The start of baseball season, for me, is the start of a new year. Things that were once important become less important. Things I didn’t bother with before become big deals. For most of the year, a decent picture on my HDTV set is good enough. If Paula Deen’s crawfish etouffee looks a little fuzzy, it’s no big deal to me. But now that it’s baseball time, it would be a sin to get less than the best. So today, we’ll tune up your TV and cover some ground we haven’t bothered with before.
Your television set has some basic controls that can make a big difference in picture quality. Adjusting these controls can turn an acceptable picture into a great one. In the showroom, these controls are often tweaked to make the picture catch the eye.
But, what catches the eye doesn’t always please it. It’s the same at home; often, our picture is adjusted to be too bright and the colours are set so intensely that the picture almost vibrates.
We can fix that. As my old flight instructor used to say, follow me through at the controls.
Brightness: My guess is that you have this control cranked up too much. Instead of brightness, think of this control as ”blackness.” Tune the set to an image that contains pure blacks, or simply pop in your best DVD, find the right image and freeze the picture. Now, adjust brightness so blacks are deep and no longer grey. If you go too black, you’ll lose detail in the shadows. So find the best compromise. We’ll come back to this after the other adjustments to tweak the setting.
Contrast: This control ought to be labelled “white level.” That’s what it really adjusts. This time, we want to put an image on the screen that has intense whites. A person wearing a white shirt is a good candidate for this one. Set the contrast so the whites don’t turn grey and the details aren’t lost. For instance, creases and buttons should be easy to see. If contrast is set too high, the whites “bloom” and you lose all detail.
Tweak: Go back and read just brightness a bit, then check contrast again. You may need to go back and forth a few times to balance these settings.
Colour: Out of the box, most sets make green grass—the kind you’d find at any great baseball stadium—glow as if it were radioactive. Faces take on a reddish-orange glow. If your set allows you to set colour temperature, first select the “warm” option before proceeding. Now experiment with the colour control until both faces and bright primary colours—as in grass—have a natural look.
Hue: Your set may call this tint or hue. Use the image of a face. Play with this control to see how it works. At one end of the scale, faces are green; at the other end they become reddish blue. Try for a setting between the two extremes—no green, no red.
Sharpness: Think of this as the edge control. It adds definition to images by creating artificial outlines. Intuitively, it’s hard to be against sharpness. But, nature doesn’t outline images. With a good, crisp picture on your screen, move the control until there’s no visible outline and things look more as they do in your front yard and less like a cartoon.
Once you’ve gone through these steps, repeat them at least once. This time, you will make small adjustments. When done, you should have a picture that gets the most from your TV. If you’ve become accustomed to a picture that shouts instead of whispers, give yourself a few days to get used to the new look.
Those who want to take an extra step can buy a DVD that guides you through the process of adjusting your digital set. Frankly, I don’t think most folks need it. But, it’s fine for the purist, or if it gives you more assurance. It will also help you adjust the sound system you use with your TV. It’s called Digital Video Essentials. You should be able to find it at most large consumer electronics stores. If you can’t, Google and you’ll find numerous online merchants that sell it. Now, take a look at what you’ve done. Even the crawfish etouffee looks better.
©2008/Cox News Service