Video Essentials
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Digital Video Essentials

DVD International

Since the early fifties most homes in America had a television set in the living room. When you look at how the room is laid out inevitably the TV is the central piece, determining where everything else is place. The chair used by dad is prominently in front of the set with the couch used by the rest of the family nearby. The TV is the focal point of the family’s entertainment and has remained so through all the technological changes. Back then there was little control as too how to adjust your television set. On the front panel of the set there was typically a knob for tint, brightness and contrast. As junior played with the rabbit ear antenna dad would attempt to guess at what the best possible picture looked like. Most times his only guide was to make the flesh tone look semi realistic and make sure the sky was some shade of blue or another. This may have worked forty years ago but now with the fantastic technological advances in home theater it is not only possible to get an incredible picture it is a must. After all you just plopped down a couple of grand on that new high definition television, another couple of hundred on the Blu-ray player and even more on your surround sound receive and all those speakers that encompass your living room. With many thousands of dollars invested you are most likely not getting the best audio and video that you could. Even if you have a modest home theater setup when it comes out of the box it is not set for the best performance. The manufacturer of most audio video equipment pre-set their wares to perform best in the showroom. This is typically done by their marketing area to catch your eye and ear moving you to buying their product. Then when you get it home and hook up the morass of wires and cables you may think it looks and sound great but most times there is a lot better performance just waiting to be unleashed. All that you have to do is access the menus on devices and select the configuration settings and tweak things a bit. This raises the question of how do you know what the best settings are for the configuration of your room. The answer is surprisingly simple; get a calibration disc. If you prang for a professional to come in and do the calibration it could add a couple of hundred dollars to the already sizable investment. Every time you moved some furniture or changed the drapes you would have to have him back to re-optimize the system. If you really enjoy wasting money please, go this way. Most of us would rather save two hundred dollars to get more Blu-ray discs. All you need to do is spend about $25 and an hour or so and do it your self. Just purchase the Joe Kane ‘Digital Video Essentials’ disc. This will provide all the necessary test patterns and tones to bring your home theater up to peak performance.

Joe Kane is one of the world’s experts on video and audio. He founded his company in 1984 primarily to work with AV professionals to make sure they got the most out of their high end equipment and ensure they are incompliance with the standards set by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). In 1996 he brought his expertise to the home market with a calibration disc for Laser Discs. This was followed by one specific for DVD on regular televisions. Now he has expanded his renowned disc to reflect the new changes in the home theater including high definition television, Blu-ray and new receivers. He did have a HD DVD version out for awhile but now that the format war is over he has concentrated on Blu-ray. Contained on this disc are the same test patterns and calibration tones that the expensive experts would uses. So basically you will be able to perform the same tests and make the same adjustments as they would for a whole lot less. Another benefit is you can re-run the tests at any time to make sure your equipment will never give you anything but its best.

Part of the Joe Kane philosophy is to not just give you a bunch of tests out of context. On this disc is a complete explanation of what the tests do, how they work and the reason for having them. You get far more with this disc than just the test; you receive a comprehensive education on the inner workings of your system. It is important not to just blindly follow directions but to fully understand the rational for what you are doing. More than that is the information is disseminated in an entertaining fashion so it will not feel like you are going back to school. Once you go through the didactic sections you will not only be more knowledgeable in the workings of your system you will dazzle your friends with your acumen the next time the conversation rolls around to home theater. This is also something to consider getting before you make that big investment in a new high def TV or Blu-ray. You will no longer be at the mercy of the salesman at the electronics store when this disc will most likely make you more of an expert then he his. You will have at your disposal all the terms necessary to make an informed and intelligent decision when you upgrade.

There are four major sections to the main menu; Complete Program Menu, HD in Detail, Setting up my HDTV and Just the test patterns. You are naturally anxious to get right to the test patterns but take the time to go through the explanations it will be the best hour and a half your could spend. Also avoid the temptation of going straight to the ‘Just Patterns’ section. Once there the program will take you thought each calibration in turn. They all have the same format for presentation. First there is a brief discussion of the history of the specific control. Then they talk about the affect it has on your viewing and finally a demonstration of what the pattern will look like when your set is properly tuned. There is the ability to stop at the test pattern at this point and perform the calibration on your set. Once you are happy with the results and it is locked in to your custom settings section of you television you move on to the next. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to go through this the fist time out. For the color tests there are three included filters to look through as you adjust the settings. In practical use the blue is the most important as the program will explain. Typical of a Joe Kane disc all three are included so you can be as complete and accurate as possible. Once that is done you can move on to the audio section and do the same thing with your home theater receiver. There are a few tests in that section that require a sound meter that you can get at most electronic stores for about $45. While this is a good idea and a nice investment you can perform the test by ear. While not ass accurate the thing that matters most is how the system sounds to you; it’s owner. After this is all over you can sit back and enjoy your system assured that it is at peak performance.

I cannot stress enough how much this you need this disc. You spent a lot of money on your equipment so a few bucks more is nothing especially considering how much better your system will perform after you use this program. I have found that going through the setup a couple of times a year is a good idea just to make sure no settings have drifted. Since they are electronic this doesn’t happen often but it doesn’t hurt to check.

Posted 01/26/09

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