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Installer's Insight - The Last Step

Installer's Insight

Terry Paullin, founder of Front Row Cinema in Livermore, CA, has built more than a thousand home theaters over a 30+-year span. He shares projector installation and calibration tips, comments on new projection and display advances, offers up suggestions on what you should be watching now on your rig, and generally goes off on whatever pleases or irks him about the current state of front projection.

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The Last Step

So, this time around my comments apply equally to flat panels as well as projector/screen applications.

Just for the fun of it, instead of making me type out the 28-characters "flat panel and projector/screen," from here on, let's call any video display a "Binford 9000."

We'll start with this premise: If you installed a new thermostat in your home, would you not want to then adjust it to the correct temperature setting for your environment?

If you installed a dimmable light array above your dining room table, would you not want to turn the knob to your desired brightness for that room?

So what about your Binford 9000?

Yup, this missive is about calibration.

We who perform calibrations often talk about it as being the last step in the manufacturing process. So, when I'm challenged with the question, "So, you know more about the Binford than the guys who built it?," my consistent reply is, "Nope, those Binford boys are pretty sharp. But I do know something they don't—I know where you are going to put it and how you are likely to use it."

Readers of this article don't need to be reminded that if the Binford lands in the pitch black dedicated theater versus the sunroom, the correct adjustments for those respective venues are quite different. And it's not just about setting brightness and contrast to get black level and peak white right for the environment where the Binford lives. An ISF calibration involves much, much more. To my simple and extremely biased mind, to spend thousands of dollars on an ultra-Binford and then not relinquish another few hundred more to make it as good as it can be every day for the next ten years or so is just, well, silly. Not only will calibration ensure enhanced viewing pleasure 24/7, it will likely extend the life of your expensive asset.

CalibrationGrayScaleGIF
One of the most important things a calibrator does is fine-tune the display's grayscale—putting red, green, and blue in balance from the lightest to the darkest images and insuring that white is reproduced at any brightness (10% to 100%) in a neutral gray with no undesired tinting. These images, generated in SpectraCal CalMAN calibration software, show an example of before-and-after results.

Among dozens of other adjustments (too many to mention this time—but stay tuned), one of the most important is color temperature over the entire luminance spectrum, a.k.a. grayscale. Most of you know it as the right place to be with color calibration—"D65" or "6,500 Kelvin color temperature."

When talking to clients I call it "syncing up with Spielberg." If Steven Spielberg is on set with his cinematographer, he might be looking at a half dozen monitors...uh, I mean Binfords. Each one of these is calibrated, or at least checked, twice a day to confirm they are at D65. If your Binford is not at D65, you are not watching the movie they wanted you to see.

Isn't that why you bought the top-of-the-line Binford?

More on calibration coming to this space soon...

Reader Comments(12 comments)

Posted Mar 5, 2019 3:27 PM PST

By Scott Poulton

So I am one of the people who never calibrated my projector. Is this something I can do myself? If so what software do you recommend. If not about how much does it cost to have a professional calibrate it and how would I find one? Thanks, Scott

Posted Mar 5, 2019 3:40 PM PST

By Terry Paullin

So Scott, welcome to calibration.

No, you cannot do a full calibration yourself. If you hire a legitimate professional calibrator he has paid about $1,800 to attend a 3-day class on Imaging Science. He then has to spend between $1,000 and $20,000 for measurement equipment to do the right things to your display. Prices calibrators charge vary quite a bit depending on experience, equipment used, brand of display (some are usually easy, others are notoriously half-day jobs), travel distance, etc.

There are some things you can do to improve on the out-of-box factory defaults. You can find many DIY calibration discs on Amazon and E-Bay for less than $50. They will all come with simple instructions and all be worth the modest investment vs. as delivered settings. If you can afford it, I highly recommend the professional version. Good Luck.

Posted Mar 5, 2019 3:50 PM PST

By Mark

Terry, nice start. Remember, technically it's D65=6503k. I've worked in Hollywood for the last 29 years and in the motion picture television and radio industries going on my 39th year. I have worked on just one Spielberg movie and no, they didn't calibrate the monitors twice a day. But that was when he was shooting film. With regards to home viewing today, one of the biggest problems I see is with all the new UHD monitors and their color space. EVERYTHING broadcast free over the U.S. airwaves is Rec 709 based. Unfortunately all these new monitors are all trying to emulate at least P3 and eventually Rec 2020. These Binford 9000's color volume is way too great, and if not calibrated correctly will be showing the viewer colors no one intends them to see. Just one of the issues I have been running into... Looking forward to reading more. Thanks

Posted Mar 6, 2019 12:45 PM PST

By Terry Paullin

Mark -

Good to see a "pro" is still interested in this site. So you are going to beat me up for 3 Kelvin? ... Really? :) Yeah, I know most of the process has changed during the digital transition. About 25 years ago I was actually on set (my dad was an extra) of a film being shot in Temecula. I watched as they were calibrating a monitor. Didn't know what it was then, but after I had been calibrating with Joel, I recognized it as a Philips 5639 color analyzer. Although old news, we still use the "twice a day" line in class to underscore the importance to the film makers of getting the color right.

Now, you are going to make me explain "Color Volume" to the masses ... jeez

Thanks for your comments

Posted Mar 7, 2019 11:03 AM PST

By Jim Doolittle

Hi Terry,

My Binford 9000 already has a setting for "D65" color temperature. Am I all set? :)

Posted Mar 7, 2019 2:44 PM PST

By Terry Paullin

Doo -

You probably think "D65" is a caterpillar tractor - yes, you can trust everything in the menu. I talked to the guy who calibrated your TV and he said "If Ida had the right tools, I coulda done the job"

Miss you, buddy

Posted Mar 9, 2019 10:08 AM PST

By Glen Carter

Just had to say, my new super "Binford" has a D65 setting, however having more than $20k in calibration equipment, it's close, but not great.... slight errors towards green are terrible....

As I understand, when we talk Kelvin for color temperature, it's like saying " I'll have a coke," however D65 is " I'll have a Coca-Cola" Our D65 reference point is an exact, measurable target and the 6500K/6503K are correlated color temperatures for that point, however there are many other points that still correlate to those Kelvin temperatures.

Regards, Glen Carter

Posted Mar 11, 2019 2:22 PM PST

By Terry Paullin

Well, here's another way to put it. We have talked forever to the press and in countless articles about D65, a.k.a. 6500 Kelvin a.k.a. the "D" point ... and yes, that's where we want to end up - but, that is not what we calibrate to. Take a deep breath. There is the 1931 C.I.E. chart that shows all the colors we humans can see. In the middle of that chart is a curved line called a "Black Body Curve" It has several points along it, one of them labeled "D". Along this line are nearly perpendicular lines called isotemperature lines. Points along those lines are called correlated color temperature lines. Now think of the C.I.E. chart again. It has an X and a Y axis, like most all two dimensional charts. Our instruments read out in x/y coordinates. So what we actually calibrate to is an "x" of .313 and a "y" of .329 on that chart. Here's all you need to know about that. If you calibrate to .313, .329 you ARE at 6500 Kelvin, but not the other way around. If you calibrate until your "Kelvin meter" reads 6,500 Kelvin, you could be way off on the x/y. The x/y is the standard in our industry. If you understood all of that I want to hire you. If you didn't, a three day ISF class awaits. It took me almost two years before I really got it!

Posted Mar 11, 2019 11:42 PM PST

By josh

I had a guy in a nice blue shirt tell me that calibrating my display would lower its RPM. Was it wrong to smile and say thanks for the info?

Posted Mar 11, 2019 11:50 PM PST

By Terry Paullin

Josh -

Yes, it was wrong to humor him ... he should have been wearing a RED shirt! Turns out, calibrating a display actually INCREASES the RPM and, depending on the length of the lens, can take as much as a half second off the 0 - 60 speed

Posted Mar 12, 2019 7:23 AM PST

By Jim Doolittle

By asking Terry if the factory default "D65" setting in a display device can be trusted I was hoping to bait him to reply "absolutely not", as he well knows! In the 24 years I've been doing calibrations I have yet to come across any type of display device that would track a gray scale accurately just by choosing a setting that was labeled as "D65". Even the closest ones I've seen weren't close enough. Another question Terry, I just got the latest light rejecting screen material, it doesn't look white when my projector is off. Will this have any impact on the factory setting of "D65" on my Binford 9000?

Posted Mar 12, 2019 11:22 AM PST

By Terry Paullin

Yes, Jim, we all knew you were "baiting" ... but for the edification of our readers, Jim is exactly right. Not too many manufactures give you a "D65" mode any more, but when they do, they are often way off. I have seen them be 1,000 Kelvin off. When we calibrate, we like to start in a mode that is as close as possible to where we are going (you know, the .313/.329 thing). If the display has a D65 mode, that might be a good place to start - certainly better than "Vivid". Many displays now have "ISF Day" and an "ISF Night modes which would be our first choice.

So Jim, I only get 3 or 400 words-give me a break! Eventually I will get to all the things you and I have had to learn the hard way - even screen stuff like white field uniformity, grey screens and, yes, even light rejecting screens. But for now, put away the bait box and give me a couple months!

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(03/22/19 - 11:29 AM PST)
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