion, Motion Plus, MotionFlow, CineMotion, and so on) but when left to run unchecked, this setting could leave you wondering what all the hype over HD is about. Be careful, some sets might even have two different motion enhancement settings.
At its most basic, the idea behind this technology is to reduce blur and pixilation in fast-moving action. Older model LCDs used to be known for something called the “screen door effect”, when the picture would break down during sporting events or high action scenes. Better refresh rates have helped to curb this issue in newer LCD/LED sets, even without the use of motion smoothing technology.
When turned on, especially to its highest setting, motion smoothing can turn a picture hyper-realistic, making film-based material look like a 1980s sitcom. Start with these enhancements turned “Off” and if you feel that your picture is struggling to keep up with fast action, slowly increase the setting.
2. Watch the material how it was meant to be seen – Filmmakers spend a lot of time tweaking their material to get it exactly how they want it. In an ideal world, your TV would simply be a conduit to view that perfect picture. Since each set is calibrated differently at the factory, that’s sadly not the case.
In addition to motion enhancements, there are several other picture tools that can negatively affect a TV’s output if left to their highest settings.
Locate and either disable or set to “0” any noise reduction or mosquito noise, edge enhancement, skin tone, or shadow detail enhancements when you first set your TV up.
You may eventually switch some of these options back on, but when they are all on at the same time (as is the case sometimes right out of the box) the alterations to the native picture can be too strong.
3.Turn down the lights – When you wander up and down the aisles at your local big box retailer, there’s a reason it feels at times that you might need sunglasses. In most cases, the TVs are set to what’s called “torch mode”. In an effort to draw your eyes to the TV, brightness and color settings are turned way up as each screen strives to be the belle of the ball.
When you get home, however, those settings are poor for regular home viewing. Almost every TV will come with a series of viewing scenes with names like “vivid”, “theater” or “standard”. The theater setting generally provides the best picture right out of the box (unless you have a THX certified TV, in which case choose that setting). It’s best to avoid the “vivid” or “game” setting for regular viewing.
One note when setting up a new TV: Be sure to give your eyes a chance to get used to any major changes you make to the picture. Watch for a couple days and if you’re still not happy, tinker some more, but avoid making snap judgments.
If you’re looking to take things to the next level, there are several discs available for purchase that will walk you through a self-calibration (such as Digital Video Essentials, Disney’s WOW, and Spears and Munsil).
No one article can help you squeeze every last bit of awesomeness out of your new TV, but following these basic tips will get you up and running and on your way quickly.
If you want to get serious about picture quality, check out our archived webcast on video calibration here.
Read about a new technology that may eliminate the need for you to do any tweaks yourself here.