Best of CES 2018: LG-SpectraCal AutoCal

lg-spectracal autocal

As I wrote here, one of the most important announcements for video enthusiasts at CES 2018 is the unveiling of LG-SpectraCal AutoCal. SpectraCal’s CalMan calibration software can now automatically calibrate the SDR and HDR performance of LG’s 2018 lineup of OLED and Super UHD LCD TVs. Required hardware includes an i1Display Pro or better color meter and a pattern generator such as the SpectraCal Video Forge Pro or Murideo Six.

CalMan can also auto calibrate many Samsung TVs, but that is performed at the level provided by the user interface. By contrast, LG-SpectraCal AutoCal talks directly to the TV’s hardware via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, avoiding any potential conflicts between the user and factory controls. In fact, it ignores the user and factory settings and adjusts the native panel. This results in a 10% increase in calibrated brightness compared with calibrating from the user menu.

CalMan offers your choice of 26 or 42 luminance points to calibrate, and they are unevenly distributed with more in the near-black region, where greater precision yields better performance. Each point has a 10-bit value, and internal processing is performed with 12-bit resolution.

Also, the 2018 LG TVs now incorporate a 33x33x33 color LUT (look-up table) that holds nearly 36,000 data points. That’s a lot of data, so CalMan offers a new “matrix LUT” feature that takes less time than calibrating the entire LUT. It calibrates red, green, blue, and white at 100% luminance, which gives the same result as calibrating the user CMS (color-management system). It’s not as precise as the full 3D LUT, but it’s certainly good enough for most applications, and it’s a lot faster.

Calibrating HDR is especially tricky because the display’s tone mapping interferes with the process, leading to unpredictable and less-than-ideal results. So during calibration, CalMan turns off HDR processing using Dolby Vision metadata in the test patterns or messages from the software itself for HDR10 and HLG. Also, because the behavior of all video-display panels is based on a gamma of 2.2, the calibration is performed on that basis.

CalMan offered manual Dolby Vision calibration for LG OLED TVs last year. However, the calibration data had to be stored on a USB thumb drive that was then plugged into the TV’s USB port. With LG-SpectraCal AutoCal, everything is done in the TV—no sneakernet!

Another bugaboo about last year’s calibration paradigm was that, once you calibrated one input, you had to initiate a “copy to all inputs” command for the grayscale and picture settings. Even worse, there was no way to copy the CMS settings to other inputs at all; you had to manually re-input the settings one by one. In the 2018 version, all the calibration settings apply to all inputs automatically.

All of this made it a no-brainer to give an AVS Forum Best of CES 2018 award to LG-SpectraCal AutoCal. In fact, we gave separate awards to LG and SpectraCal, which is now a division of Portrait Displays. Tyler Pruitt, Technical Liaison for SpectraCal (L in the photo above), and Neil Robinson, Director of Strategic Partnerships for LG Electronics (R in the photo), spearheaded the effort. Congratulations to LG and SpectraCal for making the lives of calibrators and video enthusiasts much easier while improving the accuracy of LG OLED and Super UHD TVs.