Your new projector and calibration
This is pretty straightforward. Simply stated, I have yet to encounter a projector, that, right out of the box, with no changes, produces its best possible image. In most cases, colors are a little off, contrast or brightness needs to be adjusted for better black levels, shandow detail and highlight detail, and so on.
OK, you go out and buy a new projector, and when it comes to calibration, you have exactly five choices:
1. Hook it up, turn it on, and watch it as is - what we refer to as out of the box picture quality.
2. Same as #1 above, but you do a basic adjustment of Brightness and Contrast settings. If you know what you are doing, this can be done by eyeballing it, but a number of discs (mostly Blu-ray) have basic instructions and screens for adjusting these two (Star Wars discs - standard DVD also have this). A grayscale test pattern is really all you need, but there are plenty of good scenes from movies that can allow you to do just as good a job.
3. You deal with color adjustments as well. Best solution, get yourself an end user calibration disc, such as AVIA, or Digital Video Essentials HD (DVE-HD), and follow the instructions. These are designed with tutorials and to be used by the non-technical. Don't worry, you can handle it. These will allow you to do not only brightness and contrast, but color. Your results won't match a professional calibrator's but should get you closer to their work, than what you started with.
4. The easy way out: Use the calibration settings we provide in each review. There are three limitations. 1. There is some variance (in terms of color) caused by the variation from one lamp to the next. 2. We calibrate early on - typically with less than 25 hours on a projector and lamp, since most times we are working with brand new projectors. The lamp's color will shift slightly as it ages (many calibrators recommend holding off until the lamp has 200 hours or more).
Time after time I get emails from folks telling me about the substantial improvement they are seeing in picture quality/accuracy, by using our settings. It's not a perfect solution, but probably the second best, for most folks.
You can even take that a step further, if so inclined, and visit some of the forums that focus on calibrating projectors, for alternate settings, and other tips. We don't claim our settings to be perfect, and I doubt that if you have 5 different calibrators working with the same projector, that you would get less than 5 different groups of settings, each with slightly different end results.
5. Have the projector professionally calibrated. OK, this will cost you anywhere from a couple of hundred to even $1000 - depending on how many modes are calibrated, whether your other gear (such as your Blu-ray player) are calibrated with the projector, and so on. Most folks these days using an independent calibrator, I believe, spend $250 - $500. Those of you buying from a local installing dealer, will most likely find that the dealer has someone on staff that can calibrate the projector, or works with an independent. Lastly, a few of you - my "hard core enthusiasts" actually have your own light meters, etc., and know how to do it yourselves - I rank you guys in with the calibrators.
That's all there is to it. You are looking at projectors from $1500 to $10,000. With most projectors, the improvement even with #2 is visible, #3 more so, and #4 or #5, can yield downright dramatic improvements in picture quality and your viewing pleasure on most projectors.
Our recommended settings are found in each individual review. Plug them into a user savable memory, and compare! If you like it better, then we've done our job.