FRESHLY SQUEEZED REVIEWS: THX For Your HDTV
By Frank Petrie
Over the holidays some of you undoubtedly received or treated yourself to a new HDTV or a 4K HDTV. I have an iOS app that will calibrate both your picture and audio to achieve optimum performance.
I earned a degree in Video/Film eons ago. Everything was done on 3/4” tape. We were astounded by the introduction of Betamax. That soon became the Holy Grail of the industry. If you were shooting in Betamax, you were working with the crème de la crème.
Fast forward (I mean REALLY fast forward) and you arrive at HDTV. And if you’re lucky, 4K with HDR.
Few people realize that when you receive your set, it’s set to a vivid mode. They ship all sets from the factory that way. This way, no matter which set the store picks for their demo, the picture jumps out at you and catches your eye. But when you get it home, that setting doesn’t look right. Too bright.
Luckily, in 1983, a technology company founded by legendary filmmaker George Lucas ushered the film industry into a new age – THX (http://www.thx.com). If you’re old enough, you remember the ‘bumper’ that played right before the picture began. Up on the screen appeared their logo accompanied by an audio track that cascaded from a thin tone down to a powerful booming bass note that taxed the theatre’s subwoofers. Unfortunately, this was sometimes the best part of the evening’s viewing experience. (Happily, it’s included in the app.)
Over the past several years, they have had an iOS app for both iPhone and iPad available for free to help you calibrate your visual and/or audio set up. It’s called naturally enough – THX tune-up (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/thx-tune-up/id592624594?mt=8).
THX tune-up features custom video test patterns, carefully selected photos and tutorials to help adjust and confirm the best picture settings on your display based on room lighting. Using special audio tests, THX tune-up also lets you check external speakers to make sure they are working in phase and are connected properly for 2-channel stereo or 5.1 sound systems.
The app starts you off with a short overview of the steps to calibrate your TV’s picture. (They also have a separate audio calibration program for stereo speakers and 5:1 set ups. As I live in a studio apartment, I rely on my TV’s built in speakers and didn’t have the opportunity to review their audio tune up.)
The overview explains the five parameters that you will be adjusting: Aspect Ratio, Brightness, Contrast, Colour and Tint. After completing your settings, you then proceed to Review Adjustments. On the right hand side of the list are check boxes to show which customizations you have completed. If any are unchecked, you then go to those settings and perform them.
Each step has a video. A voice explains to you how to perform the adjustment and achieve optimum results.
Each step is accompanied with two visuals. One will present you with a graphic to aid you in your fine tuning.
The second visual is a photo that should display your results confirming that you have performed your adjustment properly.
To show that you have successfully completed an adjustment, click on the Done icon and a checkmark will be placed in the adjacent box.
The entire process took me about 15 – 20 minutes. I confess that I went back and performed the entire procedure a second time to ensure that I had everything exactly right. (There’s a word for that.)
The site itself is a plethora of information if you want to get your geek on or simply feel like an interesting read. When on the THX homepage (http://www..thx.com), click on the Menu icon. You’ll be presented with a number of categories to choose from, each which contains articles on various topics relating to THX from careers to setting up your home theatre to meet THX certification. To find out if you really want to delve that far, I recommend first visiting the FAQ page (http://www.thx.com/faq/).
As a cord cutter, I’m trying to cut costs however I can. I have a 3rd generation TV (which I know is on the endangered species list) of which I only use probably four of the channels at best. I AirPlay podcasts or mirror specific apps from my iPhone over to my set. (Oddly enough, even though I have a degree in video/film, I don’t watch a lot of TV or many movies. I find that in most instances, I can’t watch something simply for enjoyment. I become analytical).
That’s why I purchased what is probably the last ‘dumb’ TV manufactured on this orb. As much as I wanted HDR, I couldn’t justify the cost. Yet. But with the THX tune-up app (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/thx-tune-up/id592624594?mt=8), I am very satisfied with the results on my basic LED.
If you own an older TV, the THX tune-up app may surprise you as to how much life you still have left in your set. Honestly, I had a six year old TV that I was still using happily with the aid of this app. The sole reason that I purchased a new TV was because I wanted a larger screen!
I highly recommend that you get this app and run it through its paces, regardless whether your TV is new or ancient (technologically speaking). And should you have an Android device lying about, you’re in luck as THX has recently released an Android version in time for the Super Bowl.
©2018 Frank Petrie
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