How to get a better picture on your HDTV

That incredible picture from your HDTV set is old hat by now. But it’s good old hat. Think back to the pleasant surprise when you moved from old fashioned analog television to modern digital TV.

Things are shockingly clearer now.

Well, prepare yourself for another shock. It’s almost certain – unless you’ve had your HDTV professionally adjusted – that your set is just limping along with much more performance to be had. Almost every television comes out of the box with settings designed to stand out on a crowded showroom floor. The colors are usually artificial looking and the image is too bright for watching at home. Even more important, because of those over-amped settings, your LCD set may have a shortened lifespan.

Today we’re going to tune up that LCD television of yours. Most of what we’ll talk about – but not all – also applies to plasma sets. This whole procedure will take less than 30 minutes and I guarantee it’ll give you a picture that is more accurate and easier on your eyes.

Here’s how to prepare for our fine tuning. Make sure your set has been on for at least 30 minutes before you start. Next, press the menu button to give you access to the settings for your television’s picture.

Let’s start with a control only used by LCD televisions. It is called the backlight. In almost every case the default setting for the backlight is way too bright. Some experts say high settings diminish the lifespan of your television.

So turn down the backlight. As will be true for many of the changes we’ll make today, you may not like the way the picture looks at first. You’ve become accustomed to the over-bright picture. So give the change a week or so before you boost the backlight setting again. My guess is that you’ll grow to appreciate the more natural picture.

We’re ready to adjust the black levels of your television. Oddly enough we’ll do that with the control most manufacturers call brightness. Just as was true with the backlighting setting, in most cases brightness is turned too high. So back off on the control until the blacks in the picture are truly black. If you turn brightness too low, you’ll notice a loss of detail in the shadow areas of the picture. Just move the brightness back up until you see good detail in the shadows.

Now let’s touch up the contrast setting. The best way to do this is with an image of a white shirt. Adjust the contrast control so that you can see details of the shirt such as buttons.

Your set can be adjusted for a thing called color temperature. All you really need to know about color temperature is that getting it right will make skin tones look natural. Most sets can be adjusted based on a measurement of color temperature called Kelvin. The standard set for HDTV is 6,500 degrees Kelvin. Try that setting. Not all sets will have temperature measured in Kelvin – some sets will have color temperature settings called normal, warm, cool, etc. Try the normal setting in that case.

The easy way to check the setting is by looking at a face – preferably someone with a light complexion. The picture should look natural – not too red, not too blue. Even if getting that image involves ignoring my advice above, adjust the temperature so the face looks natural.

While you’ll find other picture settings on most televisions, these changes should do the trick. And you can always tinker with the other settings to fine tune the image.

Now there’s one last step – we’re going to go back through the list of changes we just made and do it all over again. Here’s why. Changing one adjustment can influence how the other settings should be adjusted. So start from the beginning and tinker to get the picture just right.

Give the new setting some time. I’m pretty sure that, after a week or so, you’ll find that your picture is much more natural and pleasing.

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