The Case For TV Calibration

Introduction

I am in the market for a large 4K TV set for my home theater...which means I am interested in selling my awesome Pioneer Elite Kuro PRO-151FD plasma TV. In preparation for the big sale, I thought it would be prudent to know the number of hours of use on the TV. Earlier generations of Pioneer plasmas had that information readily available in the setup menu. The final (9th) generation of Pioneer plasmas buried that helpful info deep in the service menu, which was only accessible by using a service remote or special calibration software, like ControlCAL ($35). ControlCAL allowed me to tweak the picture quality far better than what is allowed by the basic adjustment menus, but it is no substitute for a trained and experienced ISF (Imaging Sciences Foundation) technician and their thousands of dollars worth of test and adjustment equipment. I will admit, that my previous casual attitude toward professional TV calibration has been blown to the far reaches of the galaxy just by this "lightweight" "consumer version" calibration software. A professional calibration takes around 4 hours and costs around $400, which is much less than the $659 retail price of the PS Audio Statement SC power cord connected to the Kuro.

ztfuphqximiq.jpg
Figure 1. Low hours. As of the end of October 2018, my Kuro had 5113 hours of use and had been turned on 809 times since being installed on 7/15/2009. This averages out to 550 hours per year, or 10.6 hours per week, or 1.5 hours per day.

I said this back in July 2009 soon after installing my Kuro:
The majority of the reports I have read indicate that professional calibration of Kuro sets produces only a slight improvement in accuracy and picture quality. I do not plan to have my set professionally calibrated.

Thread link: http://forum.polkaudio.com/discussion/86069/tweaking-home-theater-pt-5-pioneer-elite-kuro-pro-151fd-plasma-tv

In more enlightened hindsight, that was such an unfortunate decision.


How It Works

Bear in mind that I initially only wanted to find out the number of hours on my Kuro. Tweaking the service menu settings was a curious afterthought. My total cost was $73 ($35 for the ControlCAL v1.50 software, $13 for a 10 foot straight-through female/female DB9 serial cable, and $25 for a TripLite USB to Serial adapter). Detailed step-by-step instructions are posted on the ControlCal forum. The software comes with two "profiles", which are adjustment menus customized to a specific TV.

While the TV plays video content, or a test signal/test pattern, the profile settings are adjusted. I used (most of) the recommended settings for my set posted by a professional calibrator. The only deviation was that I set sharpness to 0 whereas the calibrator recommended -15. Smoothness down to -15 blurred too much fine detail. I like to see every pore, hair strand, wrinkle, and crack in the sidewalk.

Previously, I had been watching with the Kuro setting for "Pure" output using most of the recommended settings (except for sharpness) offered by the same calibrator. I used ControlCAL to unlock two of the three ISF modes in the AV Selection menu.

cxaku771x31l.jpg
Figure 2. ISF Day is supposed to be for watching in a room with lights on and ISF Night is supposed to be for watching in a room with lights off. ISF Auto automatically adjusts the light output of the TV according to the room lighting. I wasn't interested in Auto, and Night wasn't as bright and detailed as I prefer.

Results

I am hesitant to call my exercise a "calibration" because I did not use any test equipment, test signals, or test patterns. It would more accurately be described as an "extensive adjustment". Using the professional calibrator's recommended settings for my TV (except for sharpness) I achieved a picture that was more accurate in color and which had more depth and detail.

The following low resolution pictures provide some insight, but are nowhere close to what my eyes saw. The pictures were taken with one of my "toy" cameras, a 9 megapixel Fuji FinePix S9000. The camera was positioned 6 feet from the horizontal and vertical center of the TV screen. The room lights were off.

sjdwuhkanchc.jpg
Figure 3. Scene from Spider-Man 2 - where an unmasked Spider-Man is attempting to stop an elevated train speeding toward the end of the tracks. Left side is the Pure mode picture. Right side is the ISF Day mode picture. The actor's faces are supposed to be redder than usual, since Spider-Man is attempting to stop a speeding train with his bare strength and the passengers behind him are looking at the rapidly approaching end of the track and certain death.

In figure 3, both the Pure mode and ISF Day mode pictures have the exact same basic settings:

Contrast: 38
Brightness: 0
Color: +3
Tint: 0
Sharpness: 0

Pure mode has an additional 30 "Pro Adjust" settings. ISF Day mode has an additional 57 settings.

hzz8q3n6dvoa.jpg
Figure 4. Scene from Spider-Man 2 - Pure mode.

h116ao7xc5no.jpg
Figure 5. Scene from Spider-Man 2 - ISF Day mode.

In figure 5 and the right side of figure 3, there is more detail in the darker parts of the scene, but not at the expense of washing out, or greying, black levels. The actors' flushed faces are a more natural shade of red. This is not as apparent in these low resolution pictures, but the beads of sweat on Spider-Man's unmasked face are clearer and the light reflections on top of those beads of sweat are clear and distinct, whereas they are blurred in the Pure mode picture.

Details in hair, skin, fabric, furniture, concrete, bricks, and dark scenes were all more noticeable in ISF Day mode.

nersk973dvm5.jpg
Figure 6. Scene from Star Wars Episode 2. More detail in the Star Destroyer's metal plating. More of a sense of space between the Star Destroyer and the planet below.

12dqnp2qe99l.jpg
Figure 7. Scene from Star Wars Episode 2. Enhanced clarity, detail, and depth in dark scenes.

People who love Kuros have learned to love LG OLED TVs, as they are the closest we can currently get to a plasma quality picture with 4K benefits (sorry Sony). I was all set to sell the Kuro and pony up the ca$h for a new LG OLED, but I find myself getting more attached to the Kuro. Certainly, the Kuro's days are numbered in my home theater, but I am having to come to terms all over again with the thought of selling losing it. :'(
"So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
"Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
"Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
"Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK

Comments

  • westmassguywestmassguy Posts: 6,437
    Great writeup Ray. Like rediscovering an old friend.
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  • gmcmangmcman Posts: 1,488
    edited November 2018
    When I purchased my low hour Panasonic 65VT60 plasma, ( approx 950 hrs) I used a Spears & Munsil DVD to tweak the settings.

    I had thought the PQ was pretty good but wanted to get the best from this set so I had a professional ISF calibration done and like you said, was roughly $400 and the difference was dramatic.

    He spent a good bit of time on the greyscale in which he stated was pretty much the foundation for the image, then the colors layer on top of that.

    When he was done the images seemed to pop out of the screen...was well worth the price. The two cameras he used for the calibration were approx $15K and he was able to communicate to the set via his laptop.

    The settings he tweaked were much more involved, trying to set them based on a calibration disc or even just my eyes were no match for his gear...and the results were really a treat.

    Sorry, this is a cell phone pic of the screen when he was finished, I should have used my DSLR but even after the factors of WB, hand held shake, the image seems to float in the black background. The finer details of the person's skin are masked by the blur of the image due to the slow shutter speed of the pic...but was sharp as a tack.

    nopmyjcrcaqy.jpeg



    I'm with you on not wanting to let go of the set, and I don't think I will right now, but the OLED's have a lot going for them.
  • mantismantis Posts: 15,408
    Never again will we have a set like the Kuro. This is why when I was low balled when I decided to sell mine I decided to keep it even though I'm not using it. I love that TV and in my very strong opinion the best ever made.
    Moving forward and getting into 4k HDR and Dolby Vision is a whole new level of video perfection but it comes with flaws. What pisses me off is the fact the Kuro had no flaws, none. Burn in? whatever never had that problem and I didn't watch with the sun shining on the display.
    OLED TV's are supposed to have a larger problem with burn in and Image retention. This was one of the reasons I shy'd away from a OLED. The other reason is it's a flawed technology in the fact it can't get to the necessary light output required for HDR and Dolby Vision. 1000 Nit's is the minimum required output since most of what we have offered in our homes is mastered to 1000 nits despite how it was created.
    No OLED can get to 1000 nits not Sony and not LG. And when they try to replay the higher brightness levels they either crush the top end white level or crush the bottom end black level. In other words lose picture quality. This was the other deal breaker for me.I don't understand how a new technology based around 4k HDR and Dolby Vision would consider releasing a flawed Technology out into the world. It doesn't make any sense.
    Now on the other side I find OLED to have the best overall picture quality, Color accuracy and the deepest blacks since the Kuro. It's a marvel of video quality and IF you can live with the above flaws OLED is the way to go.
    The comments on LG being better then the Sony OLED's I disagree. I find the overall video quality of the Sony panels with their superior Processors to beat the LG's. Nothing wrong going either way but don't go by what is said by professional and online people, I suggest going to the Store and really looking at the sets your interested in. You can't go wrong just need to see what set you like better and how you want to lose top end performance.
    Now on LED market the Z9D is the King and now with the new Z9F I think that is almost as good as the Z9D in a few ways and better at Motion and IF you want to use the built in Apps , the Z9F is much better. I think the Black levels are better on the Z9D but good luck trying to buy one now. They are all but gone. Best Buy is blowing out any left over stock at stupid crazy prices so IF you want to grab one, today is the time or you won't get one. Best Buy purchased all the remaining stock of the Z9D models and once they are gone that's it.
    The Z9D only has 1 flaw, it's motion issues.LED people won't even notice it as it's one of the best LED motion TV's ever made. BUT coming from a Plasma you will notice the little issues LED's have with motion. IF you are savy enough to dial in the motion settings with moving test patterns you can make this issues almost a non issue. I'm getting use to it so I see it less and less. But when I first got it I hated it and had to fix it or the Kuro was gonna go back up on the wall and Screw 4k.

    Good luck ig you get an LG but don't discount the Sony, you'll be surprised how damn good all of the Sony sets are. The damn XBR900F models are incredible for the money and the best bang for your buck TV on the planet. IF I didn't get a Z9D when I did the 900F was going to be the one and that was over the 940E when that was out which was considered a baby Z9D.
    Dan
    My personal quest is to save to world of bad audio, one thread at a time.
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,837
    edited November 2018
    Making me wonder if I can "tweak" my Panasonic ST30 Plasma using a similar process. Cant afford a full calibration (been wanting one for a bit), but I might be able to afford doing it myself......

    It will live at my house forever until it blows up, moving from my Living Room to the loft when I decide its time to upgrade. Thats assuming I cant find something like a Kuro for there before then. I've seen a couple local but they go for more than I want to spend lol.....
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • motorhead43026motorhead43026 Posts: 3,289
    edited November 2018
    gmcman, how come Larry Kudlow, color looks great but that head........LOL

    2 channel: Anthem 225 Integrated amp; Parasound Ztuner; TechnicsTT SL1350; Vincent PHO-8 phono pre; Marantz CD6005 spinner; Polk SDA2BTL's; Cables ZU Mission IC's, SC and power cords, all into a PS Audio Dectet Power center.

    All TV's sound enhanced by Polk Magnfi Mini's.

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  • gmcmangmcman Posts: 1,488
    gmcman, how come Larry Kudlow, color looks great but that head........LOL

    I guess I was just blown away by the depth of the image, I just waited for him to stop moving around. Didn't give much thought to the final pic...ha.
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 14,353
    Having my Panasonic TV calibrated is the best money I spent. Too bad I gave it up..

    Check best buy Dan they did mine for 250.00
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,837
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    Having my Panasonic TV calibrated is the best money I spent. Too bad I gave it up..

    Check best buy Dan they did mine for 250.00

    Will do.... just not sure how much I trust them lol......
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,571
    edited November 2018
    gmcman wrote: »
    When I purchased my low hour Panasonic 65VT60 plasma, ( approx 950 hrs) I used a Spears & Munsil DVD to tweak the settings.

    I also used a Spears and Munsil Blu-ray calibration disc when I initially set up the Kuro.
    I need to redo the Spears and Munsil calibration since the set has new settings.
    gmcman wrote: »
    He spent a good bit of time on the greyscale in which he stated was pretty much the foundation for the image, then the colors layer on top of that.

    The ControlCAL profile had 27 settings just for adjusting grayscale (gamma).
    mantis wrote: »
    The comments on LG being better then the Sony OLED's I disagree. I find the overall video quality of the Sony panels with their superior Processors to beat the LG's. Nothing wrong going either way but don't go by what is said by professional and online people, I suggest going to the Store and really looking at the sets your interested in.

    That's exactly what I did. I compared the Sony OLEDs to the LG OLEDs in the store. Have you seen the current LG OLEDs with the latest C8 processor: LGOLED55C8PUA, LGOLED65C8PUA, LGOLED77C8PUA?

    I should disclose that I am a fully recovered former Sony TV fanboy. Pioneer cured me of that. :)

    I think it's disheartening, and somewhat tragic, that a 9 year old TV is holding its own, and in some ways better, than the current crop of sets.
    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 14,353
    edited November 2018
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    Having my Panasonic TV calibrated is the best money I spent. Too bad I gave it up..

    Check best buy Dan they did mine for 250.00


    Will do.... just not sure how much I trust them lol......


    Ours uses outside ISF certified contractors. Dan this was about 10yrs ago.
  • gmcmangmcman Posts: 1,488
    edited November 2018
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    Having my Panasonic TV calibrated is the best money I spent. Too bad I gave it up..

    I agree, that added cost has taken this set to a whole new level, and has kept me from purchasing a new set.

    I was going to move it upstairs and look for a replacement..but that's not going to happen anytime soon.

    I had LionAv perform my ISF calibration.

    http://lionav.com/new/
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 14,353
    Although this has not been mentioned. They would not calibrate mine until it had 300hrs on it at full screen. So all letterbox and 16:9 movied had to be ran at full screen so all pixels had the same use.
    Fyi
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,837
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    Having my Panasonic TV calibrated is the best money I spent. Too bad I gave it up..

    Check best buy Dan they did mine for 250.00


    Will do.... just not sure how much I trust them lol......


    Ours uses outside ISF certified contractors. Dan this was about 10yrs ago.

    Gotcha, then I'd be comfortable with them......
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • pitdogg2 wrote: »
    Although this has not been mentioned. They would not calibrate mine until it had 300hrs on it at full screen. So all letterbox and 16:9 movied had to be ran at full screen so all pixels had the same use.
    Fyi

    I used a "break in " CD that played a succession of full screen single color slides:
    The reason some type of break-in is required is that the screen phosphors burn much hotter during the first 100 to 200 hours of their life and are therefore more susceptible to burn-in and image retention during that time. A formal break-in process "hardens" all the phosphors against burn-in and image retention by quickly and evenly allowing all of them to "settle down" into a state of equilibrium. It is somewhat analogous to a couple settling in to the day-to-day routine of a marriage after an exciting honeymoon. Another analogy would be the high malleability of a metal when it is red hot and its high resistance to deformation when it cools down. Continuously cycling through a succession of full screen slides in shades of white, red, blue and green over a few days gives all the phosphors an equal opportunity to harden at the same time. Watching variable image content does not afford the opportunity for all phosphors to age at the same rate under the same signal stress.

    PlasmaBreakin-s.jpg
    Figure 2. The Kuro went through a nearly week long break-in process to properly and evenly age the phosphors prior to final picture adjustments.

    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 14,353
    Very interesting Ray I was not aware of that to be honest.

  • I used a "break in " CD that played a succession of full screen single color slides:

    Meant to say "break in" DVD.

    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,122

    I used a "break in " CD that played a succession of full screen single color slides:

    Meant to say "break in" DVD.

    It's much easier for a typist to get rid of a gap than an orthodontist, isn't it?
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,571
    edited November 2018
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    Very interesting Ray I was not aware of that to be honest.

    More discussion is contained in this PDF copy of an old Samsung plasma FAQ page. The actual web page, like plasma TVs, has gone the way of the dinosaurs.



    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • DSkip wrote: »

    I used a "break in " CD that played a succession of full screen single color slides:

    Meant to say "break in" DVD.

    It's much easier for a typist to get rid of a gap than an orthodontist, isn't it?

    Well, I'm not used to talking about video stuff.
    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 14,353
    DSkip wrote: »

    I used a "break in " CD that played a succession of full screen single color slides:

    Meant to say "break in" DVD.

    It's much easier for a typist to get rid of a gap than an orthodontist, isn't it?

    Well, I'm not used to talking about video stuff.

    One of these days you'll be more dedicated....
    :p :p :p :p
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