Calibrating high-end displays like 4K TVs is a must if you want to get the picture-perfect quality that you paid for.
TV calibration is usually done by trained professionals who use special equipment to adjust brightness, warmth, motion processing, contrast, among other video settings, according to the specific environment that the room is in.
Professional TV calibration is expensive, so in this article, we’ll figure out if hiring a professional calibrator is worth it or if you can do it yourself.
Do 4K TVs Need to be Calibrated?
4K TVs promise stunning displays with sharp details and hyper-realistic colors. Most 4K resolution TVs will also have an HDR feature, where you can get a cinematic viewing experience for your home theater.
When Should I Hire a Professional Calibrator?
Before we pinpoint the tell-tale signs that you need to hire a calibrator, let’s discuss what the service will usually entail.
The calibrator will first check that your TV is set up correctly, meaning that all the cables are connected, and the TV is set to the right resolution. They will then insert a test pattern generator or disc as a guide for checking the TV’s display settings. This includes adjusting the brightness, highlights, shadows, and contrast according to the TV’s viewing environment.
That doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?
But here comes the tricky part: some of the settings may be foreign to you that you will need to hire a professional for calibration.
Here are more signs that you need to hire a professional calibrator:
- You don’t know how a perfectly calibrated TV looks like
- You don’t have the special equipment for calibration
- You don’t know how to use TV test patterns
- You’re not satisfied with your 4K TV’s video quality after setting it up
Can I Calibrate My 4K TV Myself?
If you don’t want to spend $200 to $400 for TV calibration, you can try to calibrate your TV by yourself.
With the rate at which modern 4K TVs are being developed, the difference between calibrated versus uncalibrated TVs out-of-the-box might not be too different in the next few years.
How to Calibrate Your 4K TV
To help you out, read our guide on how to calibrate your 4K TV:
Try the different picture modes. Most televisions will be in ISF mode, which will allow you a full array of calibration settings. If that mode isn’t available, choose Theater Mode or Custom.
Steer clear of the Vivid, Sports, and Game modes.
Set the color temperature to warm. While this step may seem simple, it will take a calibration professional to get precise adjustments.
For most 4K TVs at home, setting the color temperature to the warmest settings will usually get an accurate result.
Disable advanced picture options. While Picture Features are handy for achieving a smooth viewing experience for sports and video games, turning on Advanced Picture Options or Features is counterintuitive to calibration.
To accurately calibrate your TV, you need to make sure that your TV displays the test pattern as it is, meaning that advanced settings aren’t adjusting what you see on-screen. Turn off all Advanced Picture Options to get a blank slate.
These picture settings usually involve motion-enhancing and smoothening features, such as Adaptive, Dynamic, Processing, and Overscan.
Check picture geometry. Before adjusting the obvious display settings like brightness and contrast, make sure that your 4K TV is set to the right aspect ratio.
Navigate to the Picture menu using the remote and look for a menu labeled Aspect Ratio or Picture Size. Make sure that it’s set to normal and don’t select Zoom, Wide, 16:9, or 3:4.
You can also use Spear & Munsil calibration discs to check Picture Geometry under Advanced Video > Setup > Framing:
- The Standard Blu-Ray disc will show a test pattern where white arrows point at the 1920 x 1080 lines.
- The 4K UHD HDR disc pointing at 3840 x 260 will touch the edge of the screen.
Set brightness and contrast. The Spears & Munsil calibration discs will be the most useful in adjusting brightness and contrast.
For contrast – Select Video Calibration > Contrast, then adjust the settings until the bars below 238 are different shades of gray, and the bars above 238 are white.
The gray boxes on the top and bottom of the screen should be visible. There should also be a clear and smooth gradient from black sides to a white center.
For Brightness or Black Level, adjust the brightness level of your TV using the remote. The goal is to achieve a black level closest to Reference Black.
Calibration is different from setting up your TV. It will involve fine-tuning the display settings, including contrast, color balance, brightness, and the color spectrum.
Professional calibration will improve the overall picture quality of your TV, but the investment may only be worthwhile if you have a high-end TV.
If you can’t afford to spend several hundred dollars for professional TV calibration, you can do it yourself at home with test patterns and calibration discs.