What You Need to Calibrate your TV or Projector

Introduction

Since TV and Projector calibration can seem a bit scary at first, I wanted to detail what is needed to do manual calibration on a TV or Projector. I would also recommend this article for those that use auto-calibration because it is important to check auto-calibration results manually after the fact.

Required Equipment

Sensor

You can use a lot of different sensors with HCFR and they are grouped into two categories:

  1. Colorimeters
  2. Spectrometers

Colorimeters are generally much better at gamma calibration and colour calibration next black so they are a must for today’s high-contrast displays.

Spectrometers are generally better at colour, but they are not great with low luminance measurements.

To calibrate a display, a high-quality colorimeter is a must. If you wanted more accuracy, you can use a spectrometer to profile the colorimeter to the display and then use that profile with the colorimeter to calibrate.

The following are high-quality colorimeters that you can use:

  1. Colorchecker Display
  2. Colorchecker Display Pro
  3. Colorchecker Display Plus
  4. Spyder X

If you wanted to buy a colorimeter on the used market, you can also get the following ones:

  1. Colormunki Display
  2. i1 Display Pro 3
  3. i1 Display Pro
  4. i1 Display Pro Plus

I would not recommend any of the other consumer-grade older colorimeters. The ones I underlined are suitable for HDR displays above 1000nits of brightness. However, if you don’t have money for those, start with a colorimeter that is cheaper as any of the above instruments would be a worthwhile investment.

The above models all have sealed optics and therefore will not deteriorate as rapidly as older designs. In fact, I wouldn’t be worried if you bought on on the used market as your first instrument.

Stand

You may need a microphone or camera stand if you are calibrating a projector. It is simply much easier to set up and aim a sensor if you mount it on a stand. I use a microphone stand that comes with a little microphone clip to mount non-standard microphones on it. It is perfect for holding and aiming my colorimeter.

Computer

You will need a computer – preferably a laptop. But it can be any computer you can have in close proximity to the display.

Required Software

Windows

You will need to install Windows on the computer. If you have a PC, this should not be an issue. Any Windows installation from Windows 8 onwards will work fine, possibly even older.

For a Mac with an Intel chip, you can use Bootcamp. However, you can install Windows in a virtual machine on both intel and M1/M2 chips. You can even accomplish this freely using Virtual Box which even runs on Linux and Solaris, so you can install Windows and the tools you need right on your desktop – as long as you have enough space on your computer.

The paid alternatives for Mac, such as Parallels Desktop, are better in terms of usability – if you don’t mind paying for them. But I was using Virtual Box for years and never had an issue.

HCFR

Although the original project site is here, the latest version as of Jul 2022 is actually on GitHub here. You need to grab and exe file and run it on Windows. It should install everything you need.

There are paid software packages as well of course such as ColorSpace, ChromaPure and Calman. However, you do not need to pay for them as HCFR has most of the functions of the expensive packages and is perfect for learning calibration.

Sensor Drivers

Most of the above sensors are installed automatically by Windows and then made available by a software package called ArgyllCMS in HCFR. HCFR is built using ArgyllCMS so you don’t need to download it.

If a sensor is installed by Windows but it doesn’t show up in HCFR, there is a driver folder in the HCFR installation folder with an ini file in it that contains the driver packages. You would need to go to Device Manager in Windows and point it to this init file to see if the driver is loaded from there.

Should a sensor be quite new and a driver is not available in HCFR, you can download the latest version of ArgyllCMS and see if the sensor has support using that package. The installation of a driver from Argyll is the same as I described above – so it needs to be done manually.

Patterns

You have the option of running the patterns of a disk or off the computer you are running HCFR from.

For SDR, it may be easier to run patterns off the computer.

For HDR, it may be easier to run patterns off a disk as setting up the computer to do HDR patterns is a bit more tricky, especially with a TV. This is because you can usually force a projector into HDR mode manually, but you cannot usually do this on a TV. Hence for a TV, a UHD Blu Ray player or media player is required with either a UHD disk or UHD MP4 pattern files.

  1. Free SDR patterns: AVSHD
  2. Free HDR patterns: Mehanik’s HDR10 patterns, DVS HDR10 Patterns

If you wanted to run HDR patterns off your PC, that’s also possible. You PC does not need to output an HDR signal – in fact, it will mess with the patterns of it does. It needs to be in SDR mode. For projectors, you force the display into HDR after configuring HCFR for HDR standard settings (not output). For TVs you need an HDFury device to inject the correct HDR meta-data into the signal to get the TV to interpret the SDR signal as HDR. HCFR takes care of the rest.

Required Knowledge

There are free guides out there such as the one here. They are a great starting point.

However, the free guides only present a high-level view of calibration and don’t cover all the different options for calibrating greyscale, gamma and gamut (CMS).

This is why I wrote the Display Calibration Guide, which is a 300 page, two-volume guide to use as a reference for both SDR and HDR calibration. In it I explain pretty much all the HCFR options you will need to use and how to use them as you work through calibrating your TV or projector. The guide comes with email support and will be continuously updated over the next 12-24 months with more and more information to make it the ultimate guide to HCFR and display calibration.

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