There are five kinds of people who need Ovation Software's DVD the AVIA Guide to Home Theater -- (1) home theater enthusiasts, (2) people planning to be home theater enthusiasts, (3) people who want their current TVs to look their best until they get a home theater, (4) product managers who display their video products at trade shows without a clue as to how to make them look good, (5) dealers and retailers who demonstrate video systems they are trying to sell.

If you are not yet familiar with it, the AVIA Guide to Home Theater is a step-by-step orientation to home theater components and calibration. This DVD starts with the basics and takes you step-by-step through the process of planning and installing your system.

Actually, it is not as much trouble as it sounds. A home theater system will typically include a DVD player, an AV receiver, surround sound speakers, a video display system (either a projector + screen, or large screen TV), and cables to hook it all together. The AVIA DVD goes through each of these component parts and gets you familiar with how they work and how to set them up.

Calibrating your own TV or projector

But the AVIA DVD is much more than just an orientation to home theater components. It also contains all of the video test patterns and audio signals necessary to calibrate your system to get the ultimate audio and video performance out of it. And if you haven't yet installed a full home theater system, it is still a great value. Because you can use this DVD to tune up the TVs in your home to get the best pictures possible from the equipment you've currently got.

You might think you'd need to be a video engineer to do the calibrations necessary to get the very best picture from your TV. And it is true that opening up the back of a television and tweaking the innerds is best left to professionals--not only can you mess up the TV's picture, but you can get seriously injured from high voltage components you were not intended to fool around with.

However, the good news is that you can make big improvements to your picture simply by optimizing the on-screen video controls: brightness, contrast, color, tint, and sharpness. Unfortunately most people overdrive these controls--pumping up brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness until the picture looks terrible. After all, who doesn't want a bright, high contrast, colorful, sharp image, right? The AVIA DVD will show you how to set each of these critical controls at the optimum level for your particular TV or projector. And you will probably end up thinking your set looks like a brand-new TV.

If you are not at the stage where you want to invest $40 in a DVD to calibrate your TV to optimum performance, you can still usually improve your TV's picture by following the instructions in our article Tune Up Your Television. This gives you a basic orientation to your TV's video controls and how to tweak them.

However, if you take video quality seriously, $40 is a lot less to spend than having a professional come by to do the work for you. And if you have a home theater or are thinking of building one, the AVIA DVD is an indispensable tool. We use it regularly for calibrating projectors in the lab, and I've just used it to re-balance the audio after installing an upgraded AV receiver.

"Where do I get it?"

You can often find it in your local retail DVD superstore for its regular retail price of $49.99. And you can get it at various outlets on the Internet including at prices discounted to $39.95 or less. Order one today--it is an essential tool for your home theater that you'll be glad you have on hand.