AVS Forum Addicted Member
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Great points Seth!
(And yes, you're right, the color is the least accurate part of my screen shots. I started off correcting the color to exactly match my display, but that got exhausting and I gave up).
My experiences have simply led me to take a peek beyond the AV "common wisdom" to see what's there...and report what I see:-)
One reason I've written about my calibration is for interests sake, to offer an alternative voice. Almost every thing I'd ever read in regards to calibration amounted to the same message: Try as you might, your display will never reach it's potential - look it's best - unless you've employed at an AVIA, or VE calibration disk, or best yet had a Pro do your display. It just seems to go almost entirely unquestioned that once a Pro has dialed your display, you've reached the pinnacle of image quality. Whenever someone raises their hand to say "Uh, I don't find the calibrated image as convincing as my settings...." They are typically dismissed with: "Oh, then you don't know what a good image is, or you just like inaccurate images."
I've just been trying to high-light the fact that accuracy to the source is one issue, "image quality" - how believable an image appears - can be considered another. So many people have tied the notion of image quality to NTSC standards of accuracy, that it seems they cannot consider image quality as existing outside of those specs.
Plasmas are a good example. When I was researching my TV purchase common AV wisdom kept repeating that plasma image quality was "not there yet...not in league with CRTs of any stripe." CRTs were able to jump through all the CRT-based NTSC calibration hoops, which bolstered the assertion that CRT was therefore, obviously, better. When I first saw the Panasonic 3UY plasma - the first plasma with truly good black levels and lack of motion smear - I had never seen such a gorgeous, realistic image from a "TV" in my life. I thought: "Hold on here. I've got as critical an eye as any other videophile and this is the most convincing image I've seen. Time to stop swallowing specs arguments and examine what it is that plasma is doing so well that impresses me so much."
The same issues applied when I actually had the plasma ISF calibrated. I'd swallowed the idea that ISF calibration was THE way to maximize perceived image quality. When that didn't happen it forced me to examine why (and I've explored the issue quite a bit more, since).
My Panasonic plasma has pretty deep blacks for plasma - just deep enough to look quite satisfying to me, or at least not detract or wash out the image. Still, my ISF guy showed me via test patterns how it lost information at the very end of the gray scale. For him, this invalidates the plasma as being "reference quality" and puts it as an inferior device to a CRT tube set. Emphasis on NTSC standards and perfection of the gray scale apparently leaves many ISF guys immune to the charms of plasma's other strengths. Sure a Sony XBR tube set is going to get the lowest black levels better than my plasma. But I've never, ever seen a CRT tube set create images as jaw-droppingly "there" and real as my plasma does every day. The problem is the other technical strengths of plasma, and their very pertinent subjective effects, seem to go unrecognized in much of the AV industry. For instance, in discussing CRT RPTVs vs plasma, a typical refrain from the RPTV aficionados is: "Yeah, plasmas are brighter, but that's all." There is no acknowledgment of what "brighter" means to an image, or emmissive vs reflective (RPTV/FP) images and their subjective effects. What if "brighter," in the context perfectly even, emmissive display like plasma, really does confer substantial qualities to an image that a reflected RPTV technology does not? For me, RPTV images look like light projected at me through a film strip (borrowed that description). But good plasma images can look solid, there, real in a way I've never seen from RPTV. But, because it can be pointed out that a CRT RPTV will better track the lowest gray scale, such benefits of plasma tend to remain un-inspected, or dismissed as non-essential to image quality.
I've been trying to Highlight that, as in both the issues with plasma and ISF calibration, accuracy to NTSC standards (and to the original source) is one thing, but that evaluation of "image quality" can occur outside the bounds of those objective standards. And when they are, there are some valuable observations to be made.