I feel good about my home theater set up when I can go into a high end dealer and feel unimpressed with their demo rooms. I watch the usual African savanna HD stream projected onto a 120" diagonal fixed screen by a $30,0000 Runco front projector and line doubler combo and sigh. I know what I have at home is better for a fraction of the cost because I’ve tweaked my front projection system to a higher level than intended by the manufacturer.
I also lose confidence in mainstream home theater magazines when a casual reviewer pans my projector for flaws that are easily overcome with a color correction gel filter, a Colorvision Spyder2PRO monitor calibrator and careful manipulation of user and service menu settings. The magazine’s editorial dogma may skew their opinions toward the lowest common denominator (L.C.D.), Joe-Best-Buy, but it doesn’t speak to me.
Every tweak and hack I make to the the machines that connect me to my entertainment moves me one more click away from the L.C.D. I never want to feel limited by my home theater equipment. I tend to buy equipment I know I can modify to extend its features and my enjoyment.
Because I’m naturally lazy, I picked up all the information I needed to optimize my projector from just two sources: The AVS Forum Sanyo PLV-Z3 Tweak Thread Secrets of Home Theater and Hi-Fi review (well, these linked to a few other sources, but I didn’t have to find those on my own, so…).
Armed with the knowledge from the forums and review above I knew my goal: achieve the highest contrast ratio and brightness while maintaining D65 grayscale across a 2.2 gamma and proper color matrix for SD and HD TV signals. You will not win the grayscale, gamma, color trifecta by eyeballing your display, you need a test signal generator, a light measurer and a computer to translate and analyze your readings. The hobbyist’s affordable kit includes: Colorvision Spyder2PRO, a DVD player and calibration discs (The Avia Guide to Home Theater and Digital Video Essentials), and a laptop (for portability into your home theater) to take the Spyder2’s readings and enter them into this spreadsheet.
The Sanyo PLV-Z3 LCD Projector has a red deficiency in the shadows. When otherwise properly calibrated, the projector will present dark grays and blacks with a blue cast, like a Midnight Blue Crayola crayon. Expert posters at the AVS Forum suggest using a CC30R (Color Correction 30% Red) photography filter to give the projector enough red light output to balance the grayscale back to 6500 K at the lower end. This works great. The only problem is that the filter fades over time and you lose its benefit. So, I recently rotated my CC30R filter as it has faded in the small spot the Z3 throws light through. Now my shadows are no longer blue/green which gave low light fleshtones an unnatural look.
I’ve calibrated my projector at least 3 times and each session is at least 3-4 hours long. The projector is due for another calibration soon (mostly to compare the results from an Eye-One Beamer versus the Colorvision Spyder2PRO). I started out with the settings suggested by AVS Forum’s ROne (document with his and others Sanyo PLV-Z3 settings) and modified them basing my settings on readings from the Colorvision Spyder2PRO.
My latest settings were set with my Panasonic S97S HDMI DVD player as an HDMI source. Start the calibration in the Dynamic preset mode and set the following (all settings assume CC30R filter taped over projector lens: :
- Contrast: 0
- Theater Black Lamp
- Brightness: -7
- Color Temp: User
- R: -4
- G: +3
- B: -1
- Iris: -46
- Gain R: +15
- Gain G: -8
- Gain B: -6
- Offset: R: -15
- Offset: G: +4
- Offset B: +8
- Gamma: 0, 0, 0
- Sharpness: -7
- HDMI setup: L1 (Video Levels)
In future posts I will tell you how I arrived at these settings through the use of a Colorvision Spyder2PRO (or Eye One Beamer), calibration DVDs and my Powerbook.
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