Posts tagged ‘LCD’

Setting Up Your TV Correctly

I have been a home theater hobbyist for years, though with projection TV's rather than LCD panel TV's.  However, from what I know, this appears to be a good list of things to do and not do in setting up your TV.  TV's have historically been set up to look good in very bright showrooms under fluorescent lighting, but this is not how you likely watch the TV at home.  In fact, the best thing you can do to improve the look of your picture for cinematic content actually has nothing to do with the TV -- darken your viewing room.  They key to a really good picture is in the dark areas of the picture, not the bright areas.  Tricks to up the contrast and brightness of the TV can kill the detail in the dark areas.  The only way to really see what is there is to watch in a dark room.

The hardest thing to do at first is to get the color temperature correct.  Thankfully, most TV's today generally have a color temperature setting that is correct (20 years ago one had to have a technician do a manual re-calibration).  The right color temperature is around 6500K but TV's and computer monitors often ship with color temperatures boosted way up above 9000K, well up into the blue range because this makes the TV appear brighter in a TV showroom (at higher temperatures a neutral grey will look bluer, at lower temperatures it will look redder).  Unfortunately, your eyes are used to looking at high temperature monitors and TVs and so when you first change to the correct setting things may look to red.  Live with it a while.

Home Theater

Glenn Reynolds has a discussion of projectors as an alternative to flat screen TVs.  I have been a projector owner through 10 years and 3 generations and am a big fan of them in certain applications.

I have an Epson 8500UB, which is close to the top of their line and can be bought under $2000 (which is amazing - the projector price drop in the last 10 years has been stunning).  It is a 1080p projector with great blacks and color.  I have it ceiling mounted with a 110-inch diagonal 16x9 Stewart screen.  I have one of the silver fabrics (I think the Firehawk) that enhances black levels over the white fabrics (there is a reason movies used to be shown on the "silver screen.")  The screen is acoustically perforated so the speakers (except for surrounds) are actually behind the screen (as in movie theaters).

In the evening, with the lights down and the projector adjusted correctly, the effects is awesome.  Not to be missed.  I have had to kick many visitors out of my house.  Sports are also amazing, particularly in HDTV.

As Glenn's commenters mention, you have to be careful with light.  I picked this Epson both because it is really about the best in its price range, but it also is very bright.  Unlike my last generation projector, it can overcome some ambient light.  I have to have blinds in my den, but with the blinds down but the room still lighted well I can watch sports on the bright setting quite well with this projector (you really don't want to watch a movie with this bright setting - movies are all about the blacks, and to get those looking great you need darkness).

Anything 60" and below, get an LCD.  But if you really want a ridiculously large screen for movies and sports, this is the only way to go and I highly recommend the Epson line -- they have projectors at many price points and they are mostly all very good.

Cool Gear

These are really expensive and the performance is limited, but hey, what else would a bleeding-edge buyer expect?   They are super-small LCD projectors to take on the road for presentations and such, and they are barely bigger than an iPod.


The Problem with New Wide-Gamut LCD Panels

Warning:  I am a video snob.  I often lambaste electronics store managers for doing such a terrible job adjusting their display TV's.  TV store managers have decided that the way to sell a TV is to jack up its color temperature as far into the blue range that they can, jam the contrast setting all the way to the top, irrespective of any blooming effects they get, and over-saturate the colors.

Anyway, the newest LCD panels have a property that theoretically makes them better:  They can display a much wider color gamut.  That means that there are more colors that they can display.   They do this by creating panels where the base colors are truer to their theoretical values, and by pushing each color value deeper into its possible range.  This means that the bluest blues are even bluer, if that makes sense. 

But these extreme colors are ones one seldom sees, because they are over saturated.  If you were to see the most saturated red or blue in any large field on your TV or monitor, it would make your teeth ache.  These colors look like neon lights, for lack of a better comparison.

But a wider color palette is good in theory.  My guess is that adobe photoshop running on a well-calibrated monitor could take advantage of this feature to improve the resemblance between on-screen and printed material, a key concern of graphics designers. 

The problem is that most software and color choices on the internet and in movies are based on what, say, a level 256 blue used to be.  A level 256 blue is now more saturated in the current monitors, but most software (and monitor drivers) are not smart enough to take this into account.  That means that if you buy a new LCD monitor, you will likely be looking at colors that are more saturated and therefore that glow more than your eyes can really stand, and most graphics cards and monitors do not have a control for saturation (as I found today, having to take an LG 26" monitor back to the store because everything just glowed too much  (I replaced it with a Samsung 2693M, which is much better).

You will know that this may be a problem if the literature or sales person describes the monitor as having "more vibrant" colors.  This is a euphemism for saturation, and would be all fine and good if monitor colors have previously been under-saturated, but if anything they have been the opposite.  Sales people like this feature, though, because the colors look more dramatic in their fluorescent-lighted showrooms and tend to make the monitor look "better" when next to less saturated choices.  My advice is be very wary -- Videophiles tend to run away screaming when told that a TV has some gadget that makes the colors more vibrant.

If You Are Buying A Plasma TV...

I know that flat screen Plasma and LCD TV's are very popular right now, especially as prices are falling.  They provide a good platform for viewing HDTV and widescreen DVDs.  As a longtime fan of widescreen, even before DVD's and HDTV, I understand the attraction well (and yes, you could get widescreen format movies on VHS and Laserdisc, but it was a pain in the butt and DVD is great).

If you are looking at a plasma TV for your main viewing or home theater room, I would like to encourage you to look at front projection before you make a purchase.  No, I don't have any financial interest in the technology, and no, it is not right for everyone.  For some applications, though, front projection can offer a dramatically better movie experience than plasma for the same money.  Why?  Two words:  110" Diagonal  (OK, thats sort of more than two words when you say it rather than write it, but you get the idea).


A projection system can be almost as big as you have space for.  You have never, never experienced the Superbowl until you have seen it on a 95" wide widescreen in HDTV.  If you get one, do not tell the neighbors unless you want them in your house every Sunday.  We almost never go to theaters any more - we have a great experience in our own house.  I have practically paid for this installation just from birthday party savings, as my kids now prefer to have movie parties at home. 

The installation in the picture above is my 95" wide 16x9 screen, and I took the photo so you could also see the projector hanging on the ceiling (the photo overemphasises the projector - it is actually not so prominent).  The screen is actually a special acoustically perforated kind, and the speakers are behind it (this is more expensive and hides the speakers but is not at all required).

OK, there are some downsides to this installation, which is why you do not see them everywhere:

  • The wiring is tougher, since the projector usually is a long way from your video equipment - I had to get an electrician to run some wires for me
  • The room has to be dark -- either with few windows or, in my case, with blackout shades on all the windows -- to be able to watch during the day.  If you look carefully in the picture above you can see the shade above the windows.
  • They are harder to find -- Best Buy type stores do not sell these systems
  • They are different esthetically than you are used to.  They take up less space than a big box rear-projection, but more space than a plasma. Yes, you can put in mechanisms to roll up the screen into the ceiling or even pull the projector up out of site when not being used, but these add a lot to the cost.
  • Good systems are not at all cheap, and cost about as much as a good plasma - about $4000 for the projector and $1000 for the screen.  Really good systems go for crazy amounts of money - as much as $60,000 and more.  Don't be scared off - there are many good inexpensive projectors made today.

We have loved this system and have gotten more prolonged enjoyment out of it than anything else in our house.  It is not for everyone, and I don't expect everyone to choose to do the same thing I did, but I do think it is worth your time to take a peak at one when you are out shopping for that plasma TV.