The Familiar Ring(ing) of Excess Sharpness!

The Sharpness control is one of the Basic Video Level settings found in every TV.  It is also, alas, one of the settings most commonly abused by manufacturers trying to make their TVs stand out in a wall of competing TVs under garish store lighting!  Indeed, TV Factory Default settings with Sharpness set WAY too high are commonplace --  a key facet of the justly-infamous Torch Mode settings foisted on new TV buyers. See my prior post on Extinguishing Torch Mode Settings for the others.

Excess Sharpness, in particular, produces the appearance of "false detail" in the image, which looks attractive on a casual glance (applause from the Marketing guys!).  However, the REAL details of whatever you are watching are ACTUALLY being obscured!

In this post we'll discuss what the Sharpness adjustment does to your image, and how to set this control properly in your TV -- using a Calibration Disc.

We'll also discuss the problem of "Edge Enhancement"; damage akin to excess Sharpness ALREADY baked into the content you are watching!

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Blacker Than Black Video, OR "Hello Darkness my Old Friend!"

One of the Holy Grails of Home Theater (an avocation clearly overstocked with the darn things) is achieving the proper display of near-Black details in your video.  This of course starts with the proper display of Black itself!

It should be EASY, right?  As I detailed in my post on Digital Video, every format for Digital Video DEFINES a particular pixel value as representing "Black".  All the TV has to do is make that pixel, well, Black!  No light output.  And uh, brighter pixels should be brighter than that. Of course your particular TV might not be able to turn a pixel TRULY Black.  But that's a detail.  You get it as black as you can.

Then with a wave of my hand (something oft accompanied in the teaching game with a sotto voce, "Step 2:  A Miracle Occurs!") I mentioned there is ALSO a portion of the video data range reserved for describing pixels as, "Blacker Than Black".  Um, say WHAT?

Well, Bunky, it's time to get dark.  I mean REALLY dark.  So slip into your most Goth outfit, put on that sombre music, and lower the lights.  For we are about to encounter Blacker Than Black pixels, and learn what to do with them.  And what NOT to do with them!

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Understanding Audio Downmix and Surround Sound Processing, OR Wait! I've Got the Wrong Number of Speakers?

It used to be so SIMPLE, back in 1898, when Francis Barraud painted his brother's dog, Nipper, staring intently into the brass horn of a wind up phonograph and hearing, His Master's Voice!

One audio channel.  One speaker.  One dog.  And one enduring trademark!

One has to wonder how Nipper might react to today's Dolby Atmos installations for Home Theater (or any of its competitors); a technology designed to support up to 24 speakers at ear level, a special bass audio channel, and 10 ADDITIONAL "height" speakers overhead!  Would Nipper still stare in wonder?  Or would he dive under the sofa?

The answer to that question likely revolves around how INTELLIGENTLY those speakers were used!  In particular, what if the content you are playing has a different number of audio channels from the number the speakers you have installed?  This is the realm of audio Downmix and Surround Sound Processing, and that's our topic for today.

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