If you want to get maximum performance out of your TV, a quick optimization can offer noticeable improvements while a fully calibrated TV often brings the performance of a given display to a whole nother level of accuracy.

Optimization refers to anything you can do to improve picture quality on your TV, without the need for a meter. This typically involves using your eyes along with test patterns and images to dial in settings such as the contrast, sharpness, motion processing, etc. But it can be as minimal as making sure TV is in movie mode when watching movies.

Basically, any effort to improve picture quality from what you get when you take the TV out of the box and push the power button is an optimization. Therefore, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more, depending on how granular you get.

And if you want to perform an in-depth optimization, there are many test patterns available to help you get a better picture of your TV. Some are free, such as the AVS Forum HD 709 patterns found here. Others such as the Spears and Munsil HD Benchmark ($29.95) and DVE HD Basics ($29.95) discs, cost about as much as a new-release movie and do help you get a better picture out of your TV, at least for HD SDR content.

Calibration goes a step further than optimization by bringing colorimetry into the equation. Using a meter plus software such as CalMan , a calibrator can precisely dial-in color, grayscale, luminance, and gamma response.

Better modern TVs typically have calibration controls that can be used to achieve a reference-level picture quality, which is the point where the human eye can no longer discern any color error. And some TVs even allow you to automate the calibration process, which can remove the tedium of performing in-depth calibrations.

The catch is that most people are not even aware of the fact that they can have a TV calibrated, or that there is a need for it. And even if you educate them as to the benefit of calibration, which is usually as easy as mentioning that their favorite director would almost certainly prefer it if they saw the movie on a calibrated display, once you tell them that calibration costs money and requires a scheduled visit from a professional, nine times out of 10, any spark of interest instantly evaporates.

One thing that complicates the issue is that some TVs come out of the box looking considerably more accurate than others. That's because if the TVs all contained perfect parts, and were manufactured perfectly, they would likely all have perfectly accurate color. But instead, variations in parts result in variations in performance. And only way to effectively overcome that is with calibration.

Of course, just as there are varying levels of optimization, there are also multiple levels of calibration. At its most basic, a two-point grayscale correction has the potential to make the most impact with the least effort. Simply getting this right tends to result in more accurate color.

A 10-point or 20-point grayscale calibration will bring greater accuracy to the procedure and allow the calibrator to address color shifting that varies by luminosity.

Calibrating the CMS (color management system) further enhances accuracy by aligning the primary and secondary colors with the color space used by the TV, for example BT.709 with SDR HD video.

The most advanced calibrations use what's called a 3D LUT to correct hundreds or thousands of different color points at varying luminance levels. You will not typically find this capability in a consumer television, however you can add a video processor to a TV, in order to add the capability.

So as you can see, there's a broad array of things you can do to improve the default picture quality of your TV. Whether you only spend a couple minutes and no money, or have a professional visit for a day and invest in a 3D LUT, as long as you're doing something to get a better picture of your TV, that's better than doing nothing.

The basic question is whether your TV is optimized or calibrated. However, because there's so much nuance to a "yes" answer, I have listed each of the scenarios I outlined above.



Have You Optimized or Calibrated Your TV?

1. I use my TV the way came out of the box
2. I set my TV to Movie mode, but that's it
3. I optimize my TV using patterns and images designed for that purpose
4. I use a two-point calibration, no CMS adjustment
5. I use a two-point calibration with CMS adjustment
6. I use a 10-point (or 20-point) calibration, no CMS adjustment
7. I use a 10-point (or 20-point) calibration with CMS adjustment
8. I use a 3D LUT calibration
9. I just turn on maximum soap opera effect in Vivid mode and call it a day
10. I have no idea what you are talking about

Click here to take the poll.