Must-Have Blu-ray TV Setup Discs Reviewed

December 10th, 2010 · 8 Comments · Blu-ray Discs, Blu-ray Titles, Disc Reviews

Test Blu-rays


Updated 12/24/2013

Don’t let your new TV go to waste. No TV looks its best right out of the box. You need to set it up. And to do that correctly, you’ll need a setup disc. Setup discs have been available on DVD for years, but a new crop on Blu-ray are worthy of a look.

The following discs each offer something a little different, but all will get your new (or old!) TV looking way better.

Disney WOWDisney WOW : World of  Wonder

I begrudgingly admit, this disc is fantastic. I had no faith that Disney would be able to put something together like this. For the person just getting into HD, or wants to learn more about TVs and HD, they’ll learn a TON with this disc.

From the Goofy tutorials (the noun, not the adjective) to the more advanced descriptions of interlace vs progressive, 24p and so on, this disc covers the basics and most of the intermediate stuff that an informed consumer ought to know. Even better, it’s presented in a slick, big-budget fashion. Lush HD scenes are the backdrop for most topics. For the intro clips, there’s Goofy being goofy.

There are even test patterns. While extensive, they’re not overly advanced. To get your TV setup correctly, there’s everything you need here. It even has one of the best brightness test patterns I’ve ever seen. There’s no real scaling or de-interlacing tests, but admittedly that’s not what this disc is about. It’s about getting the TV novice up to speed, helping them pick out the right TV, then helping to make sure it’s performing its best. The wide range of knowledge available here is truly impressive.

To round out the disc, there are short clips from Disney and Pixar movies to test out your system.

With the big budget presentation, though, comes the big budget price. It has the highest list price of the three discs here at $39.99, though Amazon has it for just under $25

I have a few quibble on how a few things were explained, and a number of topics that were glossed over, but overall it’s great. So even though it’s pricey, if you don’t know your pixel from your PLUGE, this is the disc for you.

Disney WOW: World of Wonder 2 Disc Edition $24.99 Amazon

Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics

Digital Video EssentialsWhile it aims to be the same intro to TV and HD as the Disney WOW disc, DVE ends up being more of a 102-201 type class to the WOW‘s 101. The number of patterns is far more extensive, while the explanations aren’t quite as easy to understand as Disney.

You do get graphics and tutorials to lead you though what things mean, but in this regard, it is outshined by WOW.

But this disc is really more about the patterns. Lots and lots of patterns. If you really want to make sure every aspect of your TV is set up perfectly, this is the disc for you.

On the downside, it’s a little hard to navigate, there aren’t any scaling/de-interlacing patterns, and there are many patterns that really don’t serve much use to the average consumer. But in all it’s a highly useful disc and for most people, the only one they’ll need.

Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics: $39.95 Amazon


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Spears & Munsil High-Definition BenchmarkSpears & Munsil HD Benchmark and Calibration Disc 2nd Edition

My personal favorite is the Spears & Munsil  (now in 2nd edition) High-Definition Benchmark. This is definitely more of the 301-401 level. There are no tutorials, though each test pattern has a well written description to explain what it does and what it should look like. Out of the discs here, it is the easiest and fastest to navigate.

In addition to excellent versions of the basic patterns (contrast, brightness, etc) it also has some of the best scaling and de-interlacing patterns and tests ever available to the public. If you’ve ever wanted to really know how well your Blu-ray or TV performs, or more importantly which one performs better, this is the disc for you. Most TV reviews will use tests from this disc, so you can play along with your own TV with the home game. I use this disc during every TV, projector and Blu-ray player I review.

On the downside, there aren’t nearly as many patterns as DVE, nor the beautiful tutorials of WOW, but that’s because this disc assumes you know all that and are trying to really get to know how well a TV/BD player perform.

For the ultimate tweak, or the enthusiast who feels they’re ready to graduate past DVE, this disc is a must-have.

Spears & Munsil High-Definition Benchmark (2nd Edition) $29.97 Amazon

Read our updated review on the Spears & Munsil High-Definition Benchmark (2nd Edition)



One final word. Any of these discs will help you get your TV looking significantly better than it did out of the box. No disc can be a true “calibration,” though. To wring out that last bit of performance from your TV, you’ll need a professional calibration. This is something that involves test gear and a trained ISF Calibrator. Check to find one near you.

Here’s the complete list of best selling Blu-ray titles

(Note: Amazon prices may change; please keep checking our links. Amazon free returns, price protection and bundles only apply to Amazon direct sales not to affiliated vendors.)

By Geoff Morrison

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Bryan Wall

    I just purchased a Samsung un40ku6290fxza 4k uhd tv, and am having difficulty with setting the picture. It has many picture settings, but I am new to the 4k uhd tvs, and want to get the best picture settings, that take advantage of the 4k uhd. Can someone please help me with setting the picture? I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks. Have a great day.

  • peter sokolosky

    i am in need of the ultimate tv setting for samsung un46f5500.can you help me out.pete

  • Matt Hutchison

    Thank you very much for the informative reviews of these discs. You list a link to , and on there site they have a disc called: ISF HDTV Calibration Wizard. Any thoughts on this option for home calibration ?


  • R. Ziol

    From the THX website: “As your picture tube ages, this will be one of the more difficult adjustments…”
    Sounds to me like, these are things that only need to be done for tube TVs. I tried their calibration on my LCD (19″, 16:10 ratio – therefore only 720p) and then couldn’t see anything. I’m better off just setting brightness and contrast to mid-level, and the picture is almost perfect. Haven’t tried it yet on the 47″ with upscaler DVD, but not sure I want to.

    Geoff: Whoa, whoa, whoa. There’s a lot of things going on in your comment and I’m not sure what’s getting mixed up where. Calibration has nothing to do with a specific technology. No TV is set up from the factory in ideal settings. TV production is too fast, and it would take too long to do a correct calibration/setup on each TV. I’m not sure what is going on with your TV (and just for the record size and aspect ratio have nothing to do with resolution), or why you “couldn’t see anything.” Correct setup will let you see far more things, as the TV is no longer crushing blacks and whites and so on. If you don’t like the look of an accurate TV, that’s fine, but settings that are your personal preference can’t be something I would recommend to readers. Setting up a TV with a disc like the ones found here will result in a more accurate picture for everyone. If you want to adjust it to your preference after that, that is your prerogative.

  • Light

    If you own a THX Mastered DVD (think Star Wars), you already have the full calibration function available to you for free. In the “options” or “more” screen from the main menu, select “THX Optimizer”, which will run you through a series of tests and operations to optimize the TV for the given lighting.

    If you have optical color filters (get from a camera shop), you can even calibrate these levels. However, just the simple contrast/brightness/sharpness adjustment will yield far better viewing results.

    So… Don’t go spending $20 or $30 on something you probably already have in your collection.

    Geoff: Sort of. There are many similar patterns on the THX Optimizer. For the barest level of setup it will do just fine. All three of these discs are a lot more extensive. Do you need more extensive? Up to you.

  • kevin

    You mention the three BD’s and a professional calibration. How about using a “Colorvision, SPYDER3 Tv, Colorimeter”? Would using something like that generate good results?

    Geoff: Generally yes. It should help you dial in the color temperature, which is something you can’t do without equipment. The gear that most calibrators use is a little more accurate.

  • Josh

    Thanks for this! I’m buying my first HDTV this Christmas (along with my first Blu-Ray player), so this will be of great help because I am (almost) a super noob with this.

  • scott baker

    Do any any of these discs have ways to calibrate yellow, magenta, and cyan?

    Yes (spears/munsil and DVE). But to properly adjust the secondary colors (Yellow, Magenta and Cyan) you will more that a test pattern with these colors, you will also need an accurate color meter, accurate color management software within the TV (not every brand has it) and the know how to perform the adjustment.

    HD Guru

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