How to calibrate your HDTV

Have you bought a shiny new flatscreen HDTV to replace the old boxy clunker, get it all set up, and notice that the picture is, well, worse?The colors are wonky.

HDTV TestHave you bought a shiny new flatscreen HDTV to replace the old boxy clunker, get it all set up, and notice that the picture is, well, worse?

The colors are wonky. The contrast is, too. You call this progress?

The New York Times has a great article (that I must have missed) to help new HDTV owners calibrate the colors on their new sets -- you know, so blue jeans and ocean water don't look the same. What they found is that you, the new TV owner, have these options: bring it back to the store for help (Best Buy's Geek Squad will run you $300) or buy a DVD disc and do it yourself.

Naturally, doing it yourself gets you the most bang for your buck. (The THX Optimizer is one such choice.) According to the Times:

Monster sells the HDTV Calibration Wizard for about $30. Digital Video Essentials’ High Definition costs about $35. The Avia II does more of the same for $40.

You could also try to do what the professionals do, though that entails investing in some equipment that will be used infrequently. Datacolor sells a $229 calibration device called the SpyderTV. The color-monitoring device connects to your screen with the help of suction cups and transmits information from your screen to your computer through a U.S.B. cable to tell you how to adjust the contrast, brightness and color levels.

A professional using this kind of tool can get an even better picture by tweaking a hidden service menu in the TV set that must be unlocked by a combination of codes or remote button presses. (It varies from one manufacturer to another)

The service menu gives the technician — or the TV owner if you can uncover the codes — greater control over settings, like individual red, green and blue changes. The codes are not secret. You can find them by typing the name of the manufacturer and the words “service menu” into a Google search. But be warned: fiddling with the service menu without a diagnostic tool like SpyderTV is risky.

What say you, readers? Have you tried to calibrate your new HDTV? Did it work? Tell us in TalkBack. (And, in the meantime, check out CNET's own video on how to calibrate your flatscreen television.)