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12 Tips To Improve Your HD Experience
Getting a HDTV is not the end of the road, it’s actually the start of your sweet journey to video nirvana. Before you wonder where this is all going, just know that you don’t always have to spend loads of cash to squeeze a little bit more out of your TV right now.
I have compiled a quick list of things you can do to improve your picture quality. Because we understand how time and money is precious to you, we will start from the easiest tip and work our way up the chain.
1) Sweet Spot
Not all TVs are built equal, especially when it’s a LCD TV. Most of their makers quote a wild viewing angle of 176 degrees, but in reality this could be as little as 60 degrees. Go for the sweet ‘middle’ spot, but you may need to fight for it.
Costs: 2 seconds to shuffle your bum.
2) How Far Should You Sit?
This is probably one of the first things you should consider before purchasing your HDTV and decide on the size of the screen. Basically if you sit far enough from the TV, you can forgo the benefits of HD material.
Check out our viewing distance article for an in-depth explanation. Bottom line: sitting distance can affect how much detail you can appreciate from your TV.
Costs: 15 minutes to rearrange your furniture.
3) Ambient Lighting
Watch your favourite TV shows in low light conditions. It's hard for the TV to compete with Mother Nature on a bright Sunday afternoon. For a better experience, place the TV in a room with controlled lighting conditions.
Costs: Depends... £20 - £50 for blackout blinds from Ikea.
4) Simple Controls
Play around with the TV controls and change the brightness, contrast, colour and sharpness for better quality.
Costs: <50 Joules
5) Bias Lighting
Placing a light source behind your TV provides backlighting that can reduce eye strain when watching for long periods in near-dark conditions. It can also improve perceived contrast and black level of your TV. Do a search on the internet to find your nearest supplier of professionally made bias lighting.
Costs: £25 to £150
You can start (in fact I strongly recommend) with a calibration disc e.g. Digital Video Essentials to fine tune your earlier numbers. For hardcore fans, you may even want to get a measuring device such as a colorimeter e.g Spyder2 or Gretag Macbeth Eye One Display.
Costs: £14.99 to £199.99
7) ISF Calibration
Imaging Science Foundation, worldwide leaders in image quality since 1994, trains professional calibrators equipped with expensive equipment to bring out the best from your video equipment. There are only handful of them in the UK, but if you don’t want the hassle of amateur calibration, consider using their services. Totally recommended if you have expensive gear.
If you use analogue connections such as component YPbPr or SCART in your system, word on the streets is that you should probably upgrade them. Just don’t break the bank doing it.
9) HD Source
This is the number one reason to get HDTV, but due to economics, it actually sits pretty high on the cost list. Until HDTV becomes the norm in UK, you can be at the forefront for much less than you think.
Visit our HD sources page for a breakdown.
Costs: £100 - £600
10) 5.1 Sound System
Worth considering for the surround sound and thumping bass. It gives the extra dimension to your home cinema experience.
Costs: £200 - £500
11) Spot The Weakest Link
You can have a really nice 1080p capable HDTV but if your DVD player isn’t up to the mark, you are going to compromise on your experience. Look at your video chain and consider replacing obsolete technology.
12) External Video Processors
This is the ultimate companion gear to your HDTV. With sophisticated video processing algorithms, they can make poor SD material look significantly better and even improve HD sources as well.
Costs: £1000 to £2000... not for the faint hearted