Checking The Picture Quality Of Your Display

A truly accurate test of display quality requires expensive tools and a thorough set of test gear.  Fortunately, you can look at some scenes and test patterns found on the Casino Royal Blu-Ray and have a good idea if your display is working poorly.  This is one of the movies that I use to ensure that my video calibration quality is the best that can be done with a given product.  Using test equipment alone is a mistake.  You must look at the results to make sure something did not go wrong in the process.  The number of elements measured to adjust a picture is a very small sample of what is displayed in a typical image.  How these adjustments interact in a real image is more important than how they appear in a single test image where their effect is isolated for measurement or observation purposes.

The first thing to check is the color of white or what is known as white balance.  Go to 00:01:17 and pause that scene.  In this scene Bond is sitting in a chair in the dark.  Everything in this scene should look very black and white with no hint of color.  Bond’s clothing should look dark black with no hint of blue, green or red evident in his clothing or the background.  The same is true for the brighter elements like the clock faces on the desk.  The strong grainy look of this scene is the intended look.  This scene is also very high contrast in appearance.  Press play from this point and watch for the color shift between the current time scene and the flashbacks.  The flashback scenes will be tinted a sepia color compared to the current time.  If this color shift is not very obvious between the flashback and current time you are likely too blue with the white balance.

The second thing to check is to see if the other colors are reasonable.  Go to 00:25:41 and pause that scene.  You should see a woman with a magenta colored bag walking down a ramp.  This color should not glow unnaturally in the scene.  Go to 00:25:48 and pause that scene.  This should be a scene with Bond standing in front of a plane.  The sky should be a dark sky blue.  His flesh tone is tanned and looks very natural.  The airplane is off white with emerald metallic green elements and gold pin stripes.  All of the colors in this scene look excellent and believable.  Go to 00:35:37 and pause.  You should see a dark scene with a woman and green foliage in the background.  This woman’s skin is very olive colored and very tan.  It is easy for her skin to look too green and wrong.  Go to 00:57:48 and pause that scene.  You should see a train in the mountains surrounded by wooded hills.  The green in this dark scene should look very rich but natural even in the darkest elements in the mountains.  Go to 01:30:18 and pause that scene.  You should see  Bond standing next to a woman.  Her lips should be a very dark red.  His skin should look natural and you should see a nice  even flesh tone in the shadows.  Her hair is auburn and extends into the shadows.  When you watch this movie in general the colors in most scenes are bold, but should look very attractive.  It should a have a beautiful clear look like fine photography at an art gallery.

Third when you compare scenes like the one at 00:25:48 where Bond is by the plane outside and 00:35:37 where the woman is outside of the car you should be able to tell the time of day from the lighting level.  The daylight scenes in general should look bright and crisp like daylight and the night scenes should look dark and make you believe you are watching a scene filmed at night.  You should also get a sense of reasonable contrast in all of the scenes in this film.  Things should not look washed out or overly contrasty.

Fourth go to 00:04:12 where Bond is standing on a pale blue ribbon.  When playing this scene note the pattern in the yellow spades and other small details in this scene.  Nothing should flicker in these details.  Go to 00:25:49 and pause where a yacht is cruising by.  Watch the white line below the dark area where the portholes are located and the thin dark line below that while playing this scene.  When there is motion these slanted lines should be smooth and have no obvious jagged edges in a perfect display at normal viewing distances.  If these are not perfect there is some kind of scaling error in your system.

Finally, take a look at the Sony test patterns if your Blu-Ray player supports them.  To access them you go to the main menu and press 7669 (SONY) on your remote.  The first test pattern is the SMPTE color bars.  Through a blue filter the level of the blue should match the white and the blue in the cyan should match the blue in the magenta.  In the lower left right corner there is a small white bar on the black background that should be barely visible.  The easiest colors to see errors in are white and yellow.  The white should be color free and the yellow should be a rich lemon yellow.  None of the bars should look neon in color or washed out.  The second test pattern is a resolution chart based on ISO-12233.  You can download an example of what a chart like this would look like here if the image was perfect.  It is impossible for an HDTV to produce the resolution at the level shown in that example at 100% size.  The text on your screen should be sharp and no sign of color should be present in this image.  The thin wedges radiating in a circle should be sharp with minimal patterning in the circle.  The next test pattern is a gray ramp.  This pattern should be black and white only and be very smooth with no obvious steps in it.  If it has color the color of white is not uniform or correct.  Bit depth is not perfect if this ramp is not smooth.  The final pattern is a white on black field crosshatch.  All of the edges should be sharp and each square should be the same size.  All lines should be either vertical or horizontal.  No color should be present in this image.

If you have found problems with your picture one option to correct this is to contact me at AccuCal and schedule a professional calibration.  Another option is to pursue fixing these problems yourself.  This page lists what you will need to check and fix.  You can use something like HD Basics to help you with this along with various light measurement  tools.  Doing this well will require expensive tools and a large amount of time at best.  Some displays are also impossible to correct to provide a reasonably accurate picture.  These include Mitsubishi DLP rear projection displays without PerfecTint and PerfectColor controls.  Some people advocate adding an external video processor to correct a display, but that is not a panacea.  These products may add more errors to the process while correcting others.  In general it is best to buy a good display and fix the problems with it there.  A professional like myself will also advise you if your display is worth the effort or what display to purchase if you want to have a beautiful and accurate image.

W. Jeff Meier

ISF and THX Certified Home Theater Consultant

4 Comments
Don Bush

Jeff has calibrated 2 of my Plasma displays and the results were nothing short of STUNNING! The last time he was over he used Casino Royale to show/test the results, and it was very neat to have him point out what he was looking at/for. That’s the great thing about Jeff-he takes the time to tell you what he’s doing and explain it in layman’s terms.

He has also done an Audio calibration on 2 of my systems, and the results are just as good as his video calibration-AWESOME. He has “Golden Ears” because he can hear things that some equipment cannot detect. He also helped me pick out my gear, and also saved me from “over spending” on things or gear I didn’t need.

I’m not on Facebook so I can’t officially be “a fan,” but this endorsement should be more than sufficient. 🙂

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