As an ISF calibrator for many years I find myself in a lot of homes to make their systems perform better. I am constantly amazed at how many systems have everything they need to watch HD video and listen to HD audio but have never seen or heard either. I find that about 5 out of 10 consumers fall into this category. Why is this happening you ask? 

Why do I need a check up on my system

Doc Greene | AV Expert

Why do I need a check up on my system
Or --- I thought HD should look better than that.

Author: Doc Greene, AV Expert

 

As an ISF calibrator for many years I find myself in a lot of homes to make their systems perform better. I am constantly amazed at how many systems have everything they need to watch HD video and listen to HD audio but have never seen or heard either. I find that about 5 out of 10 consumers fall into this category. Why is this happening you ask? 

The are several reasons several fixes with most of them being easy and inexpensive. So if you are one of those consumers who is thinking “that just doesn’t look like what I seen in the store” or thinking HD just isn’t all that, then I have some good news for you.

The wrong place at the wrong time.

In Houston where I am based we find the dominant local cable provider is Comcast. Comcast is notorious for moving channels around to suit some unknown desire to keep you confused. If you like to watch Channel 2 local you would normally find that at channel 12. ( That is because channel  51 is occupying the  channel 2 slot go figure)

But I digress. If you normally watch channel 2 in the channel 12 slot , it still works. You will find channel 2 there, but it is not in HD. It looks grainy and hazy with no blacks at all. You should be watching this in the 312 channel slot. But wait, Now it is moving to channel 612. Are you still with me? It's Channel roulette. Or as Dr. John so ably put it, “quick fired confusion”  in his song” Right Place Wrong Time”.

If you have Uverse, your HD channels are all in the 1000 + range. So while you can watch channel 2 in the 2 slot, it looks much better at 1002.  The trick then is to add 1000 to the channel number.

I like DirecTv better in this regard because they have almost never changed a channel number for anything in the last 15 years. Channel 2 and Channel 2 HD are right next to each other in the guide. To make it even better, you can easily modify your guide to show only the HD option. This in my opinion is the much better option.

You can’t get there from here.

This problem occurs when you have the wrong connection to your TV. I find that 8 out of 10 Uverse installs have this problem. If you pull your Set Top Box ( STB) and you see the familiar Red, White and Yellow connectors,  you have been become a victim of  Audio Video Malpractice. I see this more often then not. Or even worse I see only a single black cable coming in and single black cable going out to the TV. If you have turn to channel 3 to watch your TV  you are a victim of  Audio Video Malpractice. At this Point you are seeing your TV not in 1080i, not in 720P, or even 480i. You are actually seeing picture with an average of 240 lines of resolution. This is just wrong. Now you will need to get a good quality HDMI cable from your local CEDIA certified installer.

Once you have this cable properly seated you can then select the appropriate HDMI input on your TV using the source selection button and you should see a picture.

If you did this and you now see a picture, then you may have tp  go into your menu and make sure it is set to provide you with an HD picture. If you have Comcast you can skip this step because I have never seen a Comcast box that was not set for HD from the time of installation. If you have DirectV you will see some blue lights on the right hand side of the front panel labeled nicely with resolution rates. If your box is not set to 720P or 1080i then just press the RES button until it lights the desired light and you are done.  Uverse on the other hand makes it more difficult. You will have select menu and then scroll right until you see settings, then scroll down to picture options and then choose right arrow and then highlight the desired resolution setting and hit enter. It will come up with a message asking you if you like that picture, and if you do , then hit yes then menu, menu, menu, will get you out and you are done. If the screen goes blank, this means your TV does not like that resolution but don’t worry it will go back to the previous setting in 15 seconds.

Now that you are on the right input and have a picture, be sure to tune to an HD Channel If you have Comcast in Houston that would be in the 600s, If you have Uverse than the 1000s and if you have DirecTv  just dial in your local channels or almost any channel for that matter since they are almost all in HD.

Finally regardless of what kind of TV or display you have it could benefit from having a calibration. A basic calibration will not only give you a great picture but reduce energy usage, lower the amount of heat produced by the unit and extend the life of the device.

It should be done by an ISF trained technician. He will have a certificate and be listed on the ISF website as well.  A basic ISF calibration consists of  using the  SMPTE color bars and Kodak Blue filter for adjusting correct  Color temp, color saturation,  and Tint, and the PLUGE  pattern adjusting  for correct black level (brightness)  down to a  2% *tolerance  and  the setting the  White level (contrast or picture) once again  to a 2%* tolerance , then using the ATSC  Resolution pattern for to adjust for proper Sharpness level The price of this will vary from about 125 to 175 depending on your geo-economic area.

There is a more in depth ISF calibration procedure for those of you that have the top qulity displays and count your self as serious movie watchers. This calibration takes about 3-6 hours depending on your display and how many inputs you have, but for most people the basic ISF is all you will want.

I hope this helps you to achieve video nirvana in the future. Please feel free to contact me or the Imaging Science foundation website for more Information.

*not all TVs will allow this level of precision in which case the technician will  concentrate on getting the midtones correct for the  best overall picture.


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