Do Not Repeat My Mistakes Calibrating Your Home Theater Projector

With the HCFR 1.21 update I’ve been struggling with using Gretag Macbeth/X-Rite’s Eye One Pro or Eye One Display2 color meters. A list of my missteps so you don’t repeat my mistakes:

  • Pointing the Eye One Pro towards the lens with the ambient light diffusor attached: I’ve had success with this technique in the past with Babelcolor. Unfortunately, HCFR does not have the correct software support for interpreting measurements taken with the ambient light diffusor. One long calibration session wasted.
  • Taking readings off the screen with Eye One Pro, no good readings below 30% gray: After realizing my ambient measurements and calibration was wrong, I set up the Eye One Pro facing my projection screen. I got really great measurments down to about 40% and then the readings just go haywire. I’m using the calibration now but I know I’ll have to try again. Two long calibration sessions wasted.
  • Using the Eye One Pro at all: So I found some tests done by the guys behind another calibration software package and they came up with the following list of color meters: worst to best dark readings: Eye One Pro, Spyder2, DTP94, Display2. Who would have thought that the low priced Display2 beats out its premium big brother, the Eye One Pro.
  • Unable to connect the Display2 over USB with the Parallels 3106 beta 3. Downgraded to 1970 and the meter is now recognized.
  • HCFR does not have an ambient mode for the Display2, so you cannot take accurate readings with the diffuser attached. The Calman forum’s Display2 FAQ (reg required) recommends always using the diffuser whether taking readings off the projection screen or facing the projector’s lens. I found this to be true when I thought I was taking accurate readings off my screen without a diffuser and I changed the angle of the Display2 and got completely different readings. So, until HCFR adds an ambient mode for the Eye One meters they are unusable.
  • For my latest calibration I switched back to Babelcolor and took measurements in ambient mode with the meter facing the projector lens (see my previous Babelcolor post for tips on using the program to take front projection measurements, this time I changed the Delta E rating to “uv” because it was more critical and matched HCFR’s calculations). After balancing the projector’s grayscale I wrote down my xyY (for some reason Babelcolor’s “Y” is an error value and does not represent luminance, so instead I recorded the lux value) values for each gray patch from 0-100%. I switched back to HCFR opened a new measurement document, checked “editable data” in the 0-100 grayscale table and entered my Babelcolor numbers. HCFR calculated gamma, contrast ratio and grayscale tracking and rendered its pretty charts.

Who said calibrating was ever going to be easy?

So I’m back to using two programs in two different operating systems and manually entering long integers into table cells. The good news is I know I can trust my results by using the best meter and (free) software for the job. Also my Sanyo Z3 looks better than ever with closely tracked grayscale, proper contrast (no clipped red, green or blue, more on this later), respectable contrast ratio and a gamma value one-one-hundredth off of spec.

To sum up: my best results were achieved by using:

  • Meter: Eye One Display2 with ambient diffuser attached facing the projector lens gives me the most accurate readings, especially for dark readings from 0–30% gray.
  • Meassurement Software: Babelcolor (unlimited Mac demo does everything we need, Windows demo has extra features but only lasts for 14 days)
  • Analysis Software: HCFR for calculating and charting grayscale, gamma and contrast ratio based on manually typed values from Babelcolor

6 thoughts on “Do Not Repeat My Mistakes Calibrating Your Home Theater Projector

  • January 21, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    I am a very big fan of your site!!! I am a geek with family too. I can relate to all your posts. First let me say that all your posts are very informative. I have a Macbook and I will be trying projector calibrations. So i’m writing because I have a Z4 and I am wondering if your Z3 settings would closely match my Z4? Also, I was about to purchase Spyder2 Pro but after reading this I guess I should purchase Eye One Display 2???

  • January 23, 2007 at 7:02 am

    My Z3 settings probably won’t translate to your Z4 as they are dependent on the red filter over my lens. Another issue with the Z4 that makes it difficult to calibrate is its dynamic iris. You will have to arrive at your own settings, the AVS Forum has an extensive thread on tweaking your projector, so you should check that out.

    The Display2 does get the best readings if you use it with the ambient diffuser. AFAIK ColorHCFR still doesn’t have an EyeOne ambient mode. So you will have to follow my technique of taking measurements in Babelcolor and transferring the values to HCFR.

    You can also spend $150 on Calman and have Display2 ambient support now.

  • May 11, 2007 at 1:51 am

    Does anybody know if the newest version of HCFR (v 1.22) supports an ambient mode for the Display2 with attached diffuser?

    What would be the best diffuser to use with Display2?

    Is it beter to point out Display2 toward screen or toward projector lens for accurte measurements DLP front projector?


  • August 10, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Other pitfalls:
    1) forgetting to delete a color profile from Windows
    2) forgetting to “default” your DVD software video settings
    3) incorrect choice of DVD player video playback defaults for black, etc.
    4) Not using 100% color measures with HCFR (some incorrectly use 75%)
    5) Not choosing the correct “power saving” video mode in a plasma (can affect contrast/gamma)
    6) Not setting contrast/brightness/tint/hue and recording settings prior to running calibration
    7) Not disabling Color Correction circuitry in the display prior to calibration (Samsungs–> CCA in service menu)
    8) Not turning off ambient lighting in the room (lamps, sunlight, etc.)

    Just a few of the simple mistakes that can throw off an otherwise good calibration session…


  • October 3, 2007 at 9:10 am

    I thought the
    1. Gretag Eye One Pro
    2. Gretag Eye One Display2 color meters
    3. Pantone Eye-One Display LT (rumors it will be discontinued)
    4. Pantone Eye-One Display 2
    all used the exact same hardware sensor unit??
    And the only difference is that they have different software.
    The hardware sure looks the same in the photos.
    Can anyone confirm?

    And then, why is our geek getting different results with 1. and 2. ?
    Does the software somehow treat them differently?

  • October 3, 2007 at 9:16 am

    OK this thread says that 1. is different but 2. – 4. use the same hardware.

    Last question: wouldn’t it be better to point the sensor at the screen (using the diffuser) since that way you wrap the screen into the calibration too…?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *