Calibrate That CRT

Published Date
01 - Jun - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Jun - 2006
 
Calibrate That CRT
For applications like Games and Movies,  the CRT still represents the best Visual Quality you can get

The choice of most home users, 90 per cent of gamers, and movie buffs is still the bulky old CRT.

CRTs need to be set up properly. It's time to calibrate it when you have a dark- looking image on your screen, or if you feel your CRT isn't displaying colours as well as it should.

We jump into the fray and help you setup your display!

The Software
We will use DisplayMate to calibrate our test CRT. This software is precise, and gives you a step-by-step explanation window, which explains what the next display window will achieve by means of tuning, and what you need to watch out for. This help window alternates with the actual calibration pane, where you can tune the settings. It is available for download at www.displaymate.com. The registered download with the manual costs $69 (Rs 3,300).

The Procedure
1. Install Display Mate. We ran the program with the "Novice" option disabled. After running Display Mate, the startup screen should look as below. Click on the "Set Up Display" button. We have refrained from explaining in depth what exactly each step does, as there is a very intuitive help window, so you will not have any problems.


The DisplayMate main window

2. The next window will give you a brief intro. Click as directed onscreen. You are taken to a window that shows you exactly what the next test will accomplish, what you should look out for, and what problems you may face, along with possible solutions. Read the page carefully.

3. The first test is all about getting the Brightness and Contrast settings right. Follow the instructions on-screen. It's a good idea to jot down what you have to do, because you might have to refer back to the process explained in the previous page, which can get a bit irritating!

4. The next step ensures that the lightest and darkest shades of white and grey are properly reproduced and faithfully represented by what you see. As with step 3, read carefully and then tune!

5. Ensuring the monitor's blackness level is perfect (or close to that) is the next part of the calibration process. This test shows you a number of blocks on the screen with varying shades of grey. You need to tune your brightness settings so as to ensure that the maximum number of blocks appear dark grey while ensuring the background remains black.


Checking colour gradation levels


Get as many dark grey boxes as possible when calibrating

6. The next tweak is the well known ANSI greyscale pattern test. This is to ensure that the extremes of the greyscale are properly reproduced. Two boxes are shown, with colours ranging from Black represented by 0, to White, represented by 100. You need to adjust the brightness/contrast settings so that the two middle boxes-5 and 95-are distinct from the others.

7. The next step deals with setting a black level and playing around with the whiteness level. This step actually has two screens, (the left half of the screen will remain constant displaying two dark grey strips.

The first screen will, (on the right-hand side), have four varying levels of grey, ranging from dark grey to white; the second screen will have a full-intensity white bar that takes up half the screen. You need to adjust the monitor brightness until you can just see both the vertical strips, (ones on the left). The background should remain black. The White bar should not appear distorted, and the dark (vertical) strips should look identical on both the greyscale and the white pages.

8. The test in this step involves ensuring that the brightest image detail remains as sharp as possible. As all high-intensity beams tend to defocus, leading to what is called the "Bloom" effect (the halo effect that generally surrounds white and light-coloured pixels in a scene).


Logarithmic greyscale test fine-tuning


The Lines and Dots test

This test tries to minimise this. The relative sharpness of the grey and white patterns should be studied. Look for the size of the dots inside the "O"s, and the gaps between the lines. You can fiddle with the contrast setting to achieve something of a compromise, since the Bloom effect cannot be completely done away with; causing it to disappear completely will result in the display becoming too dark.

9. Now you're presented with a screen consisting of a set of black strips separated by white lines, and white strips separated by black lines. The Contrast control has to be adjusted here. Increasing it will result in the white strips gradually encroaching on the black lines. This loss in sharpness occurs because as the beam current is increased, the width also increases. You will have to settle for a look that feels right to you, because anomalies are present at all contrast levels; it is just what is noticeable and what's not.


Fine-tuning the contrast levels

10. Colour contrast is what we check in this test. Black and coloured text is placed on dark-grey, grey and white backgrounds. Basically, the black text should have sharp edges on all backgrounds and appear uniformly black. The coloured text should not have any bright or dark ridges around it.

Your display is now calibrated. Note that calibration doesn't follow a formula; it's simply what looks best to you. Then there's colour temperature to be considered; each colour temperature relates to the type of lighting where the monitor is being used, but on average, 6500 K is arguably the ideal colour temperature to select. A higher colour temperature (measured in Kelvin or K) causes a bluish tinge, while a lower value causes a reddish tinge. Though we've said 6500 is ideal, you'll need to experiment.

Advantages of a CRT Monitor 
CRT technology has been around for a long while now. With the coming of LCDs, our good old bulky boys have been referred to as "eye strainers," and despite the amount of radiation they emit, not to mention their inherently higher power-consuming capabilities (not a good thing), they are still around! There are three distinct reasons for this.

First, an LCD simply cannot match the sheer image quality, contrast and sharpness that a CRT can provide. Watching a movie on a CRT gives you a much richer viewing experience that an LCD can, and we're talking about a normal CRT as compared to even a relatively high-end LCD. This is largely due to the fact that CRT technology has gone through numerous refinements over the years, whereas LCDs are still sort of a "work in progress," with refinements still being made as regards features, production process, etc.

A serious shortcoming with all LCDs is noticeable by any gamer-their response time. Unlike a CRT, which has a virtually negligible response time-the time gap between the on and off of an individual pixel-LCDs have much larger response times, resulting in the ghosting effect one sees when gaming (or even watching movies) on them.

Flat panels also have much lower contrast ratios (the ratio or difference between the lightest and darkest areas of a screen) than CRTs. For example, a man sitting near a campfire at night: a CRT will easily capture the finer nuances, while an LCD will have problems, especially with depicting the areas around the campfire edges, where light meet darkness.

Besides these technical flaws that LCDs haven't ironed out as yet, there remains the price issue. LCDs cost nearly three times more than a CRT of the same size. While a 19-inch CRT may cost you around Rs 12,000, a decent LCD of the same size would set you back by around Rs 25,000 if not more! This is because while manufacturing LCDs, there is a high product discard rate-close to 40 per cent (this figure is constantly on the decline) of all LCDs made fail the testing standards, and the products that are cleared for sale have to bear the production costs of the rejected pieces.

In short-if you want movies and games, make some room on that table-a good ol' CRT is still the way to go!

Your graphics card settings also affect what you view. Ideally, set your graphics card to its default settings, and turn off special effects such as dynamic colour and high-contrast settings. But a few points are in order:

1. Experiment with the settings. If you actually want an artificially bright screen, go ahead!

2.    Some monitors are too dark even after proper calibration, in which case you might want to pump up the brightness and/or contrast on your graphics card through the software.

3. Some movies may be too dark for you, in which case you'll need to use the software.

4. If you want a special look-say an overly red or a cool blue look-you can also tweak the gamma settings of your graphics card.




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