Toronto 2001 (Tour 1)
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A Calibration Tour
By The Numbers
I thought I would get a lot of this on paper before it was lost
forever. My calibration tour to Toronto certainly made me more appreciative of just how
vast the southern Ontario area really was. It looked so much smaller on the map. But
suffice it to say, this area is big and dont I know it now.
The tour lasted nine days and encompassed ten clients and ultimately
some 14 TV sets. I went from Toronto to Etobicoke to Kitchener to Burlington to St.
Catherines to Peterborough back to Toronto. Im just glad that I was not in the
drivers seat this time as those duties fell upon the various clients to ferry me
between locations. A great big slice of life
the ability to peer into all these
different homes and for a brief instance, see how they live.
The sets on the docket for this tour included:
- Toshiba 65H80
- Toshiba TW56X81
- Toshiba 50HX70
- Toshiba TW65X81
- Toshiba TW40X81
- Pioneer Elite Pro-510 (2)
- Pioneer Elite Pro-610
- Panasonic 56" HD RPTV
- Panasonic 36" Gaoo (2)
- Proscan PS32800HR
- Sony KP-53HS10
- RCA F326325 32"
An incident that occurred early on in the tour made for some funny
moments later in the tour. It was eye opening enough that I had to bring up this detail
with all that followed on the tour so that there would be no misunderstandings or
unrealistic expectations before I started. This incident was the typical result of the
post-calibration blues. When I calibrate the TV based on the DVD signal, there is a high
probability that the other lower quality signals may actually end up looking worse. When
you calibrate the set to draw out the finer detail embedded in the DVD, this also results
in drawing out the worst of cable and satellite sources. The flaws take center stage.
So what I was facing was a compliment that the DVDs looked great,
but general disappointment that the other sources were not similarly affected. I had to
drill this into the heads of the remaining participants so that they clearly understood
that the other signal sources may suffer and that I could not make bad signals better, nor
would I even care about that. Satellite/cable is tolerable at best and I had about enough
of hearing that the colours looked wrong on this or that particular channel. Too freaking
bad. Generally, this point was made clear and I was given the go ahead to proceed with the
work on the various sets.
I will breakdown the trip in the order of the TVs that I worked
Day One Toshiba 65H80
Generally the first time I got to work on this new model. I have worked
on the 56H80 and the 40H80 units previously so no surprises. Everything proceeded
according to plan and the calibration took about six hours as expected. Nothing unexpected
and I streamlined the process of taking the protective screen off and reversing the stack.
I will need an electric screw driver next time. I also employed a technique to reduce the
sag in the screen when the screen is put back together. Its all in the way to do it.
With the unit done, I spend the rest of the evening streamlining the a/v hook up used by
the client to help them get the most of their set up. Obvious weak points were corrected
such as dropping the RF output of the cable box in favour of the S-video of the box. While
cable/digital cable still sucks in general, at least there are still some things we can do
to make the best out of a bad situation.
Day Two Toshiba TW56X81
First off the bat, a surprise. The client seems more focused on getting
geometry right than just the other services that I offer. Clearly from my own costing
sheet, I dont charge for geometry because I dont really offer that service and
for good reason. If I did include the geometry component, you could be sure that my costs
would increase significantly. Its time consuming and tedious. We worked on the
TVs Full mode and while this was completed, it ultimately would be a battle won, but
a war lost. With the geometry completed, we proceeded to the regular calibration schedule
and had the grayscale dialed in quick enough. (Later on in the week, I would find out that
the grayscale was actually set up based on the wrong mode in the SD-6200 DVD player. The
goal was to use the 480P mode, but somehow the 480I mode was used instead. Not a big deal
to go one way or the other, but going the other way was to yield some very different
results.) So the 480 section of the set was done and then I proceeded to take a look at
the 1080I section.
It was in this mode where we found out that the HD service convergence
grid was effectively dead. There was no grid to be seen, only the coordinates of the grid
were visible. This was a major downer for myself, but even more so for the client since
this was his TV and it meant that all the hard work on the geometry done earlier was
ultimately for naught. His convergence board was defective. I finished up the late
afternoon by setting up his HD grayscale.
Day Two Toshiba 50HX70
Things proceed in a straight forward fashion until it comes time to
reverse the stack on the protective screen. To my horror and surprise, Toshiba changed the
screw design for the screen. Instead of a Philips screw driver type, they now went with
Hex bolts. I did not bring the right tool for this, but fortunately the client had the
proper hex screw set and we were able to proceed. A note on cleaning the mirror, the more
one tried with Windex and the paper towel, the more residue seemed to be left on the
mirror. It looked like the paper towels were the main offenders.
So as the calibration session continued into the late evening, I noted
that when the grayscale was properly set up according to the instruments, the end result
looked wrong when we were watching moving material. As a result, I redid the grayscale to
double check the work. Again, the images looked wrong. As a hunch, I took the set out of
service mode and started taking my readings in the user Warm mode and there was the
culprit. The patterns that I saw on screen in the service menu were different than in the
real world. (As it would turn out, Louis Carliner would note that the images presented in
the service mode were in the cool mode and not the warm mode.) So to get the warm mode set
up properly, it was necessary to determine the colour temperature offset and account for
that when I was in the service mode. I would now be shooting for 8800K or so and that
would make the warm mode much closer to D6500K. It took a few minutes to figure this out,
but once done, we were rolling. I dont know why Toshiba decided to change this in
only their 4:3 sets and not the 16:9 units in the current year.
Day Three RCA 32" Direct View Tube set
This one was easy and took about one hour since I had to chart out the
15 service menu parameters to figure out what each item did. The set ended up tracking
very linearly just shy of 6500K.
Day Three Pioneer Elite 510
The owner had accidentally touched the screen trimpots previously so he
had messed up his grayscale royally and he knew it too. Calibration on this unit was
fairly straight forward with no huge surprises until we realized that the Pioneer DV-37
progressive scan unit was outputting a very different looking 480P signal than compared to
the 480I section. The 480P signal from the DVD player was considerably darker than the
480I signal from the same unit. What this meant was that calibrating the TV to 480P
resulted in an image that was too dark when used for viewing cable and satellite. As if
someone had brought down the brightness to 25% from the optimal 50% range. To compensate
for this difference, it became necessary to reassign the Movie mode in the TV to optimal
480I settings. The 480P was set up based on the STD mode to simplify operations for the
client. The string focus method cannot be used for the Pioneer sets.
Day Three Sony KP-53HS10
I just did the basic grayscale set up for the set and a service level
convergence. It was my way of showing my appreciation for the clients hospitality.
Nothing notable about this calibration as it takes about one hour.
Day Four Panasonic 16:9 56" RPTV
I did the full work out on this set and discovered many things about
the unit in terms of its flexibility or lack there of at times. This is the first time I
had worked on this particular model so aside from the manual, it was virgin territory.
Once into the service menu, it became obvious that setting the RGB cuts and drivers was
not possible with a 480I component signal from the DVD player. To do the 480I section,
only an S-video signal or less would allow access to the CRT parameters. Panasonic glues
the focus block knobs in place. But it was an easy task to peel the glue away. Turns out
the green electronic focus was well off the mark so there was one major improvement
already. Taking the front screen off to work on the mechanical focus, I determined that
the string focus method could not be applied to this unit. There is actually a lens hood
assembly on top of the unit CRTs already. The wingnuts on the CRTs are pointed to
the back of the set so mechanical focus had to be done with the rear panel off. Simple
enough. We ended up doing a grayscale for all modes in the TV including 480I, 480P, 720P,
and 1080I. Once the menu was figured out, the process was rather straight forward. The
effect of SVM was not visible on the needle pulse pattern so I did not look further for a
parameter that might disable it.
It turned out that the Panasonic RPTV was already suffering from a case
of CRT burn in after a mere eight months. For watching 4:3 material, the set was used in
the POP mode with the three other channels strobing down the right side of the screen.
This was seen as an alternative to the 4:3 mode with black/gray bars on the sides. But
when I put up the 75% gray field, you could make out distinct channel numbers from the POP
windows where they had burned into the CRTs. Here was 36, there was 27
owner was not too pleased and generally bummed by this observation. Bottom line
stay away from the POP modes in the TVs.
Day Five Pioneer Elite 610
Straight forward calibration by the numbers. I set up the main viewing
mode for 480P and created a second mode for regular satellite viewing. Nothing out of the
ordinary except for the observation that lens striping is less necessary on Pioneer sets
as compared to other sets on the market.
Day Five Panasonic Gaoo 36" Direct View
A set of service menu parameters was faxed in from Leo Vildosola in
Montreal so a hearty thanks to him. It enhanced the service menu information that I
already had. An easy set to calibrate and the ability to reduce the SVM to nothing was a
Day Five Proscan PS32800HR 32" Direct
View HD capable set
I mapped out the service menu on this set over Christmas because I also
own the same unit. Out of curiosity, I transplanted my post calibration numbers to this TV
to see how close it could get this one to D6500K. Not even close. Numbers simply are not
very transferable. Aside from the grayscale, I also showed the client how to make a 16:9
mode for his HDTV programming, but in the end, he chose to crop his HD material to 4:3
instead of seeing the whole image at the proper aspect ratio. He didnt like black
Day Six Pioneer Elite 510
Another straight forward calibration with the exception that the movie
mode was now set up for daytime viewing as compared to the STD mode which was for optimal
Day Six Toshiba TW40X81 -
Never over estimate the power of a good old $12 cable. While working on
this set coupled with a Pioneer DV-05 DVD player, I noted that the dark end of the images
showed far too much interference/video noise. Something was amiss. I replaced the $280 set
of component video cables with this generic $12 cable that Sony gives away to Wega owners
and the signal cleared up. This certainly irritated the client to find that his pricey
cables were junk. Something obviously wrong here.
A straight forward calibration with no surprises. I also ended up
setting up the grayscale for the HD section.
Day Seven Toshiba TW65X81
One of the first things I noticed about this set was CRT burn in. A
quick look at just some cable based material showed that the service convergence grid
system had burned itself into the CRTs. It was ever so slight, but you could see it.
The client was none too thrilled to hear and see this pointed out. Needless to say, I
proceeded to reduce the intensity of the grid contrast and brightness. Lesson to be
learned, watch out and dont keep the convergence grids on screen for extended
periods of time. Very bad for the set itself.
Day Seven Panasonic Gaoo 36" Direct View
No surprises here and only a minimum amount that I could do in the
service manual here. There was no SVM parameter here although we could certainly see its
effect on the needle pulse pattern.
Day Eight Toshiba TW56X81
This was the return visit to redo the grayscale since the first attempt
was performed in the 480I mode. A bit more complicated than I thought, because the 480P
output from the Toshiba SD-6200 DVD player looked strange. The correct setting for the
480P DVD section meant that the regular cable/satellite material looked too red. As if
someone turned the RCUT up some 20 clicks. To account for this difference, it was
necessary yet again to customize the medium colour temperature setting to
We also discovered that the convergence on the TV had drifted
significantly in just a week since we last left it. The TVs convergence board was
definitely dying. While it was unfortunate that the repairs would ultimately undo the time
spent on the convergence and geometry, the client learned how the process was conducted so
he could do it himself in time.
Now for those that are the least bit curious about the type of schedule
that one has to keep to on a trip like this
hang on tight.
Day One Wake at 4:30 AM to catch a 6:30 AM
flight from Calgary to Toronto. Arrive at 12:00 PM and begin work on the TV by 1:00 PM
following lunch. Seven hours later, the TV is done.
Day Two Wake up in preparation for next client
who will pick me up at 9:30 AM. Arrive and begin work through 6:00 PM. Off to next
Clients home and arrive at 7:30 PM. Finish work on Toshiba RPTV by 2 AM.
Day Three Wake up and do RCA 32" tube set.
Off to next destination following a lunch at a restaurant. Arrive at 2 PM and begin work
on a Pioneer 510. Five hours later, its finished and then dinner through 8 PM. Then
I spend 2 hours on the Sony 53" RPTV.
Day Four Wake up for 9:00 AM pick up to next
destination. Work to 7:00 PM and time for dinner. Head off to bed for 6:00 AM departure.
Day Five Wake up at 5:00 AM and prep to leave
at 6:00 AM. Two hour drive to drop off location point where the next client will meet us.
Arrive at clients home by 10 AM and begin work on Pioneer 610 unit. Then the
Panasonic 36" tube set, then a Proscan 32" set all in one day. Work is done by
Day Six Wake at 7:00 AM for 9:00 AM appointment
with next client and another Pioneer 510 unit. I finish by 1 PM amid calls from remaining
clients asking how fast I can finish up. Schedule conflicts and people have to shuffle the
list. Ride to Toronto and meet with next client at 7:00 PM. Calibration work starts at
8:00 PM and goes through 2:30 AM. Client takes me to hotel to check in.
Day Seven Wake up and check out by 11 AM. A
relatively easy day until I get picked up by the final client at 4:00 PM and I work to
1:30 AM on a Toshiba TW65X81 and another Panasonic 36" Gaoo. A chance to play with
the progressive labs CA-1 colour analyzer. Cool device although it has its own drawbacks.
Day Eight 11 AM pick up by a client for a
return visit. Some additional touch up work to do takes 90 minutes and then I am back at
the hosts home again. A nice dinner with the host and his wife and it is off to bed
again for a 7:00 AM flight back to Calgary.
Day Nine 7:00 AM flight back to Calgary. Arrive
at 9:30 AM and spend the next six hours printing out receipts, and ISF reports for
The concept of me staying over at the various homes remains a great
conversation piece. The paranoia factor is brought up as friends on both sides think that
the others could be serial killers. Welcoming a stranger into your home for one evening.
We have a good laugh about it all
and the fact that I stayed over was pretty low
While not physically tiring, the tour was definitely mentally tiring
and if I had to do this on a weekly basis, I would probably choose death.