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Fine-Tuning Your Projector

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Fine-Tuning Your Projector
The good and the bad...

There are various ways, and reasons, to fine-tune a projector. Manufacturing variations can mean the preset modes are no longer optimized if they ever were in the first place and certain methods can bring all-round improvements in picture quality. But there are two sides to every story, and many so-called optimizations actually risk worsening the projector's overall performance.

Filters


Improving a projector's color neutrality with a filter seems like a no-brainer: The lamp produces too much green, so you attach a filter in green's complimentary color, magenta, to cap the excess. At the same time, this lowers the projector's black level. But it also reduces the brightness of the overall projection, and can introduce scattering this will actually mean a reduction in contrast. What's more, many such filters are sensitive to scratching or even to the heat of the projector's beam, so they're not a hugely practical option.

Electronic Calibration


Actually, filters aren't strictly necessary for achieving color neutrality and we don't recommend them. Many projectors offer color-management systems that allow you to electronically adjust the level of the primary colors. Of course, not using a filter might mean you lose the contrast advantage, but there are other ways to achieve that anyway. Professional calibration costs a lot, but normally provides the best results. If you want to save money and don't need to have accurate results, there are cheaper consumer-targeted solutions, such as Datacolor's Spyder3TV color-management system (99 USD, pictured above). Alternatively, it's possible to derive correct brightness and contrast settings using a simple test disc on Blu-ray, many of which cost as little as 20 dollars.

Pink Screens

Another way to influence a projected image is to alter the characteristics of the screen. Some people paint a pink area onto a wall to improve the image's colors. But standard wall paints have unpredictable spectral properties and it's really a strange solution we cannot recommend. What if you change your projector? Change the paint as well? And do you really want to accept structures in your picture from a imperfect painting surface? It's therefore best stick to normal, color-neutral projector screens. Many gray screens, for example, have proven to be successful in improving contrast ratios.

For a discussion of the various approaches to optimizing projected images, read the full Projector Tuning article on Televisions.com. Do you disagree with any of the statements we've made? We're always open to discussing these issues further.
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