AVS Forum Special Member
Join Date: May 2008
Location: San Francisco - East Bay area
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Not only should you be able to see 17, you should NOT be able to see 16 at all. Most TVs can't be set accurately enough for that... 17 often ends up a little darker than it should be, but that's not the end of the world.
NO disc... ZERO of them.... can tell you the right setting for the Contrast control. All they can tell you is the highest setting you can use without losing steps that are above 235 digital which is 100% white. Video does have content in the range of 235-254. There's no detail there, but there the data is just for the sort of reflections you get off of chrome or water or a crystal chandelier. Some TVs NEVER show you any detail above 235/100% no matter what you do. Some will.
The highest Contrast setting is not the RIGHT contrast setting and it's not even the "Reference" contrast setting. Actually, there is NO SUCH THING as a "Reference" setting for Contrast. In general, we set Contrast to produce 30-40 fL (foot-Lamberts) for 100% white when viewing in a dark room. The whole point of that is so that you don't experience eyestrain in a dark room caused by the TV being too bright against a black background... your eyes can't decide whether the iris should be closed for the bright picture or open for the dark background, so you end up never being able to get comfortable and your irises are constantly opening and closing. The Test/Setup Discs only help you determine the HIGHEST Contrast setting, not the RIGHT contrast setting. You know you have 30-40 fL if you have measured it with a meter (and software to interface with the meter and tell you what the meter reading is). If you have no meter, all you can do is go by the eyestrain test. If you are squinting in a dark room, the TV is too bright. If you are NOT squinting, you are probably getting close to the right setting. If you can watch a 2-3 hour movie and not feel like you have eyestrain at the end, you should be within that 30-40 fL range for a dark room.
If the room is not dark, you probably want more light from the TV. But there's no recommendation for how MUCH more light you might want. In my experience, with electric lights on in the room at night, you probably want 50-55 fL. If there's sunlight coming in during the day, you might want 60-65 fL or more depending on how bright the sunlight is.
Again, the test/setup discs will NEVER help you achieve those levels for 100% white because you just don't know what you are seeing without having a meter to measure it. Plasma TVs might never get much brighter than 50-55 fL. LCD TVs can often hit 65-150 fL depending on model. Unfortunately, all the test/setup discs (there are NOT really calibration discs since you really need a meter to calibrate) try to make you believe they are helping you find the best Contrast setting, but they LIE. Back in the days of CRT, most of the time you did want to use the highest possible Contrast setting because picture tubes were often barely bright enough to be satisfying (with a few exceptions here and there). Most digital video displays can get brighter than CRTs ever could. So the old "story" all these discs are telling is really no longer true. There may be some value in learning whether your TV shows steps above 235/100% (the maximum you should ever see is 254/109%), but that is far different from learning the right Contrast setting. If you decide you want 35 fL for 100% white, the only way you are ever going to know you have 35 fL is if you have a meter (and software) to measure it (which means using the right sort of test pattern which is available on some test/setup discs, but not too many of them.
"Movies is magic..." Van Dyke Parks
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