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Dog Sitting in Atlanta
Greetings! A chance to reflect on the recent Atlanta tour and some of the lighter
and darker moments in the week.
"Tranquility Base to Houston ... the Eagle has landed." Boy did this
statement ring true on the tour. The Eagle had landed, but not on the moon ... but
on the lenticular screen of the RPTV. I caught the toppling brass statue from the
top of the TV and proceeded to heavily scratch the front of this particular set. So
awful ... an accident. Reflex action was there to catch the object but the
continuing motion of the hand took the statue straight into the screen. Stuff
happens ... and in the back of my mind ... I got absent minded for a moment and paid the
price for it. In the grand scheme of things, it could have been much worse too.
The nightmare for the calibrator is not about the accidents that might occur and
Murphy's Law says will ... You do it long enough and you will eventually have some form of
accident that you are responsible for. My nightmare is to "blow a
calibration." That in itself is the worst case scenario. Hasn't happened
yet and am ever vigilant that it never will.
This was an interesting trip in the sense that most of the clients on this particular
tour lives in the northern burbs of Altanta. I also got a chance to see just how big
Hartsfield International Airport was. At least six concourse levels and a subway
system to shuttle people to the various concourses. Gregg Loewen, a moderator from
the HTF joined me on this tour in order to "understudy" / "Apprentice"
with me on the art of calibration. The mere mention of either of these two words sends
chills down the spine. I'm not that old and yet I was supposed to take on an apprentice
... such an odd feeling and something just plain wrong about the picture. I
was just some enthusiast puke not too long ago and now ...
So with Gregg in tow, I rented a roomy Dodge Intrepid for the week. (Note to self
... never upgrade at the counter because they really get you good there. Where
internet upgrades cost a mere few dollars a day ... here we looked at $13 a day.) I
could go one further about how I hated that car and its high rear end. Shoulder
checks for people even of average height was a challenge in this set,
The housing arrangements this week were funny in the sense that the organizer (Andrew)
was to be away for most of the time so he graciously offered up his home as our home away
from home. There was just one catch ... dog sitting. I hate to admit it, but I
never did remember the dog's name and spent the whole week calling him
"dog." Gregg OTOH kept calling the dog "Puppy Dog" even though
the dog was getting on in years. Having never been a dog owner, I wasn't quite sure
what Andrew meant before he went out of town when he said that the dog liked to sleep with
people so I should close my door.
Well onto the calibration details. The two main films being demoed on this trip
were "Bring It On" and "Shakespeare In Love" with the occasional
contribution from "Gladiator." The usefulness of Bring It On was in the
opening scene where the cheerleaders do their routine. This is a very RED scene and
included plenty of fleshtones. If there were colour decoder errors here ... we would
know ... It is also a great guage for setting the
colour and tint when you do not have access to the serive modes on the TV.
SIL ...we kept watching the contents of Chapter 8 over and over. The things we
were looking at in this scene were two fold. As the scene closes, Will is at the bar
talking with Marlowe ... look at the detail in Marlowe's costume. And better yet ...
look at the detail in Marlowe's face on the close ups. The scene ended up being a
way to test both the DVD player and the TV. The dreaded beast known as edge
enhancement would jump out at us many times in this scene. This was a big issue
with the Mits units I worked on, Okay, so where is the enhancement? On the
medium shots of Marlowe at the table ... observe the white sleeves and follow their
edges. When EE is out of control ... the edges just start to glow ... and that part
of the image becomes terribly distracting to look at. This scene was also great for
demonstrating the limitations of certain Progressive scan dvd players. On some
players ... the fine details on Marlowe's face were completely obscured or muddied.
Now here is the rub ... if you didn't know there was additional detail on his face, you
would not look for it and you wouldn't miss it. We saw so many of those poor
performers that Gregg actually started to notice what I was talking about. And when
we went to some of these people's homes and saw the guilty players sitting there ... a
silent cringe. On Gladiator ... Gregg kept going to the Tigers arena section.
We also were building ourselves some primative red push attentuators for the Mits
people on the tour. We kept going to the different radio shacks and buying every
variable attenuator they had. Typically, each store seemed to only carry one ...
Just a little bonus here and there. Additionally, I picked up a Cinema 7 remote
and we also offered the 3:2 pulldown turn on service for the Toshiba sets when
needed. Not a big deal and so simple in its execution. No waiting in
First up after arriving on Sunday was a Toshiba 40H80 ... and that was pretty much how
the tour went. Some 16 units including 5 mits sets, 2 Sony sets, One Panny, and the
I wont harp too much about Greggs navigating ability since he admitted to
me that he was pretty bad. It was really nice to have him along though as it provided some
much needed relief between calibration in the social animal department. I also have to
thank Gregg for introducing me to the Waffle House
Like weeds, they are literally
everywhere you look. First up after leaving the airport and checking in at the hosts
home was a 40H80 Toshiba coupled with a JVC progressive scan DVD player. Things were
fairly straight forward with nothing out of the ordinary to report. The Calibration went
like clockwork and the evening ended with promises of prized steak
but we never got
around to checking out because of the timing. Too much to do with too little time.
The host lived in a very nice and spacious home, but it had a killer driveway that was
at such a steep grade that it taxed my backing up ability. I really hated driving up that
driveway and I hated the car we had rented. Nothing like backing up blind
When it rained
and that it did, the ceiling leaked.
Errol suggested that I call the Atlanta trip "Dog sitting in Atlanta" because
that was almost the way it was. The host gave us the run of the home when he had to leave
town for most of the week to go on business. And while we did not have to feed his dog, we
did end up doing something most unexpected. Playmates
When someone says to shut your door at night if you do not want the dog sleeping with
they mean it. The dog just crawls into bed with you and lays there all night.
In the end, I just gave up and let the dog have his way with me. I just fed him a few
Krispie Kreme Doughnuts along the way
tempered with some fruit. I hope he was not
After working on the hosts 65" mits, the next set on line was a TW56X81
Toshiba which was being set up for both HD and SD signals. And here is a situation where I
have to remind myself and others that when I do specialized set ups and colour temperature
off sets, remember what I said when I said it. Please do not ask me two months down the
road what the instructions were for your specific situation because quite frankly, I no
longer remember. Too many people and too many sets later
This one was memorable because I had to crawl behind the TV to do some wiring and I
noted there were some dead bugs back there. The client said not to worry since they were
dead. I begged to differ since these bugs were freaking huge where bugs are concerned. Big
dead bugs, but were just hibernating and would they wake up in the presence of human blood
Up next was a 65H80 Toshiba and this one would lead to some banter all week between
Gregg and myself. Couldnt quite make heads or tales of the client since he was so
we figured it was just his manner
He had a JVC progressive scan unit and I finally just told him that I dont like
these units at all. I felt that their performance was sub par compared to Toshibas,
Pannys, Sonys. I recommended that he go for a Panny RP91 and so he mail ordered for one.
As a result of this action, we told him that we would return later in the week to see what
difference it would make and I would make some slight grayscale adjustments to compensate
for the differences in grayscale between DVD players. Things would take a strange turn
when next we saw him. Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves that the TV is in the end,
the clients TV and he can make it look anyway he chooses. For when we returned later
in the week, the colour analyzer gave some interesting readings. They were a little too
different from the previous JVC unit. The image was too blue
and it was then that
both Gregg and myself realized what had happened. In the ensuing days between visits, the
client appeared to have gone into the service menu and changed the grayscale values to
match something that was more pleasing to his eye.
While we never brought this up, both of us knew what had happened. I just shake my head
in situations like this. What can I do about it and what the point of having me come in to
work on the grayscale.
Next up was a 55" Mits in one of these secured communities. We ended up having to
wait at the gate since the client had not gotten home just yet. We also gave him a couple
of the Mits red push attenuators that I had built in between clients every time we went by
a Radio Shack. The apartment was an interesting set up because you just knew this was a
guys pad where no woman had ever tread before. Stuff all over the place
Pirate Satellite stuff
literally no place to work or site.
This is the first time I encountered a Mits that was really, really bad out of the box.
Poor Focus and extremely sensitive to vibration. The mere act of moving the TV out a bit
would throw out the convergence in a very annoying way. As the evening continued, I
mentioned to Gregg that there was a 32" Sony WEGA interlaced set in the corner of the
room and that maybe he and the client should go get some practice with my laptop colour
analyzer, the CA-1. Gregg wanted to apprentice and this was his first big grayscale
calibration attempt. (He would get better at this.) This got both of them out of my hair
and I could finish up the job. I would also end up supervising the calibration of the Sony
This was likely the evening that the Dog invited himself into my bed well before I was
ready to turn in. He knew I would close the door on him
The next morning we arrived to work on my own TP61H95 clone. The client wanted not only
the usual full meal deal, but he also asked for the creation of the 16:9 mode on his TV.
This mode was created for the HDTV mode and not for the 480P mode. What was interesting
about this client and his set up was that he was using a new HDTV tuner card for his HTPC
and it was capable of recording HDTV off the air onto his hard drive. He had taped some of
the PGA tournament and it looked great. A hog for space though.
Number two on the day was a 36" Sony HD unit. The HS20. This was an interesting
trip since the client was going through a marriage break up and he had relocated to a
condo. He then loaded the condo with boy toys of all sorts. The grayscale took 10 minutes
to complete. And with documentation, we were out of there fast. The client was actually
playing with his new NEC DLP projector so he was distracted during our stay.
The next client this evening was not sure that we would even make it, but we did. His
home had apparently just taken a lightning strike not too many days prior to us arriving
so most of his equipment was toasted and very dead. The elaborate surge protection that he
had in place did him no good and as usual, no way to make the makers of the surge
protection to actually pay for the equipment. It would seem that no one has ever succeeded
on this claim.
The next morning, we were off to work on another Mits unit for an ex-patriot of Canada.
A very straight forward calibration especially since the client was unusually quiet
through the entire process.
On the evening, we went north to work on the 47" Panny 16:9 set. Straight forward,
but like many of the Panny units, there were some severe focusing issues. Gregg kept the
client busy enough so that I could enter the secret engineer menu to disable the Panny
edge enhancement feature that resulted in a double whammy of SVM like effects. Gregg took
the time to call in a Ticket change for me to stay two more days to get a few more
I shut my door this evening and the dog went to sleep with Gregg. Ha!
A couple more Toshiba 40H80 sets the next day and I let Gregg go at his first RPTV. He
did everything and I just oversaw what he was doing. And I came in to clean up the
grayscale work at the end.
The dog was waiting on my bed a full hour before bed time this evening. He did not want
to be left out, but I took so long getting to bed that he got bored or restless and went
looking for me instead. Dogs have dog breath.
Up next was a TW56X81 which was quick since the client actually had a friend come and
do his grayscale some time before. I showed him that his work on geometry had caused some
burn in of the CRTs. Bummer.
The evening with the 55" Mits was the eagle incident
The next morning, I took Gregg to the Airport and I was alone in the house and in town.
The Dog would keep me company.
I worked on a 73" Mits this day and then another TP61H95 Toshiba set in the
evening. The client asked me what I would do if the check that he wrote me bounced
Trip over and I went home. My first visit to Atlanta and a truly interesting visit it
was. I was actually happy that it rained a lot that week as it dampened the dreaded heat
Los Angeles in October.