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Anatomy of Calibration

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Tips from Michael TLV and Mr Bob:

Michael TLV writes:

"I had an interesting experience a couple of days ago with a client that I thought I would share. This person called me up out of the blue having been referred by the local A/V store toward my direction.

Having spoken with the salesman earlier in the day, I was sort of expecting some type of call. I was told the man had a Pioneer Elite Pro-80 16:10.7 unit from the mid 90's. Like 4 years old or so.

Well, I got my call and I was amused when the person kept referring to his TV as a Sony Squared. What is that? I thought about it for a few moments and realized that it was the 32XBR^2 set from about 4 years ago. A gem of a set ... at one time considered to be the king of the world in TV images. I always wanted to play with one of those units.

Well, as we got down into the discussions, the man mentioned that his Sony Squared had some problem in the image in the lower quadrant. Red Outlines ... a sure sign that the RED yoke needed attention. I told the person that I did not do repairs on TV's and suggested that he pursue this problem with a repair shop. I reminded him that I was a Calibration Specialist, not an engineer ... no wait, I am an engineer. I apologized to him and said that I could not help him fix this problem and was about to wish him the best of luck (thinking I did repairs) ... when he asked me what a Calibrationist did then.

I gave him a brief description of my services with the key words being "colour accuracy" at which time he interjects and says "I want accurate colours too." So a door that was slamming shut quickly was suddenly opening up again. An opportunity ... =)

The man went on to ask about pricing and my availability and said that he also had the Pioneer set that he wanted done. We worked out a price for both units and a time frame and I was actually off to his home the same evening. I told him that depending on what I discovered with his sets, I may need to make several visits because I could not be sure I had the right access code information at the time.

So I arrive at his place at 7 pm and proceed to get a tour of his home. A very large home in a very, very expensive, but older part of town. He took me into his audio room to see his equipment ... some $60K worth of stuff ... too rich for me. Especially given that I am not too much of an audiophile. I noticed that all his equipment audio or video, were mounted on the isobearing plates and the like. I thought about mentioning that I use squashballs to the same effect, but I decided to keep the old mouth shut. The man clearly had the green to get anything he wanted. =)

So we get back to the Sony XBR set in his living room. Still a nice set eventhough it doesn't have component video or HD capability. Sweet.

I started off by doing a tutorial with him about test patterns and what I use and what they mean. This helped to teach him the basics about good pictures as well as what not to touch on his TV. With the VE on screen, the tutorial lasted some 15 minutes, but I think he really appreciated the time to help him understand the process. He thought the red/green/blue filter stuff was pretty interesting.

With most people that I calibrate for, this tutorial was not necessary because they already know what it is I am about to do. Here we had Joe Average, although he makes way more money than me. =)

The Sony set ... still so nice ... and where did it sit on the pre-calibration grayscale readings? Well, dang good actually. Putting this set in the NTSC STD mode and the grayscale actually was pretty darn close to 6500K. It hovered around 6100 to 6300 through most of the scale. If I walked away, it would have been just fine. For $3K, this set better have a good grayscale and it did. Ever the curious one, I wondered if I could get the grayscale any closer ... and I got it to within +/- 50-100 of 6500K. It was closer ... but one probably couldn't tell the difference by eye.

Because of the nature of the home and the client, everything had to be simplified for his use. How to get to the best image without doing much. I built the proper calibrated settings so that they matched the TV's default settings. Accurate colours made easy. Hit reset ... and go to NTSC std and you are set.

The smile on his face made it worth while after I finished on this set. He still needed to fix the yoke problem ... It's a really great feeling when the uninitiated can appreciated the end result.

So now it was off to the Pioneer set in his home theater room. Service notes worked for this set, but I could not do as much as I wanted initially. The fun part was just sitting there trying to figure out how the remote contolled the service menu after I got it. Once again, not the friendliest service menu out there.

The client had mentioned to me that in the 4 years that he has had this set, he had not watched it for more than 100 hours ... why? Because the picture was just horrible in his words and there was nothing he could do about it. It looked better in the store ... and his $7K was a waste in his mind. Proof positive that RPTV's were worse than directview sets.

Number one thing when I entered the room ... I helped him take off the protective screen. Gone. Then he left me alone to my task. Seems he and his wife were now enjoying some good pictures up stairs on the other TV.

Well ... this Pioneer was a pain. Convergence was not so great, but I improved it a tad. The brightness/contrast/colour/tint/sharpness controls were available via the service menu, but no RGB drivers or cuts. Augh!!

I had to open up this one and access the circuit boards to find the screwdriver controls ... The drivers were found with no problem, but no "cuts" to be seen at all. Oh happy day. Yes ... the screen trimpot controls are the CUT controls on this set.

This set started out at 9000K pretty much across the board. It was not so great. But with a combination of the five controls ... I managed to get the set to straightline at about 6800K. It just couldn't get to 6500K. Still, a vast and very noticeable improvement. Once again, I centered all his user controls to the optimal positions to make the set friendly to him. Colour temp was set based on the TV's STD mode and he would never have to touch any of the controls again.

Disturbing note on this set. Horrendous red colour decoder. In the service menu, I had to take the colour setting up to +80 on a range of -120 to +120 to get the colour bars to match. Then as I watched the Jennifer plate, this was oversaturated in red beyond belief.

So down came the colour setting ... all the way from 80 to 10 before the image was more normal. Icky.

Closed up the set and ran the VE montage to see how things were and then I put in my recent favourite ... For Love of the Game in. Baseball and a chick flick.

I ventured up stairs to call the client down ... and when he came to see the picture ... I guess it put tears in his eyes ... I had tears in my eyes because it was 11:30 PM and I wanted to go home. =)

I've become jaded at times thinking that Joe Average can't tell the difference, but I underestimate them. They may not know what correct is or the science behind it, but they do know what a good picture looks like. A successful mission ... and I got some sleep.


Great job, I know that feeling. In my profile, it says, under the favorites heading, I say "Seeing the eyes of those who said it couldn't be done", or something like that.

The older Sony 32" DVs had convergence controls in them, on a vertical board with the actual trimpots facing up, to you when looking down. Properly trimmed, they can straighten out the crosshatch grid nearly as well as it can be straightened out on any RPTV. If it still had S inputs even tho it didn't have component or HD, there might not be as much convergence correction available, and possibly you'd have to go in via the little unlabeled hole in the back of the I/O A/V board, on the back of the unit, or possibly feed in the correct service menu sequence, involving Display, Volume up, etc. Did you reconverge it? If not, there's an even finer picture awaiting your client.

On the Pioneer, you didn't mention one of the most critical things that has to be done on ALL RPTVs that age, and when you do, you'll be able to go back to Jim Burns and say that you've seen for yourself what cleaning the optics can do.

The Pioneers esp. have inner optics that attract dust, and the lenses have to be removed and the coolant covers cleaned. I'm sending you my thread from 2 years ago on this forum, which details exactly how to do that without any lens damage. I will try to get the address of the Before and Afters of a 7 year old Pioneer up here, from a post last year on the HTF, where Ron Epstein, moderator there, threw up the pix I sent him via email. They don't do the REAL difference justice, but it is still obvious even to the untrained eye.

BTW, on a 4 year old Pioneer, be sure and be careful of the mid and s linearity controls in the service convergence menu. This is also extremely important on the older units, which have screwdriver pots that do the same thing.

The Sony's also have these controls, which are LAND MINES!

They are rebiasing controls that will shift your whole linearity and size settings. If you haven't marked the starting points on the screwdriver pots of the older units, or noted--WRITTEN DOWN--the numerical settings of these controls in the digital service menu on the newer units, you'll be forever just getting back to where you started, and THEN maybe improving things, once these have been altered.

They are called M S LIN, MID LIN, C LIN, etc. Everything but LIN itself, which is actually linear and thus is pretty straightforward. These others are not linear in the least.

The new 64 point convergence systems, thankfully, eliminate any need for worry on these issues.

But on units that are not quite that new, WATCH OUT!"

"Greetings Bob

The Sony set had the service menu access so that was easy to move around in. Since I don't do Repairs per se ... I wanted to keep away from that convergence problem on this evening especially given my time constraints. While I may have been able to address that, I thought it better to leave that to the repair guys.

The Pioneer set would probably have benefitted from a thorough cleaning, but again, given my timing constraints and the agreement on the services to be performed, it did not fit in this evening. I'll leave that for a future visit.  The improvements as completed were enough for him on this evening. Yes, it was like he got a new TV set ... and finally proof positive that RPTV's can also hold their own again directview sets.

Now a question for you ... how did you ever deal with all these people who suddenly decided that you were their new best friend after performing your services. I'm still getting used to this, although I think I may never completely get there.

Given time constraints, I did not tackle the Pioneer's convergence problems ... again ... something for the future. He'll probably be thrilled to hear that his TV can get even better still.

"Yes, it's quite a thrill, isn't it, when a customer finally sees what he's been missing all these years, which was always there all along! I love just seeing the looks of amazement in their eyes...

A lot more than optics cleaning was done during the calibration, of course, but these limited-resolution email transfers at least show the differences re. the optics cleaning.