Digital Video Essentials HD - DVE HD Basics - Calibration Disc Review
8/04/2008 -Mike Rollett
Introduction to DVE HD Basics
Joe Kane has long been one of the leading advocates for proper calibration of video displays. In 1996, he produced his first version of Video Essentials on laserdisc. This was followed by a DVD in 1997 and the first Digital Video Essentials in 2004. While the first DVD version of Video Essentials was well known for its quality test patterns, it’s menu navigation was a nightmare for many, especially since a number of DVD players could not directly access test patterns without going through a convoluted series of submenus. Also, it wasn’t particularly helpful to the novice or “weekend” calibrator.
Fortunately, all that changed with later DVE versions on DVD. Today, I’m happy to say, the current version of DVE–HD Basics (available on Blu-ray and probably still findable in HD DVD format as well), is a joy for the beginner, the “part-time” calibrator or the experienced calibrator.
DVE HD Basics Features
HD Basics provides both audio and video calibration sections, as well as extensive instructions on how to use both. The menu system is consistent with BD movies, in that it can be brought up without leaving the screen you’re currently using. The menu is clean and straightforward, giving the user the option of starting at the beginning with an in-depth description of HD technology (“HD in Detail”), jumping to how to use the test patterns (“Setting Up My HDTV”) or, for experienced calibrators, going directly to the test patterns (“Just The Test Patterns”). Test patterns are provided in both 1080p and 720p, but there are more 1080p test patterns, including those most likely to be used by calibrators.
There are also demonstration materials in both 1080p and 720p (again, more in 1080p), some of which have been carried over from past DVE versions. The nice addition is a audio commentary by Joe Kane during his now-famous “Montage of Images”, which explains what each image represents, as well as what to look for to determine how well your player and display are able to handle these images. While these images may be frustrating in that they can show uncorrectable deficiencies in your display or player, they are nonetheless useful for learning about the types of issues that can define the quality of your components.
There is a user guide packaged with the disk that not only lists all the individual sections and patterns, but also instructs on proper connection setup of your BD player. There is also a set of red, green and blue filters, for properly setting the color (saturation) and tint (hue) controls on your display.
In addition to the video information and test patterns (which is the meat of this disk), there are also audio test signals to set up a multichannel sound system. The audio signals are provided in both Dolby TrueHD and standard Dolby Digital, to accommodate those whose BD player and/or sound system are not equipped to handle TrueHD.
Calibrating your Projector with DVE HD Basics
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, DVE–HD Basics is a valuable tool for anyone wanting to improve the performance of their display, from the beginner to the experienced calibrator. Let’s explore that further.
1. The Beginner –
For someone who has just purchased their first HD display and BD player, DVE-HD Basics is both educational and functional. For those wishing to learn more about HD technology, they can watch the Introduction to HD and/or the HD In Detail sections first (actually, just about anyone would probably learn something from watching these sections). Or, if they don’t really care about how the technology works and just want to make their display look better, they can skip straight to the HD Video Calibration section. Here they’ll find test patterns, with full explanation of how to use them, that can be used with almost any HD display.
Included in the HD Video Calibration are patterns for evaluating and adjusting Brightness, Contrast, Color/Tint, Sharpness, Display Resolution and Geometry. Just about any current display has user accessible controls to properly adjust the first four listed above, which alone will make a definite improvement in picture quality. This can be especially true for Contrast, as many displays (even projectors) come with a Contrast setting that is way too high, to make the displays look brighter (and therefore more appealing) in the showroom. The Display Resolution pattern will assist in making sure that both your display and source are properly set to achieve the highest resolution. In the case of the Geometry pattern, it is useful for setting convergence of red, green and blue in 3-chip DLP, LCD and LCOS (as well as CRT projection) displays. While some displays have user-accessible controls to improve convergence, they are often hidden in a secret service menu accessible to professional calibrators.
2. The “Weekend” Calibrator –
The “weekend” calibrator is someone who wants to go beyond the basic adjustments mentioned above and has purchased a relatively inexpensive calibration probe (Spyder TV or Eye One for example) to be able to set grayscale for their HD display(s). As each test pattern has additional information on its use alongside it in the menu, even a first time “weekend” calibrator can quickly learn how test patterns he may not have used before can help. For grayscale calibration, there are 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100% grey windows (0% being black and 100% being white) in both 720p and 1080p. While this is usually sufficient for inexpensive probe use, there are windows in 5% increments from 0% to 100% in 1080p only, for those who wish to take it a step further.
Combined with a calibration probe as mentioned above, DVE-HD Basics will ensure that you are able to get the most out of BD playback on your display.
3. The Professional Calibrator –
For the most part, the professional calibrator will not find DVE-HD Basics wanting. All the test patterns mentioned above, as well as the demonstration materials, will assist not only in calibrating, but also in choosing the best display for the customer’s needs. The only “deficiency” would be in the lack of primary and secondary color windows and/or fields, that would be helpful with displays and outboard processors that offer color management controls. Although many calibrators use HD calibration generators, it’s still helpful to view test patterns on the HD source (in this case, a BD player) the customer will actually be using.
There are a number of other patterns for fine tuning the display, including the afore-mentioned geometry pattern, overscan and others that are primarily used with CRT displays.
Digital Video Essentials HD Basics (DVE HD Basics) Calibration Software: Summary
DVE-HD Basics represents a positive step forward in the evolution of the DVE test disk. It’s by far the easiest DVE version to use to date. There are a few quirks with skipping backwards through patterns (going forward is not problem), but the menu system makes it easy to go to any pattern. What’s impressive about this disk is that it truly can be used by anyone interested in making their HD display look better. It’s a highly recommended addition to your BD library.