Display calibration is both an art and a science, requiring specialized knowledge and tools. The THX Certified Calibration Workshop imparts that knowledge in three intense days.
It's been seven months since I took the THX Certified Calibration Workshop right after CES 2014 in Las Vegas. Now, properly calibrated color is an obsession of mine. As a professional photographer, I've worked with color for over two decades, and I was certainly familiar with color and grayscale calibration. However, I didn't possess the holistic understanding of calibration that I do now—the workshop cemented my knowledge of the topic.
Taking the THX workshop requires a significant investment in time and money, so if you just want to learn how to calibrate your own TV, it's not necessarily the right approach—there are other ways to learn calibration that cost thousands of dollars less. The workshop is a significant financial investment that can form the foundation of a career.
The next THX Certified Calibration Workshop
takes place in Denver and coincides with CEDIA 2014. Specifically, the THX Video Level 1 class is Wednesday September 10 (offered as a part of the CEDIA trade show) and the Level 2 class takes place immediately after the show, on Sunday and Monday, Sept 14 and 15.
Here's a recap of my experience at the THX workshop.
My THX Video Calibration immersion lasted three days. Day one was taken up by the Level 1 workshop, a brutal exercise in rapid learning capped by a hands-on calibration. When you attend the Level 1 workshop and pass an exam, you earn the status of "THX Certified Professional."
Days two and three were devoted to the Level 2 workshop. The class shrank by a few members, which made the student/gear/instructor ratio even more favorable than it was on day one. That's a good thing, because both days of Level 2 training involved a lot of hands-on practice.
Zed works on an LG OLED HDTV
The technical side of TV calibration is approachable enough to grasp in three days, as long as you are reasonably tech savvy. The process is a bit complicated, and it does require some math, but ultimately you can become proficient at calibrating TVs in a matter of weeks—not years. However, calibration is also an art—it requires a good eye for color. TVs vary from one to the next in myriad ways. Two TVs from the same product line will not necessarily look identical to each other when using the same settings—to achieve a picture that is as accurate as possible requires individual calibration of each display device.
During breakfast on day three, an analogy popped into my head that illustrates what calibration is all about
: Declining to calibrate a TV is essentially like buying new tires for your car, but declining to have them balanced. Thanks to various factors, including how the tire mounts to the rim as well as wear-and-tear, it is impossible to make tires that are always perfectly balanced. The same thing goes for TVs—it's simply not possible to mass-produce TVs that are perfectly calibrated from the factory.
The techniques I learned in the Level 1 and 2 workshops helped me get a better picture on the various display devices that I own and review. Self-education was not enough compared to the knowledge I gained from the THX workshop.
During days two and three, I worked on or observed students working on Samsung, Toshiba, LG, Panasonic, and Vizio televisions, which included plasma, LED, and OLED models. I also worked on several projectors, including models from Epson, JVC, and Marantz as well as a huge LED-lit Runco with an anamorphic lens. THX provided a wide variety of measurement gear and a laptop computer for each workstation. We primarily used Chromapure software, but we also had access to CalMan. The broad array of equipment on hand was an invaluable part of the whole experience.
We had access to a wide variety of gear
To be granted full THX video certification, workshop students must take an online test and submit the results of 10 calibrations. Some calibrations are performed during the class, but others must be accomplished afterward, which means you must have access to the necessary equipment and software—another significant expense more appropriate for aspiring professionals than casual hobbyists. To prepare for the test, THX instructor Gregg Loewen recommends viewing the video series by Michael Chen
, who helped create the THX class. It's not enough to simply attend the workshops—you must demonstrate a working knowledge of the concepts and techniques. That's what makes the THX certification meaningful.
The workshop is over, time to pack up
Now, when I'm dealing with people in the TV industry and the discussion turns to displays and image quality, I mention that I'm THX certified before making any critical comments. Thanks to the credibility conferred by THX certification, I have their attention. That alone makes the workshop worthwhile.
If you are interested in attending the THX Certified Calibration Workshop at CEDIA 2014, there's still time to sign up; just click here to find out more
Full disclosure: I did not have to pay to attend the THX Certified Calibration workshop. I attended as a member of the press, and I agreed to write a review of the experience. That said, I think the workshop is well worth the price of admission if you are a professional looking to upgrade your knowledge and credentials. If you are into calibration as a pastime, it might be worth considering less-expensive options, such as Michael Chen's video series
, before taking the THX plunge. On the other hand, if you've got the time, money, and passion for calibration as part of your home-theater hobby, it's a great way to take a deep dive into the nitty gritty of video performance.
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