Peak Whites Video, OR "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!"

One of the biggest changes in a long time in Home Theater Video has been the recent introduction of High Dynamic Range (HDR) content, and equipment which can display it properly.    HDR allows elements in scenes to be much MUCH brighter than with prior home video technologies (in comparison to other portions of the same image) -- excellent for sparks, glints, flashes, direct views of light sources, and details in bright objects such as clouds in bright sunlight.  However, there is plenty of Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) content out there which you will still want to look its best.  And the foundation for understanding what HDR brings to the table begins with an understanding of the proper rendering of SDR Video.

In my prior post on Blacker Than Black Video, I introduced the concept of the Headroom and Foot Room portions within the video encoding.  The "Peak White" pixels found in SDR Video simply reflect the Headroom authored into that video content.  Whereas HDR and SDR Video are quite similar in their treatment of Blacker Than Black pixels, they differ dramatically in how they handle these brightest pixels.

In this post we'll focus on setting up your TV to render Peak Whites properly whenever you are viewing SDR Video content:  I.e., what you SHOULD see and what you SHOULDN'T see.  So break out the sunscreen and get ready for a few Bright ideas!  COOLNESS NOTE:  Shades are optional.

Read More

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!

Read More

Just Bought a New TV, eh? Time to Extinguish its Torch Mode Settings!

OK, so you just forked over the cash for a brand new TV.  You wrangled it out of the box, got it positioned in place, cabled up, plugged in, and Voila!, you've even got a picture!  Pretty cool, eh?  Time to kick back, relax, and enjoy?

Not so fast, Bunky!

One of the dirty little secrets of the Consumer Electronics biz is that the "out of box", Factory Default Settings on just about every TV ever sold are flat out WRONG for best quality viewing!  There's no real mystery behind this.  The default settings are deliberately chosen to make the TV stand out -- to catch your eye -- from a distance, when buried amidst a whole wall of competing TVs, under garish, store lighting conditions.  THESE, my friend, are the so-called (and rightfully infamous) "Torch Mode" settings.  And if you are reading this, know that your FIRST task, should you choose to accept it, is to douse all of them!

Read More