Professional TV calibration is important for both movie viewing and also for watching cable or satellite television shows if you desire an accurate image. Certified ISF (Imaging Science Foundation) calibrators use professional-grade equipment often costing thousands of pounds, which enables them to correctly adjust all image parameters. By utilising their test equipment they can achieve an end result in line with SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) standards.
This process will produce a picture which is much more accurate and pleasing to the human eye and may well reduce eye strain or fatigue. Many movies have a certain look intentionally determined by the director or director of photography. This look may have been derived from the original shoot or purposefully re-engineered during the post-production process.
When an HDTV is seen showing demonstration material on the showroom floor, it is usually in "Dynamic" or "Vivid" mode. These presets are often referred to as "torch mode" and some manufacturers even ship their televisions using these overly-bright viewing configurations. These picture modes are the polar opposite of an accurate image – the end goal of an ISF calibrator.
The first thing the engineer will do is change to a better staring point (typically "Movie" or "Theatre"). Once this has been done the technician will disable all of the unnecessary video processing options. These options lead to an unnatural look which produces a "Soap Opera Effect" (SOE) detracting from the original source material by applying additional smoothing. The engineer will also examine the ambient lighting where the display is situated. The level of lighting is important because the calibrator needs to create a reference mode and choosing a suitable contrast or backlight level is vital when aiming to avoid eye strain.
The ISF calibration procedure will take between two and four hours depending on the need for a 3D memory and also the number of source devices (DVD, Blu-ray, Apple TV, etc) in use. When the customer is feeding all sources though an AV receiver the calibration takes less time as a single memory is utilised by all devices.
Should you decide to calibrate the television yourself using one of the many software packages available for the do-it-yourself or enthusiast market it is well worth visiting AVS Forum. The Display Calibration forum there will prove valuable when searching for specific information or posting for help amongst the other more seasoned users.
Industry leading calibration software providers at the time of writing are ChromaPure, CalMAN and Light Space. Both ChromaPure and CalMAN are fairly straightforward to use for the novice. Light Space is predominantly designed for the professional market - either for manual display calibrations or those intended to be used by 3D LUT devices.