DIY Plasma TV Calibration

Tags: Brightness, Calibration, Color, Contrast, DIY, Picture Quality

Don’t do this when you are tired or pissed off because it can get you even more tired and pissed off (and I’m speaking from experience). Considering you are not tired nor pissed off let’s get cracking!

Select the Mode

If your plasma TV allows you to switch between different modes, you should do this first. Common picture mode settings are Normal/Standard, Movie, Film, Theater, Cinema, Sports, Pro, Professional, Pure, Dynamic and Vivid. You should avoid Sports and Dynamic and especially Vivid which will wear up your plasma TV screen faster and are highly probable to offer very incorrect and unnatural image reproduction. In worst case choose Normal/standard. If you have Movie, Film, Theater, Cinema, Pro, Professional or Pure choose one of those. Try each of them and see how the picture looks using different signals (SD TV channel, HD TV channel, DVD, HD DVD or Blue Ray). Depending on that and what you intend to watch on a regular basis choose a picture mode from the recommended ones.

Disable Image “Enhancements”

Many modern plasma TVs have settings that are supposed to enhance the image. Such enhancements have names like Autocolor, Color Correction, Autocontrast, Noise Reduction, Edge Enhancement, Detail Enhancement, Flesh Tone, Black Level, etc. Unfortunately, if you have a good video source, usually they do more bad than good. Do try each of them the same way as you did with the “mode” setting and see how they affect the picture. You might notice that on certain types of content they have a positive influence – for example in the case of standard definition TV channels (SDTV), noise reduction and edge enhancement might look better. Even if for some type of content they seem to do good, turn off all of them for the time you calibrate your plasma TV. You can later use them if you find them to improve the picture quality – and this may be the case with lower quality content as standard definition programs.

Set Color Temperature

Color temperature setting changes the look of the entire palette of colors. It is important you set this right before adjusting the following settings. The ideal color temperature is 6,500 degrees Kelvin (K). Changing this setting to Warm, Normal or Low preset (whichever you have) should result in a closer match with the ideal temperature. Again, play with all the setting available just so you see how they look. Do this with all settings from now so you see the differences.

Brightness

This is also called “black level” and it makes the image brighter or darker. Setting the brightness too low will result in loosing details in the dark areas of the picture (e.g. shadows, night scenes, etc.). Setting it too high will make the light areas and even the whole picture become washed out. You want to set this in such way that you get a good amount of detail from dark areas without making the picture washed out.

Insert a DVD with a movie that has scenes with dark areas (you will probably want to pause where such a scene is) and set Brightness to maximum. Start decreasing the brightness gradually until you see the details in the dark area disappearing. Leave the setting at the minimum value where you get full detail in the dark areas.

If your plasma TV doesn’t have very good black levels you might prefer trading detail in the dark areas for deeper darks. See what looks better for you, after all the calibration process should make YOU happy.

If you bought a calibration DVD, this step will be more easy and accurate. I will explain this in the appropriate section of this guide.

Contrast

The contrast setting is also called “white level” or “picture level” and has to do with the amount of detail you see. Again use a DVD with a movie that has black and white (or very close to that) areas side by side. The border between the black and white areas should be very sharp as opposed to a smeared/blurry one. Go to a scene where you have a lot of white with impurities on it like a white shirt where you can see the fabric texture or a large area covered with snow where you see cracks in the snow or light shadows. The key is to have the contrast as high as you can while still seeing those cracks in the snow or the shirt texture. It should not become completely white; you should distinguish well the slight differences in color of the snow cracks and shadows.

As in the case of brightness, the contrast setting is best adjusted using a calibration DVD.

Color

It is also called saturation and it controls how intense the colors are. A saturation of 0% (zero) means the picture appears black and white. A too high setting will make the colors look unrealistic. A too low setting will make the picture loose its impact making it look washed.

This is a somewhat tricky setting because when you use it to make certain color tones look well it can make other tones look not that great. For example if you calibrate it correctly for skin tone you might end up with a setting value that makes the overall picture a bit unsaturated. If you make the picture look vivid, you might end up with skin that looks too redish like it would have sunburn.

Use a DVD with a movie as usual, find a scene where you have a close-up on somebody’s face, ideally having other objects of various colors in the picture and adjust the saturation until that person’s skin looks natural but without making the other objects and colors look too faded and without life.

Note that saturation can affect the three base colors (red, green and blue) differently. For example red might be too red while green or blue are more washed out. It is usually the case with red to be too saturated because it is enhanced by the plasma TV’s processing system.

Tint

You can play with it to see how it affects the image but it should be left at 50%. If you are using a calibration DVD you have chances of using this correctly, otherwise you will just mess things up.

Sharpness

If you have a sharpness setting you should leave it turned off when you watch high quality content as HD DVD, Blue Ray or regular DVDs and high definition TV programs. Applying the sharpness filter on a high quality image will make it look unnatural. When you watch standard definition programs or low quality content from other sources you can try it because it will probably enhance them a bit. Remember that a plasma TV, as well as any HDTV for that matter, is great at watching high definition content but for SD content it will probably enhance the flaws in the picture. The expression garbage in, garbage out comes in mind.

Edge Enhancement

Again it is a good idea to turn this off. This is somewhat a variation of the sharpness filter because it does the same thing (makes the image look sharper) but it’s supposed to be smart enough to sharpen (enhance) just the edges of the objects in the picture. It is also called VSM or SVM (Scan-Velocity Modulation).

Calibration Guides:

  1. Plasma TV Calibration
  2. DIY Plasma TV Calibration
  3. Using a Calibration DVD
  4. Hiring a Calibration Technician

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Comments:
  • thanks for the article it was appreciated…..

  • Hello,

    I own a TH50Pz700u Panasonic Viera Plasma TV.

    Video sources are PS3 BluRay and Motorola HD Cable box (Comcast). Both are connected to TV via HDMI cables ver. 1.3

    There are times when yellow-green distortion over images containing white, grey or light blue appear.
    They are not permanent. Could this be the video source or the TV’s video card? would calibration help?

    Thank you for your comments.

  • @Ozzie: I’m not sure what you mean by distortion. There are many reasons for the picture to have strange artifacts. It can be the video source, but if it happens with both PS3 and Comcast it is probably not that. It can also be the video (HDMI) cables. Or it can be the TV. If this is not something constant, calibration will probably not help (you can try it to be sure, however). If your TV is still covered by warranty, contact the store/service and let them know about the problem.

  • We’re gett ing a 50″ Samsung Plasma next week should we try to calibrate right away, wait ’til using it 30 days or
    “other”?
    ‘/
    ‘/

  • @Lawrence Wilson: Yes, calibrate it right away. Also I recommend breaking it in (see Break-In Section at the bottom of Burn-In Guide) especially if you will be playing games on it.

  • I have a Panasonic 42” 1080p plasma - I don’t remember the model, but it was one of the newer ones last year from Best Buy. Just a mid-level model. My major problem is that sometimes the bright colors (white, yellow, etc) seem way too bright and very fake. When I try to lower the brightness, I lose a lot of detail. When I try to lessen the color, it fixes the problem somewhat, but the rest of the colors are very faded. I am using the Cinema mode. I would also like to know how to fix skin tones in Standard mode. Very often, when viewingin standard mode, it looks as if the people are wearing too much make-up and does not look real. Any suggestions?

  • @David Ware: Google “[model name] calibration settings” (without quotes, you replace [model name] with your actual model name) and maybe you get lucky. For example “Panasonic TH-42PZ85U calibration settings”. That being said, not all TVs have perfect colors so you might not be able to obtain perfectly natural colors.

  • I bought the Panasonic G15 back in Oct 09, It has a good picture my problem is with their so called anti glare filter they say it has. Well if this TV has one and its on,it doesn’t work.at all. the reflection on this TV is horrible.. it reflects everything. I have it in a dark room. I wished Id bought a LCD now. It has a filter setting in the picture menu that says 3D Y/C filter. I don’t know if that will help or not. But it says off. And I cant turn it on. Ive read the manual word for word 3 times and it tells me nothing about how to turn it on. Any answers to this problem would be greatly appreciated.

  • How important to Calibrate a Samsung 58inch PN 58B8550 …. I like the T.V. picture as it is , I was told to wait 100 hours and have it done. Not sure if I really want to, any suggestions ………..Help!

  • Just got a Panasonic 54V10. The whites seem too grey. Any ideas?
    Brent

  • @Rick Darrow:The anti-glare filter is a physical layer over the screen. It is always “on”. In other words, they treat the surface of the screen so that it becomes less reflective than it normally is. The 3D Y/C filter has nothing to do with anti-glare. Some LCD TV models have matte screens - as opposed to the shiny screens of other LCD TVs and of the plasma TVs - and handle reflections better. However, the G15 actually outperforms many non-matte/shiny LCD TVs and most plasma TVs out there (except the discontinued Pioneer models). What you have to understand is that, no matter how good a TV is at handling glare and reflections, it will not do wonders. If you happen to have direct sunlight falling on the screen, a light bulb that is at an angle which makes it reflect its light off the screen directly into your eyes, or even some shiny objects that reflect light, you will get reflections no matter what TV you have. Maybe you should consider installing some blinds if the problem is with sunlight or light dimmers if it’s from the light bulbs.

  • @Rena Booker: During the first 100 hours you should perform break-in, but you can calibrate the TV from the start if you want. If you like the picture already, that’s great. However, you can search on Google for optimal calibration settings and try them. Maybe you will like it even more. The goal is to obtain a picture YOU personally like, which might differ from what an expert or any other person thinks.

  • @brent jibb: If you calibrated it, or you are using THX mode, no, I have no ideas.

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