|How can I do something like this with my HTPC? I use FFDShow for gamma correcton right now, but it adjusts the whole gamma curve and not just part of it, correct? When I adjust it to get acceptable shadow detail I no longer get absolute black during a fade to black.
1) Avoid using the FFDshow gamma adjustments, I believe it only operates in 8-bit. This will introduce banding problems.
2) depending on your video card, you should use that. Nvidia has good simple gamma adjustment, as well as I believe many have more advanced adjustments allowing you to make spaghetti out of your gamma curve if you so desire! It also makes these adjustments at I believe 10 bits at least, so this helps avoid banding.
When you are adjusting gamma, be sure to do it sparingly, and view bright scenes as well. Many times people will adjust gamma while looking at dark scenes, and keep seeing more and more shadow detail and raise their gamma curve far too much. What you are doing is crushing the contrast in the bright portions of the image and your depth will suffer and things will look postery and flat in bright scenes. The better way to do it is to move back and forth between a dark scene and a bright scene and find a good interplay between shadow detail and depth/contrast in bright scenes. Also, if you figure your CRT has a gamma of close to 2.5, you can just shoot for a target gamma maybe .2 or .3 less than that. If you have a non-LC machine, you will want to have a slightly lower final gamma number than an LC machine, because of the lower ANSI contrast (this means raising the gamma curve in the electronics more). An LC machine will maintain shadow details better, so there is less of a need to try to elicit low-end detail, and so you can be more conservative with your gamma adjustments.