Toronto 2002 (Tour 2)
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The start of a new year and a new touring season I suppose. Not the first though as I
was in Austin, Texas the week prior to this dealing with an "insane" client who
absolutely had to have me there to calibrate his set. I called him insane, his wife did as
well. I guess we are all allowed our little excesses every now and then. It was enjoyable
to see some 75 degree weather in the middle of this Canadian winter.
But back to the issues at hand, my first Toronto tour of the year occurred in mid
February. I had been to this area last January and the participants were kind enough to
ferry me around this vast metropolitan area. This time, things changed as I decided to
tackle all of the driving myself. My handy, dandy laptop based map system does wonders and
since it got me through Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas, NY, Boston, DC
and many other
Toronto was to be no more or less different than any other city. Of course,
in some ways, it was worse. Things look so much closer when you are looking at a map.
Saturday Evening Toshiba TW40X81
Interesting client that lived in a home where the attic area was converted into a small
theatre room. He even had a refreshment table outside the room and liquid light projection
inside the room for intermission periods. Liquid light
like some drug induced
visions from the 60's. I also thought the little stars and planets and comets attached to
the ceiling were cute if not too much for my conservative views. Ha!
This unit was interesting in that the client had previously hired a local ISF tech to
work on the grayscale of his TV which on the surface was not a criticism of this other
tech as he did everything by the book from what I could see including the ISF chart
and optimal TV user settings. Precisely what one expects for the basic ISF grayscale
calibration work. Now what stood out is that something did not look quite right with these
optimal user settings. I thought the image was way too bright and to the point of hurting
my eyes. A quick measurement of the light output via the Video Essentials 100 ire window
box pattern confirmed the problem. Grayscale had been set up based on a light output of a
whopping 79 foot-lamberts of light output. The reference target is about 20 ft-l for
RPTV's. Definitely not so great for the set and my respect for this mystery ISF calibrator
dropped a notch.
I was actually staying in a room in the attic across the hall from the theatre room and
the stairs leading up to this area of the house were
to put it
kindly. When I was packing up the next morning, I almost stumbled down these same stairs
death and tragedy befall calibrationist.
Sunday Morning Panasonic 47" 16:9
A trip north to Newmarket, Ontario. A bedroom community to the greater Toronto area as
I am told. Black was the order of the day for this client. All the equipment had to be
all except for the Sony 480P player he had, having given his significant
other the Panasonic RP56 that came with the TV. I convinced him that he needed to find a
way to convince her that a trade of machines was in her best interest since the Sony was
obviously better because it cost more. I hope his girlfriend does not read this and
she never will.
I find it hard to believe just how awful the progressive scan images look on this set
prior to calibration. They truly are awful. However, that is easily fixed by the end of
the session. Nothing out of the ordinary to discuss here about the calibration. In fact,
the client and I got extremely side tracked into his other hobby, Paint ball. I got to
look at the specialized pistols as well as all the other gear that they wear now. This is
not your father's paint ball game anymore. And head shots are allowed now
So cool that I think that I would also like to get into this type of game. Quake Death
Matches for real
Sunday Evening Toshiba 34" 16:9 Tube set
Rogers Cable in Toronto has begun to roll out their HDTV capable cable boxes and many
of the clients on this trip had the units in hand and we watched a lot of the Winter
Olympics albeit time delayed. Still it was great to have a steady diet of HDTV on demand.
I ended up staying pretty much the entire trip with this family as the wife decided that I
got along so smashingly so I stayed all week. I think she really intended to have me do
the blocking whenever her husband would start talking technology. The two of them were
also die hard Babylon 5 fans so when I gave them the Rangers movie
The 34" Toshiba CW 34X92 unit is one of the friendly units from a couple of years
ago that still permitted full access to the design menu. But because the menu does not
always do what is logical, the grayscale for the HDTV was placed in the medium mode and
the DVD's were placed in the warm mode.
Monday Morning Toshiba 40H80
I'm still checking to see if the sets have had the 3:2 pull down activated. It seems
that two of three sets will not have it active until I access the ADDR menu with my trusty
Cinema 7 remote. Too much daylight in this apartment so I was forced under the covers to
complete the grayscale.
Monday Evening Sony 27" Wega
Aside from this home being a hard place to find parking
Here is an interesting
one as the client was a student living at home with a bedroom set up. Any talk of costs
was strictly hush, hush where his parents were concerned. The nice thing about this set
was that grayscale was pretty stable in both 16:9 mode and 4:3 mode. On the rear
projection sets, this had been a problem for the longest while. Tube calibrations are
pretty fast in my book so I offered to work on his father's 32" Sony set pumping out
its 100% contrast image for free. Value for money
but the father turned it down
anyway. Man, sometimes you just cannot give things away for free. Don't bother lining up
for this, because I'm not doing any more freebies for a while.
Tuesday Morning Pioneer Elite 510
Another straight forward calibration although I still cringe whenever I have to take
the frame off the set for focusing purposes. Shades of the East Coast trip are still vivid
in the memory.
Tuesday Evening Sony KP53HS10 4:3 RPTV
The start of a small calibration arc where some interesting things occurred and plenty
of stuff seemed to go wrong
It was an interesting townhome/condo design with the 4:3 Sony as the center piece.
Fairly straight forward calibration except this time I had to take the protective screen
off the TV. My first time for this model, although I have been all too aware that this one
might be nightmarish
likely 100 screws to take off to get at the screen. You really
had to disassemble the entire top part of the TV to get at his screen. This part took
about 60 minutes or more.
The strangeness of the evening began at the conclusion of the calibration and the
convergence tutorial. I always throw in a couple of my demo DVD's to look at certain
scenes. At this time, the client pumped up the volume and my head pounded
subwoofer was set far too high. The next series of events would bring a gasp to every
I watched in horror as the client grabs the remote and proceeds to pump
up the contrast and the brightness
from "reference" levels in order to
suit his tastes. Augh!! ..
Figuring that it is his TV
I'll just be quiet there. After the DVD demos, he
hooks up his X-Box and sends the TV to 16:9 mode and promptly pumps up the contrast to
100% to play Halo
(I die a little bit inside.) I mention to the client that these
actions are very bad for the TV
and he replies with "sacrifices have to be
oh look at the time
I have to be going
Wednesday Morning Toshiba TW56X81
The start of my "bad convergence day." This was a return visit to a client I
had done work for last year. We had discovered that his HD convergence grid was dead after
spending many hours working on the 480P section. I told him that I would return one day
and I keep my word
or try to anyway. I wanted to implement some improved grayscale
techniques on his set as well.
He had a replacement convergence board waiting and when I arrived, he pulled the old
one and inserted the new board. The use of the old board was needed as it held all the
vital service menu settings as well as the convergence.
With the new board in place, I proceeded to enter the service mode and to our horror,
the HD grid on the new board was also quite dead. We could certainly watch the HD
material, but clearly some convergence work was needed. But without a grid, he was up the
creek without a paddle. It was at this time that I mentioned how ironic it was that the
man who was obsessed over geometry would be cursed with a TV where he could not fix the
geometry or converge it. Something akin to the Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough At
Although things seemed bleak, all was not hopeless since the missing HD grid still had
coordinates locating the position of the cursor. Since I knew it was a 56 point system, I
took on the task of converging his HD section in the blind. With only the help of some
masking tape that roughly identified where all the convergence points were, and the
convergence grid from the HD signal generator, I was able to converge the HD section in
about 90 minutes
but he was cursed for the moment to live with some bad geometry.
Wednesday Evening Toshiba 50H81
My bad convergence day continued with the evening event. It was supposed to be a
straight forward affair as the Toshiba sets this year were supposed to be simple
and they were. I finally got my hands on the designer menu information for the current
model year and last year's Toshiba sets so I got a chance to do some exploring on this
set. The offset parameter options were handy allowing me to finally do some user mode
centering. But the joy turned sour at the end of the evening after the job was done. The
final task of the evening was to teach the client how to use the service convergence mode
and everything went well until the second time he did it.
It was then that the TV decided in all its wisdom to fry its convergence board. The red
convergence grid went haywire
and that pretty much ended the evening. The work had
but the set was broken
a freak occurrence
A repair would be a relatively simple process, but it would invariably undo many of the
service mode changes performed on the set. A rock and a hard place so I decided to give
the client a break and I let him off the hook for the services rendered. I would say I
trained all evening. I got a nice bottle of wine out of it in appreciation for the
efforts. Well, it's just money. (I'm crying inside though)
Thursday Morning Pioneer Elite 620
This was another return visit to a client I have serviced last year. In the interim, he
said that his TV developed some type of excessive green problem and so I was back to take
another look. He surprised me this time by having another new Pioneer set there instead of
the one I was expecting. The client was an A/V dealer so he moved stock in and out of his
home quite a lot. The DVD player of choice this time around was the Pioneer DVD-RW unit
that sells in the order of $2500 CDN. Of course, know Pioneers, the first thing about the
DVD player I checked for was chroma bug and there it was in all its abundance. Not pretty
and since it is more severe in Pioneers than the other major brands like Toshiba and Sony
I'd really hesitate when it comes to buying this DVD-RW unit.
Now back to the green issue
the new set calibrated fairly smoothly, but the lack
of controlled lighting would ultimately play a role in how things ended up. I found out
for the first time where the complaint of green images came from. It was not as bad as a
complaint that a film like the Matrix was green, but almost as bad. The film of choice for
the client was "The Insider" and one brief look at it showed all these strange
lighting conditions which were obviously intentional. A slight frustration creeps into the
there was nothing wrong with the original calibration. There may be something
very wrong with the client and his perception of colour.
Of course the bad news continued once I got home since there was yet another call from
him saying that the new set was also too green after the calibration. Then it dawned on me
that in addition to the bad reference material that he liked to use, the lighting
conditions also changed. I was asked to set up the TV so that it looked proper in the day
and the complaints about colour came during the evening sans the daylight. The
client wanted to have his cake and eat it too. He wanted something that was proper in the
day time and equally so in the evening although with vastly different room lighting
not possible with one grayscale set up. Offsets yes
but not for marketing work and
sometimes it really helps to provide me with more information about what one really wants
instead of complaining about it after I am gone.
Thursday Evening Pioneer SD532-HD5
A country residence north west of Toronto. I got there well after sunset because I
missed my turn off in the rain and I had to backtrack to find the client's home. The much
talked about Toronto rush hour traffic was the culprit here. But I finally hade it there
and got to work on this sorry looking set where the colours were simply all wrong. Too
red/purple for my tastes and not even readable in terms of a colour temperature reading. I
was a bit nervous at the start because of the family dog who seemed more fierce than he
actually was. All he wanted to do was sniff me and then he was a puppy dog again. The
subject of discussion this evening was Calgary since the client used to live there. We
also talked a bit about Anime since his son was part of an Anime club at the university
and constantly made him watch this stuff.
The client was also strictly a two channel audio type of person and just not convinced
about the gimmicky 5.1 audio world. Luckily, I only care about good video and hopefully I
delivered on that end. So much more satisfying with the image properly set up.
Friday Morning Toshiba TW65X81
This was another long drive to one of the bedroom communities. The client was a IT
person for Sears and he lived out on an acreage. He was using both large dish and small
dish for all his programming. The nightmare of this calibration was that there was so much
dog and cat hair all over the theatre room that it really hindered the restacking of the
protective screen. The process ended up taking about twice as long as usual since I had to
spend so much time removing the animal hairs between the protective screen and the fresnel
lens. A very straight forward calibration aside from that and as expected, a very nice
looking image at the end of the calibration road.
Friday Evening Toshiba 34" Direct View
For the longest time, I just had the hardest time figuring out where this client lived.
I had to wait for him to get home on this Friday evening and parking in the Downtown area
was not easy. I ended up knocking at his door some four times spaced out in 20 minute
intervals wondering when he was to be home. Just as I was about to write it off, he
answered the door and we were off to the races. The home was a three storey condo which
was the most compact that I have seen yet. A wonderful view of the CN tower and the
Skydome was available from the top floor. But oh were the other floors compact. The nice
thing about downtown living was that he was close to many of the great restaurants of the
area so we wandered off to dinner before the calibration was to begin. The client was a
Pathologist so he really did see dead people
I won't comment too much about the actual calibration end since it was pretty routine
except when I had to access the back panel on the TV for hooking up the HD signal
generator. We had to take apart the entire top end of the stand that the TV was resting
on. It is hairy since the condo was very tight where space was concerned.
Saturday Morning Pioneer Elite 610
This was the start of a very long day as I had to drive out to Oshawa in the morning
and then drive to Welland some two hours away in the evening for two more sets. The most
noticeable event of the morning was that the client was my first bonafide female customer.
These people are rare indeed when it comes to the home theatre arena. She was the first
client who wanted the calibration done for herself as opposed to a present for the
husband. It's the other way around most of the time for this hobby. It is usually the man
that watches the film for both content and presentation value, rarely the woman. On this
day, presentation was the key for this lady and her husband only cared about the story and
likely "tolerated" the wife's hobby.
The set had actually been worked on previously by some local ISF people, but some
unrelated problem developed with the grayscale calibration was lost. This was also the
first opportunity on this trip to show the differences between an interlaced player and a
progressive scan unit. She had the Pioneer interlaced DV 525 unit from a few years ago and
combined with the line doubler in the Elite, it made for some fine viewing. While the
differences in the progressive scan image from my Toshiba portable were apparent on test
patterns, they were nearly invisible on actual film material. The Pioneer DVD player was
that good in conjunction with the TV.
Saturday Afternoon Sony 53" XBR RPTV; Panasonic 47"
A long drive from Oshawa east of Toronto to Welland which was southwest of Toronto. But
the weather was great on this day and the drive was relaxing after the calibration
session. I got to the client's home in the late afternoon and promptly saw that he had
this five to seven year old Sony 53" 4:3 unit upstairs for casual viewing. The
Panasonic was downstairs for critical viewing.
This was the magnet man in my book. Ever wondered about where those fridge magnets come
from? The Client worked at a factory that made these. Wonderfully friendly and quite the
chef as well on this all Italian evening.
The Sony was first up and it was one of the units that were pre-service code. I don't
see too many of these anymore, but I remembered that these units had pinhole access in the
back of the set so digging back there with the flashlight was worthwhile. Exceptional
grayscale tracking for an RPTV. One of the flattest tracking sets I have ever seen. They
really don't build them like they used to.
The most interesting things about this set were revealed when I opened up the front
panel to look for the focus trim pots. The dust build up on the pots was actually
astounding. The seven years of dust had created these crystalline structures on the focus
knobs themselves. A very neat blast from the past and a good basic calibration.
The heart of the evening was spent downstairs on the 47" Panasonic. It was quite
ghastly like most Panasonics out of the box with both severe colour problems and focus
issues. Fortunately, I know these Panasonic units will calibrate nicely and become top
notch performers with just a bit of effort.
I slept on the couch on this evening and had an early start on the next morning back to
Toronto. I was waiting for the client to greet me in the morning, but as time was running
short, I had to quietly take my leave of the home and headed back.
Sunday Morning Philips 34" HDTV
Back into the heart of Toronto and my first look at the Philips brand HDTV tube set. A
very handsome unit with an interesting menu system that reminded me so much of video game
menu systems. Rolling beads on strings were the way to describe them.
It took a short while to figure out the service menu system that Philips likes to use,
but most of the important features were there to adjustment. I found it interesting that
this Philips set exhibited the same tube characteristics as the two Toshiba 34" sets
I had worked on earlier. The problem is as follows. When the image is properly centered
for overscan, the center of the image is not in the physical center of the TV tube itself.
It is actually about one inch to the right of center. It would seem that the horizontal
linearity of the TV was off. The left side of the image was wider than the right side and
there was no way to easily correct this. Three 34" tubes
and the same problem
on each one.
This unit calibrated nicely once I understood the menu system better and how it also
generates its own test patterns when needed. What I did not like was how the menu system
got in the way of the measuring instruments as the menus were centered on the screen. The
solution was to work around the menu and then cross check in the real world once we left
the service menu.
Sunday Noon Toshiba 40H80
I was actually going to work on this client's set on Monday morning before my flight
out, but since I had the time, I thought I would take an early look. To say that the TV
had some issues was understating it. The client had gone and restacked the protective
screen and it resulted in an image with a distinct vortex/fishbowl appearance. The center
was correct, but the edges were all wrong. I did what I could and I told the client that I
would return one day after he got the Toshiba people to look at the TV again.
As it turned out, when the client had done the screen restack, he put the fresnel lens
in upside down. Definitely strange. Certainly something I have not encountered before nor
have I gone looking for this issue. I had always known that the two sides of the fresnel
were different so that the dull side faced the back. Never figured that the top was
different from the bottom. Well, horror of horrors, when the Toshiba tech fixed this
screen problem, he decided that he did not like the colour scheme and he decided to
"fix" it so he turned the screen trimpots. I heard that my client screamed out
loudly when he saw this happen. The Techs just could not resist this
like moths to
Sunday Evening Toshiba 50HX70
A quick activation of the 3:2 pulldown on the TV was done at the start with the handy
dandy Cinema 7 remote. Then I watched the continuing celebration of the Team Canada Hockey
The protective screen would stay on in this home what with the young girl running
around the home. Once more, a very straight forward calibration with nothing strange to
I said goodbye to my hosts and headed off to the airport to catch up on some more much
needed viewing of all that anime that I carry around.
I flew home.