Calibration Boneheads

boneheadSo what are Calibration Boneheads and is this disease isolated to only this hobby?  This is the stuff that gnaws at you slowly as you see it again and again.  Death by 10,000 cuts.  A slow painful death.  I’m sure more than just me dies a little bit inside every time we encounter this.  (And of course this stuff isn’t restricted to our little neck of the woods either.)

My background is in civil engineering and I’ve done that for 24 years.  My area is in the transportation planning and operations area.  Over the years with the many interchanges that get put into the roadway system, each interchange project almost always had some public open house event tied to it.  The residents in the area would be invited to come and view the plans for the interchange as well as the staging for such a large structure.  These things don’t get built in a day.  Usually up to two years or more from the planning stage to opening day.

As one of the engineers, we are there to answer questions from the public about the project and how it would impact their daily commute to work.  So one resident comes up and points out the property where he lives and we show how he might now exit the community with the completed project.  There is a small line up of people … and when he is done, the next in line asks the same questions and he lives in the property right next to the first guy!  Then another person after them and he is two houses down … oh come on people!!!  Doesn’t anyone listen anymore?

Now specifically in the engineering industry, transportation engineering firms would buy these traffic engineering software packages for $4,000 per license.  The software helps us to figure out how the traffic will flow on an interchange … for instance.  No one expects that the software has some responsibility to teach people how to be traffic engineers first.  No one even remotely gets mad at the software creators for not providing that.  The notion is absurd.  A specific tool for a specific purpose and priced at where professional level software is priced.  Software training for the program is provided once or twice a year at various venues in North America and the world.  The training is not cheap either, nor is the cost to get the people there to take it.  The software training only focuses on all the features and nuances of the software package itself.  But companies do this because time is money and it is still cheaper to get their employees up to speed on the software and being productive rather than fumbling their way through the program (and of course chewing up valuable project resources and budget along the way).

This is on the professional end of things.  Let’s also not forget that books on brain surgery do not have a section that teach people to be doctors first.  It is not seen as a problem with such publications.  There are certain per-requisites that are expected out of people that use such tools.

Now as we proceed down this ladder to the other end, we encounter my friend, the hammer.  I really like him and I can pick him up at any hardware store.  It’s most interesting that no one ever accuses the maker of hammers of failing to provide information on how I can build a house.  Like it was the hammer’s responsibility to do that too when we bought it.  The hammer has many functions from building things to tearing things down to smashing in skulls to … ooops  … should not have said that.

And now we tie it all back into the world of calibration.  For some reason, when some people buy the enthusiast versions of professional calibration software for $150 – $300, they have this strange expectation that it is the software’s responsibility to teach them how to calibrate TVs period and not only TVs, but theirs in particular. (Linear thinking)

The professionals that buy the calibration software at 5 to 10 times the cost level of the enthusiast never have these weird expectations.  Good documentation that details every feature and what it does is always appreciated, of course.  Just like those Adobe Photoshop programs that have like a bazillion features and a textbook on what each thing does.  Of course that program does not teach people to be a photographer though.

What is a realistic expectation out of the calibration software that we buy?  That it provides explanations of all its features and how and when they might be used.  Don’t forget about some hardware documentation for every piece of hardware that the software supports.  “Do this to get the software to recognize such and such hardware.”

The role that the calibration software really needs to play in a calibration process can be fairly small, although important.  Now when you consider the typical 10 step process of calibration (after you figure out what TV picture mode you should start in):

1.  Brightness

2.  Contrast

3.  Sharpness

4.  Color/Tint

5.  Overscan

6.  Gamma

7.  Grayscale

8.  Color Management Systems

9.  Environment

10.  Reference Material


The calibration program doesn’t need to come into play except for steps 6, 7 & 8; which is all of 30% of the process.  Although the software needs to get its data based on test patterns of some sort, the user is needed for that just like hammers don’t tell us that they need nails, nor are they magically supplied.  It is just funny in a sad way that some project the entire process of calibration onto the shoulders of the calibration software and feel cheated when unrealistic expectations are not met.  Or when they fail at the other steps of the calibration process well beyond the role of the software, and they blame the software for the poor results.

I don’t follow instructions … things don’t go well … it is a failure caused by someone else …  I am never responsible.  My 13 year old daughter is kind of like that.  I expect that type of behavior from children, but not adults.  Obviously, I am wrong.



Michael Chen

Michael Chen is the only THX Video Systems Instructor in Canada, and beyond these borders, is one of just two THX Video Instructors in the entire world.  He has actively consulted with Spectracal and ChromaPure and has created numerous education videos on the calibration process with still more to come.  His Video Calibration Training Series has quickly become the most comprehensive and simple to understand learning tool on the market today.  He has also taught classes for both the ISF and Spectracal as well and is now spearheading his all new TLVEXP calibration training program. Let Michael teach you Video Calibration and add that additional income stream to your installation and integration business

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