True Colors Part 2

As prices have dramatically dropped, sales of high-definition televisions have skyrocketed. The chances are good that you already own an HDTV or are planning to buy one in the near future. And with new products like Apple TV and Windows Vista Media Center bringing your image libraries to your home theater, the long-promised convergence of computers and home entertainment is finally happening.

What you may not know is that your spectacular HDTV is probably not tuned correctly to give you the best possible picture and truest colors. Manufacturers typically ship displays with their brightness and contrast settings boosted, often set too high for the best picture in your home environment. Why? Retail stores are brightly lit—much more so than the typical living room. To grab your attention when comparing monitors at the store, display settings get tweaked. That’s fine for the sales pitch, but if you don’t adjust those settings when you get them home, you won’t be getting the best image from your display.

So, how do you properly set the brightness, contrast and color adjustments on your display. You can try to do it with your eye as the judge, but did you really get the settings right? That’s where calibration software comes in. Datacolor SpyderTV will help you find the exact settings for your monitor, without guesswork.


Display calibration takes just a few minutes. In addition to the SpyderTV colorimeter and software, you’ll need a DVD player connected to your display and a Windows laptop or desktop computer—with an available USB port—set up near your display. SpyderTV is Windows only, so Mac users will need a Windows emulator to run the software.

First, install the calibration software on your computer. Next, attach the colorimeter to your display, right in the center, using the included suction cup or tripod attachment. I didn’t want to bother with a tripod, so I used the suction cup. If you’re hesitant about putting a suction cup on your display, don’t worry; I did it on my plasma screen and everything turned out just fine.

Launch the software and put the test pattern DVD in your DVD player. The SpyderTV then measures contrast, brightness, color, tint and color temperature and prompts you to make the necessary adjustments to your display’s settings. Follow the software wizard’s instructions and you’ll be quickly guided through the entire process.

I’ll admit that I was somewhat skeptical about the need for this calibration tool, but SpyderTV made a difference in the picture quality I was getting from my display. My original settings didn’t seem “off” to me before, but after seeing the difference that the proper adjustment made, I’m glad that I used it. After my display adjustment, there was an especially noticeable difference in the details of the shadows and highlights of the picture. Before and after images help you compare the difference that your adjustments made.

At $229, the SpyderTV isn’t cheap, but it’s worth the investment to get the best possible picture from your high-tech, high-def screen. You can always do what I did and convince a friend or two to split the cost with you.
Contact: Datacolor, (800) 554-8688,

Top Features

• Easy, step-by-step software wizard

• Suction cup or tripod mount for colorimeter

• Test pattern DVD ensures accurate measurements

• Before and After comparison