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Datacolor SpyderTV Display Calibration Kit

Part II

December, 2005

Ofer LaOr

 

When starting up, the system first asks you to select a display type and then fill out the model and initial display settings. This includes the current values for brightness, contrast, color, tint and the value for color temperature.

In situations where actual values are inaccessible, the system requires you to count remote control button clicks, which can be quite exhausting. Once you enter the current values, you need to also enter the minimum and maximum settings that your display allows. For color temperature, you need to edit the list of possible values.

The system starts with a few simple black (0 IRE) and white (100 IRE) window patterns. This allows the system to determine the optimal point for brightness. In this respect, the system reached a very similar result as DVE/AVIA settings.

Contrast is a bit more problematic. The system’s approach is quite different from DVE/AVIA, as it retains a 100 IRE window and asks you to change contrast levels accordingly. The same logic that works well for brightness doesn’t quite work here.

The system determines the maximum value that the display produces and then attempts to seek out the minimal point that comes close to that peak. However, the system does not take into account blooming, brightness detail, or the danger of burn-in for plasma displays. I would therefore strongly advise people to use common sense in conjunction with the system. That usually means a lower contrast value (longer lifespan for plasmas and direct view CRTs) and to double-check the results with a brightness test pattern.

The system keeps updating the results by slowly homing in on the ideal point. Color calibration alternates between blue and white, while tint uses secondary colors to perform the calibration. Once color and tint are set, the system moves on to the most interesting value – color temperature.

In this case, the system provides us with a list of possible values – essentially the list of color temperature settings of your display device. The system then attempts to lock down on the closest one to 6500K. In my case, the objective was to find out if Cool, Hot, or Normal was the closest to the 6500K (what SpyderTV calls "the target").

I strongly missed the R/G/B comparison graph from ColorFacts Pro and a gamma calibration wizard, which would make the system much more powerful. Of course, more power is available in ColorFacts Pro.

Conclusions

I found no significant problems with the sensor itself – it seems to be quite repeatable and stable. The results of my tests (performed on the 37PF9830 Philips 1080P LCD panel) produced significantly better results than results I obtained with DVE and AVIA.

I found the feature set a bit short, and was hoping for more numbers. Obviously, the system was designed with novices in mind and does its best to hide inconsequential values from the user.

I liked the high and low cd/m2 values (allowing one to calculate contrast ratio) and thought it was a cool addition. The systems reports are very nice and add more class to the data.

A full-blown gamma aware D65 calibration would have come much closer to the perfect calibration, of course, but costs for such a system start at around 4 times the cost of SpyderTV.

This is where the 10/90 law comes in. With a system costing approximately 10% of a full calibration, you get roughly 90% of the calibration functionality.

SpyderTV is a huge step in the right direction from a basic disc-based calibration system and will serve consumers with little or no experience at calibration. It does the job and is inexpensive.



- Ofer LaOr -

Mr. LaOr is Editor of Hometheater.Co.Il, a Hi-Fi magazine published in Israel. He is also the moderator for the AVS Forum Video Processing section.

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