Setting up your TV is important, nothing irritates me more than watching 4:3 stretched out to 16:9 because the set-top box has been set up incorrectly. Why even have a nice new TV if the viewing experience is going to be diminished by watching a fat distorted face on your giant new flat panel TV?
Further sins against your new TV include watching the standard definition broadcast when the HD feed is just a channel hopping moment away. I went round to a friends house the other week, and was blown away by the quality of his 50″ Plasma. I’d assumed that he was just watching freeview, but then I looked – and there it was – a Sky HD Box. Doctor Who looked awesome in glorious HD, the picture was vibrant and clear and all was right with the world. Even my wife noticed the difference in quality! The difference is more visible on a 50″ panel than on my (now small) 32″ panel.
Above, we see the greatest of sins against your shiny new HD TV. What follows are some more forgivable problems. They may seem trifling but will conspire to rob you of the benefits that your new investment should reap. When you go into a store to buy a new HD TV, you want to be impressed, to that end the TV’s are setup with oversaturated colours, maximum brightness and artificial sharpness set to the max.
Over-saturation of the colours is easy to identify and simple to fix. The most common problem is the contrast setting on an LCD TV. It is a devious ploy to trick the consumer into believing that the whites are “whiter” and the blacks are “blacker”. But in reality it only crushes details, as you can see in the image below.
Sharpness is the other major problem and this curse affects all flat panel TV’s. The sharpness setting on your new TV does not increase the level of detail present in a Blu-Ray or DVD. The information is instead added by a filter, at first glance though, you may well think that you can ‘see more’ detail. But this is an illusion and you will soon see that its an additive function that creates grainy noise and an unnatural picture quality. It especially sharpens between light and dark areas – and you can also get a nasty halo effect. The only time that you’d want to mess with this setting is if you were viewing an old-fashioned analogue signal or other ‘soft’ video source.
Finally, we come to the latest, greatest problem of them all. It’s the horrific issue that has been dubbed ‘The Soap Opera Effect’. I’ve been thinking about upgrading my TV recently, but I’ve been in stores looking at the TV’s, and found myself thinking that the picture was rubbish. Great movies looked like they were filmed by the producers of Neighbours.
The Soap Opera Effect occurs because some TV shows are shot on video, which is cheaper than film. This is a problem because shooting on video increases the number of frames displayed per second, giving them that particular look.
Many modern televisions now automatically create additional frames, even for filmed content. On Samsung TV’s, it’s called ‘Auto Motion Plus’ and it is meant to smooth motion. For a fast-action sporting event, this might be desirable. For a film though, the effect is nothing short of a disaster.
For more information on this issue, Google ‘Soap Opera Effect’, or take a look at this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_interpolation