So you bought a new TV. Now what? In order for it to perform at its best, and to prolong its life (not to mention that of your eyes), you will need to calibrate the display. However, most consumers understandably don't want to spend $300 on the calibration of a $1,000 TV. As a calibrator, here are some tips on what can be done to optimize a TV's performance.
So Many Modes, So Little Time
Your TV will come with several different picture modes and presets. These are usually labeled sports, games, vivid, movie, cinema, or standard. Most of these are horribly out of whack. Steer clear of sports and vivid or "bright" modes, as these are consistently the worst offenders. And because they are so overly bright, they will reduce the long-term life of your TV. The movie, cinema, or custom settings serve as the best starting points for creating your own custom settings. They may appear a little dark for your taste at first, but you'll get used to it.
Auto/Dynamic = Bad
Today's TVs come with a long list of different processors intended to "enhance" images in one way or another. While some of these can be valuable in the hands of a professional calibrator, it is best to defeat them if you're not 100% sure which parameter does what. Keep in mind that a Blu-ray disc image is natively very high quality and requires no processing help anyway.
MotionFlow, CineMotion, TrueMotion, CineSpeed 120Hz, 240Hz, 480Hz, and other features can sometimes make your TV image look like a cheap soap opera, and can even be dizzying. Other picture enhancements that can often be disabled for improved quality may include edge correction, digital noise reduction (DNR), MPEG error correction, flesh tone, dynamic contrast, black enhancement, and HDMI black level.
When you are using Cinema/Custom/Professional/THX/ISF modes, parameters such sharpness and tint are usually perfect out of the box, so leave them as is. In most cases, even professional calibrators will leave these parameters alone. Also, leave the colour temperature alone. Unless you are a professional calibrator, you might do more damage than good if you start futzing around with it.
Colour Within the Lines
Colour settings are usually set at 50% from the factory. In most cases, this is correct. If you feel the need to pump up the colour, just do so by a notch or two. More than that is usually wrong.
Short of actually hiring a professional calibrator, you're pretty much done. Of course you need to manage expectations. You won't get a near-perfect picture, let alone reference quality. But the image will be head and shoulders better than the out of the box experience. And the images you now see on your TV will be much closer to how they are supposed to look.