The First Thing to Do When You Get your New HDTV Home

If you've recently saved up some cash (or crunched a little closer to your credit card's limit) and finally bought that brand new HDTV you've been lusting after, you might be a little confused as to why the picture doesn't look as bright, sharp and, well, as swoon-worthy as it did on the shelf at the big-box retailer you bought it from. Well not all picture settings are created equal. In a busy and fluorescent-lit environment, a super-bright picture with the colors enhanced and the LCD back light set to the maximum is what's going to look best. But not necessarily in your living room...An article from the New York Times offers this advice for how to get an optimal picture from your HDTV setup:
  • The backlight on an LCD TV is usually set to the maximum setting when you get it from the factory because the picture's contrast ratio is measured in a pitch black room, which is obviously not the case in your living room. The best place to start in getting a good picture is to turn the backlight setting down to about half.
  • A good next step is to adjust the brightness and get a proper black level, which will keep the picture from being too washed out or too muddy. A PLUGE pattern of six vertical bars of varying black levels is the best tool for adjusting your brightness. You can find PLUGE patterns in the special features on many DVD movies. The trick is to set it so the black is as dark as it can be while you can still make out details on the screen. You can do the same with 'brightness' for proper black levels and 'contrast' for white balance.
  • Once you know black is black and white is white, play with the 'color' and 'hue controls until grass looks green and the sky looks blue. "At first, softer, natural colors may look too muted, but after a few days you will find them more pleasing."
  • You will also need to consider that settings for an optimal picture will change throughout the day and depending on the source of the picture. At night in a darker room, you will need to lower the contrast control. And if you change your input device from a DVD player to the satellite feed, you might see a difference in the picture quality. Check to see if you can set your own image profiles to keep the settings switching.

HDTV image from nateOne on Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

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Taryn is a writer, maker, and designer based in Atlanta, and editor of lifestyle blog Formal Fringe. She loves her fiance, her dog Bacon, and collecting beer koozies when she travels.

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