The often monotonous and time consuming process of calibrating a television is going to be a little easier for some 2017 televisions, thanks to new Calman AutoCal software coming from SpectraCal.

That’s because the developer of popular Calman PC software used by many professional calibrators, technicians and reviewers of professional and consumer television displays and monitors, has developed an AutoCal version of its software that will allow users to hook up a colorimeter and test pattern generator to their television and laptop in order to use the special tool. It will then quickly and automatically make readings and adjustments for gamma, white balance, luminace, grayscale and color management on select television sets.

In addition, the software will be able to make adjustments for 4K Ultra HDTVs in both standard dynamic range (Rec.709) and high dynamic range (HDR10) modes.

The software can be used by consumers but SpectraCal is positioning it more as a tool to help professional calibrators do their work faster and easier. On the surface Calman AutoCal looks simple enough for any untrained novice to do their own TV calibrations, and some educated TV enthusiasts will undoubtedly find this worthwhile, but the whole procedure will still require the purchase of the Calman software plus a compatible colorimeter or spectroradiometer, a compatible test-pattern generator and compatible cables, which can all add up to more than the cost of a professional calibration.

In addition, although the software gets very close to hitting all the color, white balance, gray scale and gamma points, most calibrations will need additional tweaking to get to levels that are spot on, making a professional calibration a desirable service.

Read more on SpectraCal’s new AutoCal program after the jump:

Proper calibration is beneficial because a trained calibrator can set a television’s picture controls to the perfect levels for the unique seating and lighting conditions of each viewing location. This is one reason why it is seldom accurate or helpful to simply post and copy the calibration settings from one specific calibration to another. Each viewing area has its own set of variables that impact gamma, color gamut, contrast, black level and white balance. This requires a custom process to get the settings right for setup, and without a trained calibrator (or AutoCal program with the right equipment) a TV’s picture quality can suffer significantly from improper tuning.

Initially, the program is being developed for Samsung’s 2017 televisions, but a SpectraCal representative said the company is working on adding other brands and models as well. The company had previously offered a similar program for select Panasonic plasma televisions, but due to the demise of the PDP display category (and Panasonic’s TV business in the United States) that version is no longer offered.

In addition, the operation and accuracy of the old Panasonic AutoCal has also been significantly improved in the newest iteration, said Tyler Pruitt, technical liason for Portrait Displays which owns Shoreline, WA-based SpectraCal.

According to Pruitt, one of the main challenges of doing calibrations has been taking measurements and then having to go into the TV’s menu and sub menus about five layers deep to make adjustments. The calibrator then has to come back out of the menu, take another reading and go back into the menu to tweak the settings further. The process goes back and forth until the correct setting is hit for each and every point in a chart being used to fine tune one aspect of picture performance. When adjusting for 20-point gamma, for example, this can make for a tedious procedure and a tired arm.

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There are other obstacles as well.

“If there is any user interface on the screen when taking the measurements that can affect the light measurement result,” Pruitt said. “So, we’ve integrated Calman to talk directly to the TV via a serial connection. The Samsung One Connect box for Samsung TVs has a headphone jack on it that says external sync. So, I have a serial-to-USB adapter and a cable that plugs into this X Link (headphone jack) input, so that now we can talk directly to the TV and have the software make the adjustments instead of you having to do them all manually.”

“Setting everything up takes longer than running the software to calibrate the television,” Puritt continued. “The length of the process will be determined by the quality and speed of the light meter used, but in general, SpectraCal said the adjustment procedure will take under 10 minutes to run.”

The operational process is pretty straight forward, Pruitt said: “Upon connecting to a display, you go in and select Samsung as the manufacturer, model 2017 QLED, select the com port (the USB-to-serial adapter) and start the program. The software first grabs all of the current values of the TV in the pre-calibration capture process.

The process is handled the same way as a manual calibration. For example, the two-point grayscale adjustment is done first and gets close overall. Then the 20-point adjustment fine-tunes things. From there the Color Management System (CMS) is adjusted. It’s the same process a Calibrator would do, but all the adjustments are being made manually.

Pruitt pointed out that calibration is a little different on Samsung TVs this year. Last year’s TVs had a 10 point scale, making auto calibration all the more beneficial for 2017.

Pruitt said SpectraCal expects the software to be very popular for (Best Buy’s) the Geek Squad and other large home theater installation businesses because it will enable all of the calibrators to get better results.

“Right now it’s up to the talent level of the individual people, where as, this will help them all get a more consistent result. It’s also good for average users who are videophiles,” who would rather do their own calibration instead of hiring an ISF-trained calibrator to come in and do it for them.

Although the AutoCal software will be most integrated in Samsung’s 2017 models, Pruitt said SpectraCal is adding support for some Samsung 2015 and 2016 models as well.

Meanwhile, when SpectraCal ships Calman 2017 sometime in April AutoCal will support HDR10 as well


By Greg Tarr


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