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FAQs about Digital TV & HDTV set up & use

Answers to your questions about DVD & home theater...


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How do I adjust the picture controls (color, tint, sharpness, contrast, and brightness) on my Digital TV or HDTV?

Most TV sets are sold with the picture controls for color, tint, sharpness, contrast, and brightness optimized for a TV showroom, where the manufacturer wants to make the set stand out from the competition.  As such, the sharpness, contrast, and brightness controls are usually set way too high for the best possible and natural picture in your home.  A brightness setting that is too high can also quickly cause burn-in and premature wear for CRT-based TVs.

The best way to adjust these common picture control settings (color, tint, sharpness, contrast, and brightness) is to use a calibration source material.  The most common calibration material for consumers is Digital Video Essentials (released on July 15, 2003) for HDTV, and a number of DVD-Video based calibration discs for standard definition (480i or 480p).  Read the answer to our FAQ below.

Until you can calibrate your Digital TV or HDTV with a calibration source material, adjust the color and tint for natural skin tones by “eyeing it”.  Turn the sharpness control all the down to its lowest setting.  This minimizes or eliminates picture artifacts caused by the sharpness function.  Turn the contrast control to the middle.  Finally, turn the brightness control down to about the middle as well, particularly for CRT-based TVs to minimize the risk of burn-in.

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How do I calibrate my Digital TV or HDTV?

You can use Digital Video Essentials (released on July 15, 2003), by Joe Kane Productions, when it becomes available on the Digital-VHS format to calibrate your Digital TV or HDTV.  This reference calibration program provides a comprehensive set of video test patterns and sample HDTV footage with a narrated guide allowing you to properly set your Digital TV or HDTV's picture controls (color, tint, sharpness, contract, and brightness) to optimal settings that closely reflect the standards established by the industry (namely the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers [SMPTE]).  Digital Video Essentials also has audio test tones and narration to help you get the most out of your home theater surround sound system as well.

To use Digital Video Essentials on the D-VHS format, you will need a D-VHS VCR, such as the JVC HM-DH30000 ($600, as low as $549.88 at JandR.com), Marantz MV8300 ($1,600), Mitsubishi HS-HD1100U, and Mitsubishi HS-HD2000U.

If you watch mostly DVD-Video, then you can use of of these calibration disks:

  • Video Essentials DVD: produced in 1996 by Joe Kane Productions.  This DVD is now out of print, but should be replaced in the near future by Digital Video Essentials (Digital-VHS version, to be released July 15, 2003).  For more information on this forthcoming version, click here.  You can pre-order at Amazon.com.

  • AVIA Guide to Home Theater: produced in 1999 by Ovation Software.  AVIA is more user friendly and up to date than Video Essentials.  This is the calibration DVD to buy if you are a serious home theater enthusiast, videophile, or audiophile.  Ovation Software is currently working on a AVIA Pro version.

  • Sound & Vision Home Theater Tune-Up: produced in 2001 by the editors of Sound & Vision magazine.  This is the newest and most affordable of the three calibration DVDs, but does not have as many calibration screens as Video Essentials or AVIA.  This is the calibration DVD for more casual home theater enthusiasts.

Be sure to allow adequate time for your Digital TV/HDTV to warm up by turning it one and let it display HDTV programming for at least one hour prior to the calibration process.

Also, see the answer to this FAQ.

answer last updated 5.5.2003   

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How do I get the most from my new Digital TV or HDTV?

To get the most from your new Digital TV or HDTV, you should have it professionally calibrated by an ISF-certified technician.  The Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) is an organization that seeks to establish new standards and methodologies for the video and home theater industry, and is dedicated to improving the quality of video displays.  Depending on what type of Digital TV or HDTV you have, these professional calibration can run $150-$300 or more.  For an HDTV of $6000 or more, videophiles and enthusiasts may choose to go this route.  We recommend this service for owners of CRT-based front projectors and high-end CRT-based rear projection TVs (costing over $6,000).  Click here to find an ISF-certified dealer/technician in your area.

For most everyday consumers, they can alternatively do some of this themselves using a calibration program.  Read the answer to the previous FAQ.

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How do I connect my Digital TV or HDTV to my DVD-Video player?

For video, use the component video output of your DVD-Video player and set your DVD-Video player output to progressive scan, if you have a progressive scan DVD-Video player.  The selection can be made either by a button on the back panel of the DVD-Video player or via DVD-Video player's menu selection, depending on the your particular model.  If your DVD-Video player does not have component video output, then use the S-Video connection.

For audio, use a pair of stereo audio interconnects to connect the analog stereo audio output (RCA jacks) from the back panel of the DVD-Video player to the corresponding audio input for the set of video inputs used (e.g., “Video 1”).  If you have a home theater receiver, read the answer to this FAQ.

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How do I connect my Digital TV or HDTV to my broadcast satellite system?

Depending on the connectivity of your broadcast satellite set-top box and your Digital TV/HDTV, you should use the following video connection to your Digital TV or HDTV (listed in order of preference, from best quality to mediocre:

For audio, use a pair of stereo audio interconnects to connect the analog stereo audio output (RCA jacks) from the back panel of the broadcast satellite set-top box to the corresponding audio input for the set of video inputs used (e.g., “Video 2”).  If you have a home theater receiver, read the answer to this FAQ.

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How do I connect my Digital TV or HDTV to my VHS VCR?

For video, use the S-Video connection.  If your VCR does not have S-Video, use the composite video connection.

For audio, use a pair of stereo audio interconnects to connect the analog stereo audio output (RCA jacks) from the back panel of the VCR to the corresponding audio input for the set of video inputs used (e.g., “Video 3”).  If you have a home theater receiver, make the audio connection to your home theater receiver instead of your Digital TV/HDTV.

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How do I connect my Digital TV or HDTV to my PVR (personal video recorder, e.g., TiVo or ReplayTV)?

For video, use the S-Video connection.  If your PVR does not have S-Video, use the composite video connection.

For audio, use a pair of stereo audio interconnects to connect the analog stereo audio output (RCA jacks) from the back panel of the PVR to the corresponding audio input for the set of video inputs used (e.g., “Video 4”).  If you have a home theater receiver, make the audio connection to your home theater receiver instead of your Digital TV/HDTV.

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