Sunday, 31 March 2013

Are You Seeing the Right Colour? An ISF Tale....

So you enjoy a good 2 hours movie on your telly or projector screen and you tell yourself...'The image on that movie was soooo real! ....or the graphic was so life like'...

The question...what is real? Is that blue colour on Avatar creatures that you see is the blue colour that was intended to be displayed by the movie director?

Is that red and gold colour on Iron Man are the real colours that is suppose to be?

To top that, have you ever feel that certain night scenes are too bright that you dont feel that it was night time?

Or do you experience fatigue even by watching 2D Blu ray movies?

Read on if you are interested to know my recent experience in answering these questions...

I purchased my 55" Samsung LED TV Series 7 sometime in Nov 2009 when LED TV first hit the Malaysian shores. I remembered that time in SenQ in Miri, Sarawak where I was suppose to go there to buy a rice cooker and end up purchasing this TV instead after being so fascinated with the visual display of the TV. (And of course, I forgot to buy the rice cooker !!)...However, when the TV was delivered the next day and set up in my house, I was tad dissapointed to see the picture was not as sharp and vivid compared to the show room. It was just plain dull. Trying different settings did not help at all where I have to mess around with it for each movie I watch. I ended up putting the TV on Dynamic mode for all purpose of watching...may it be Bluray, DVD, Astro or games. Which initially it was OK as all the colours are boosted to the max...

It got worst recently that I get too fatigue and dizzy after each movie I watch....and mine is not even a 3D set up !

Will change to projector screen improve the experience? Will a bigger screen improve my movie experience?

So, while I was scouting around for a bigger TV or a better quality TV or projector screen, I was informed about TV/Projector calibration to a reference imaging standard.

What is ISF? It stands for Imaging Science Foundation. They are in the Display Standards Industry and since 1994 has been dedicated to improving the quality of electronic imaging. You can read more a bout it here:

In Malaysia, AV Designs provides this service as part of a TV/projector purchase package. But they also provide this calibration service to people with their own existing TV/projector. Curious to know about this calibration, I requested AV Designs to calibrate my TV. James Tan himself came to my house last Sunday 31st March to perform this calibration on my 3.5 years old LED TV. This would be the first time a calibration is done on an 'old-ish' TV.

The whole calibration session took about 3 hours but that includes friendly chats and also listening to my 2 channel hifi :)

Anyhow, James came with 3 basic equipments:

1. Chroma Meter

2. Laptop with software and USB cable connected to the Chroma Meter

3. Test patterns BD played on my Oppo 95 player

James was kind enough to explain a few things about the imaging standards using laymen's term. A few points that I think very important are:

1. There are international standards for colours as reference. With this standard, a red colour object can only be called a red object if it meets the specification outlines in the standard.

2. One of the criteria of a colour standard is 'temperature'. got that right....temperature in Kelvin. That is why you will find in the settings of most TVs now...the option of putting on a Cool or Warm display.

3. All colours depends on how good is the grayscale (black and white) colours are calibrated. Get this wrong and you will not see the standard set colours.

James went through several test patterns on the BD and with his computer, took snapshots from the Chroma Meter and the software processes the data. A pre-calibration status of my TV is displayed below. I chose to show the simplest information which was the RGB and Temperature distribution.

As you can see from these 2 plots, I have been 'enjoying' good BD imaging with blue as the dominant colour while Red and Green are either way off the scale or non existence. And I was also 'enjoying' a very warm image as the temperature across the spectrum was up to and even beyond 10000 deg Kelvin. The threshold for ISF standard is at about 6500 deg Kelvin.

To cut the story short, the following are the post-calibration plots. As you can, the RGB balance is there and the temperature profile is at average 6500 deg Kelvin across the spectrum.

So, who cares about plots right? The results post very very outstanding. As when I about to give up hope on my TV, this calibration injected a new life to it. Colours are more natural, night scene provides the feeling to audience that it was actually shot at night, and dullness is no longer there. The imaging is maintains the vividness and liveliness pre calibration but does not give that glaring, fatiguing effect on the eyes. Playing Star Wars Episode 1, the scene in the desert, I can actually see the separation at the horizon between the desert and the sky in which pre calibration, this was not visible.

I am not a good photographer nor do I have a sophisticated camera, so its a bit hard to show the difference but this is one calibration that one should try if  your TV experience is as dull as the movie Vanilla Sky. Even ASTRO B.yond benefitted from this calibration.

That night alone I watched Star Wars and Life of Pi back to back....and no sign of fatigue nor dullness.

Now I am thinking whether to take up this service again for my other TV downstairs. :)

DISCLAIMER: This is purely the results I get on my TV based on my not so perfect eyes. And for a better technical explanation, do visit the ISF page

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