Why Does My SDTV look so bad?
Guess what? It isn’t “compression” or “dilution” as nearly everyone will tell you!
One thing that needs to be understood is that color calibration is the “missing-link” for those who wonder why "Joe's" TV looks so much better than theirs, and/or why their SDTV (standard definition viewing) looks so poor on their new flat panel.
Spyder Pro Calibrations - Caution
First, do not spend even $99.00 using Geek Squad or any others who use the Spyder Pro Colorimeter. The Spyder Pro always leaves the picture too hot (red) which is the initial condition of the TV's anyway. Worse than that, you aren't at a place where you can just drop the color by a couple more clicks to get it right. The picture quality IS better but close doesn’t count in calibration. Invariably, I had to re-calibrate by eye, anyway. Using the Spyder Pro was a great learning experience, though. After awhile I found that a “standard formula” for a starting point, and then calibrating by eye, is far better than using Spyder Pro.
ISF Certified Calibrationist - Caution
I suggest avoiding the professionals unless you have a projector or an actual problem with your TV. If you do use an ISF certified calibrator, get references and check his work FIRST. Then you will know if what he does is what you want.
See The Colors as the Director Intended
Adjustment of the colors to "see what the director intended" just isn't a reason to drop a chunk of change. What do I care if the actors tie is fire engine red or carnation red? It isn’t nearly as much about “true color” as it is about details. What the calibrationist don’t seem to know is that proper color calibration greatly affects the amount of detail that can be rendered.
HDTV is all about details.
When your colors are correctly set, they produce life-like renditions of skin tone, nature, and life. That's pretty cool, but for the condition of "WOW" to exist - for HDTV to exist at all - we need details.
Many of you can look at your TVs right now and scroll through the channels, and as you do, many of you will find that:
skin tones look unnatural,
everyone looks sunburn,
men's lips appear to have lipstick, and
the scrolling news headline tickers are not very crisp.
And, many of you think your HD is good, but your SD is unwatchable.
So, try it for yourself. Scroll through your channels. If you see the things listed above, you need a calibration. (If you didn’t see those before, I’m sorry…) If you don’t see those things, don’t waste your time finishing this blog – you don’t need calibration.
So the skin color is off. That doesn't sound like much of a problem, does it? But when the color is incorrect, you don’t just have some slightly annoying skin color, you have a TV that can’t reproduce the subtle shades and nuances that add reality and texture.
Color Vs. Texture
Colors create an objects color, but shades and tints produce it’s TEXTURE. Texture changes your viewing from a flat, pretty picture, into realistic, WOW! HIGH DEFINITION. It is one thing to see the putting green and a whole other thing to see the blades of grass of which it is made.
How Color Calibration Will Affect SDTV Quality
After a proper color calibration, your SDTV viewing will look very good with some channels coming deceptively close to HDTV quality. The amazing technology in your new TV is so good at presenting the information contained in the signal that it will also reveal how far from “WOW!” your HDTV actually is. The good news is that you can expect great SDTV on a properly installed and calibrated system with good signal strength.
Color Calibration Reduces Motion Blur and Sharpens Tickers
Yep, it does.
How important is Color Calibration?
Color calibration is paramount and integral to the amount of detail that your set can provide. Important? YES. Costly? I hope not. Hard? Takes practice. Fast? With time.
God bless you, and thank you for reading!