Defeat Scan Velocity Modulation to Unlock Your HDTV’s Full Potential

I just got back from a short vacation at my in-law’s house. In between going out to eat, getting kids down for naps and reacting to Paige’s “Daddy, will you play with me?”, I fiddled with my father-in-law’s TV picture menus. Watching television at their house is extremely frustrating because they have every channel available through Comcast cable, including a dozen high definition channels, but I couldn’t get their TV to look good by eyeballing the basic picture controls (contrast, brightness, color, tint, sharpness). The picture quality was always ruined by crushed whites and blacks and a harsh ringing around every edge of subject matter (eg, a crunchy white translucent halo surrounds every black line defining Spongebob Squarepants’ sponge body).

This trip I couldn’t take it anymore so I looked up the Toshiba 50H81 RPTV on the internet. I found an old review on Ultimate AV that mentioned that SVM (scan velocity modulation) could be turned off by using the “Movies” picture preset. SVM! I’ve had it turned off and buried on my own displays for so long I forgot it existed. SVM was killing my in-law’s TV by obscuring the picture with an over sharpened, ringing layer of plastic wrap. I switched to the “Movies” preset and all that evil ringing disappeared.

With SVM defeated I could eyeball the rest of the calibration without distraction (final settings for other 50H81 owners: Start in “Movies”; Contrast: 44; Brightness: 62; Color: 48; Tint: 0; Sharpness: 28; DNR: Off; Fleshtone: Off; ALS: Off). Now every Comcast channel looked great, SD or HD. I could finally relax and enjoy my vacation.

So, remember, if your new HDTV is plagued by SVM halos, turn the function off by any means necessary. It may be hidden in a picture preset, have a toggle on/off, or you may have to venture into the TV’s service menu. SVM is just one of the “features” used by TV manufacturers to enhance a TV’s appearance on the showroom floor. As a consumer, if I see SVM on in the showroom, I leave.

When shopping for a TV make sure you have complete control over its picture. Be aware that you need to disable “features” like SVM, DNR (digital noise reduction also found in DVD players), Sharpness, ALS (automatic light sensor changes brightness and contrast depending on external room light, throws your carefully calibrated settings out). Also never use the “Vivid” or “Sports” presets, you should only pick “Movie” or “Pro.” Avoid these new HDTV gotchas and you will have a more pleasurable viewing experience even without a professional calibration.

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