Do you like shopping for a new display? You go the the local big box store where you see a solid wall of overly bright displays all vying for your attention. Manufacturers set the displays to grab your attention under the bright lights of a showroom floor. After a while, they all look the same. Finally you make a decision, take it home and the true challenge begins. What might have looked fine at the retailer is now super bright, contrasty, and way too sharp.
In the quest to make your new display look great in real world conditions, you have several options.
1. Eyeball it - Adjust the brightness, contrast, color and sharpness until it looks good. It's cheap but what may look good to you, might not be ideal. Also, some HD material might have a highly stylized look. What might look good on one particular program might not look good on another one.
2. Hire an ISF calibration specialist - a good calibrator can really make your display shine. It will be set to a neutral state and you will see the video as the directors meant it to be seen. This is a great option but it can be costly.
3. Use a consumer level calibration tool like the Disney World of Wonder calibration Blu-Ray disc.
The Disney World of Wonder Blu-Ray Disc is the latest DIY calibration disc. For a retail price of $39.99, you can properly set the brightness, contrast, sharpness and color of any display. There is even a section to test and tweak your audio as well.
This is a two disc set. The main disc is broken into three main parts, Discover, Optimize and Experience. The second disc is filled with 60 minutes of demo material to enjoy after your system has been properly calibrated. I'll address each section separately.
The Discover portion is really all about educating you about High Definition, Blu-Ray, BD Live and some of the common terminology used in the display calibration section of the disc, Optimize. This section is divided into different sections, each catering to a different level of user.
The HT Basics with Goofy portion is an animated rudimentary explanation of HD technology interjected with one liners from Goofy. While it does cover material that maybe my Grandparents might not know, this section might be skipped by most users.
The Beginner Introduction to Blu-Ray is a bit of a step up. Some of the same material is covered but without Goofy's commentary. It takes you through the steps of connecting a Blu-Ray player to a HD display, with HDMI and urges you to buy Disney Blu-Rays. You really can't blame them for a little self promotion I guess.
Lost University basically touts the advantages and featured of BD Live. It uses the Lost Season 5 boxed set as a short demo of what's possible with BD Live.
The Split Screen Show Down shows you a beautiful beach and ocean scene. It pans back and forth showing you the difference in 480p and 1080p resolution.
Advanced High Definition Primer. Now we're getting somewhere. I actually found this section of the disc pretty interesting. It covers a huge variety of topics related to high definition content and displays. Each topic has a nifty demonstration. Here are a few of the terms covered:
*What makes up a picture?
*Standard Def. vs. High Def.
*What is color? 8-Bit color, gray scale
*Brightness & contrast, dynamic range and different frame rates.
*What is sound? frequency, amplitude & compression
*Interlaced vs. Progressive & 24 frames per second playback
All in all, a ton of good information. Even if you think you know it all, it's still a good review.
Disney Blu-Ray. This section basically covers the advantages of buying Disney Blu-Discs. Digital Copy, Disney Movie Rewards and BD Live.
Now we're getting somewhere. The optimize section too is split into different sections. Beginner, Advanced and Expert. One of the things that I REALLY like about this disc is the way it is organized.
Beginner Section - Here you go through the basics of video and audio calibration. Sections include, Brightness, Contrast, Aspect Ratio, Color, Sharpness, Viewing Angle and an Audio section.
Each is further divided into 3 sub sections. The first does a great job of describing what is about to be tested. The next section tells you how to make the adjustments and it shows you visually what the test pattern should look like when you have reached the ideal setting. This part is so helpful in showing you exactly what to look for onscreen. The last part is the Calibrate Now portion where you actually make the adjustments on your display. Each test can easily be navigated by simply using the Chapter Advance button on your remote.
The audio section covers tests for your particular speaker configuration including Stereo, 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1. A speaker ID test helps to make sure you have each speaker connected to the correct channel on your AVR. Polarity tests to see if your speakers are wired correctly and in proper phase. Finally there is a Noise Floor test to see how quite your viewing room is and a Buzz & Rattle Test.
The Advanced Section runs through tests specific to your display type. The tests are customized for LCD/Plasma, CRT, DLP, Projector and OLED. The test patterns themselves are more advanced for more precise adjustments. They have the same Description, Instructions and Calibrate Now options that the Beginner section has. The tests include Brightness & Contrast, Aspect Ratio, Convergence, Chroma & Hue, Sharpness & Focus, Overscan, A/V Sync, Purity - for bad pixels or color uniformity, Scaling Tests, Advanced Scaling, B&W Clipping, Viewing Angle Test, Gamma Response, Grayscale Test and a Compound Test Chart.
Expert Setting allows you to quickly navigate through the different test patterns without the instructions. This section is truly what has been needed all along.
Pixel Flipper is an interesting little tool. The poupose of this tool is to "exercise" all of your display's pixels but turning them on and off 24-29 times per second, so the test says. It can help unstick, stuck pixels and even help even out a panel that has image retention problems. If you have ever seen the television on the movie "Poltergeist", imagine a color version of that.....with out the actual Poltergeist that is. Color video snow. I can see where this might possibly help a CRT with burn in issues as well. Hopefully someone can confirm this but as of now, all my pixels and mirrors are functioning properly. I will give Disney props for coming up with this test.
Also included is a 50+ page booklet LOADED with screen shots of all the test patterns, and well written documentation on how all the tests work. This little booklet may very well be the best part of the entire set.
Now that you have spent the time to properly calibrate your display, the Experience section is supposed to be the "eye candy", your reward for your hard work. This section has short clips from Disney titles like Toy Story, Up, Pirates of the Caribbean and one of my favorites, Bolt. There are fun to look at but leave me wanting to see more. In fact, they sort of frustrate me since they are so short. Maybe that's the point. Leave them wanting more.
VISIONS INSPIRED BY NATURE
This second disc is basically a 60 minute loop of high definition video. There are ocean waves, puffy white clouds, a field of flowers, waterfalls, a crackling fire, a sunset and more. All of these are set to calming music and a bit of ambient sound. A couple of these were good to look at for a short period but I didn't care for the parts that were digitally enhanced. I would have preferred the second disc to have a bit more Disney demos personally but the point of the disc should be, and is calibration.
Let's face it. The subject of display calibration can be confusing and pretty boring. Most consumers buy new televisions and never do anything to them because they think it is too complicated to do one their own or too expensive to hire a professional. In the past some of the DIY calibration tools have had good intentions but have been so difficult to navigate. I still hate trying to find particular test patterns on one particular disc that I use.
The Disney World of Wonder disc makes calibration so much easier. In terms of navigation, it wins hands down. There really is no comparison to anything that has been released before. I may have made the menu system sound complected, but wait until you see it for yourself. It just makes sense. Each test is fully explained and you are even given a visual guide to aid you on each test. The included booklet further explains each test in depth.
Another thing that I really liked was the ability to customize the tests to your particular display type and audio configuration. Some displays need more accurate brightness and contrast patterns. Us CRT lovers can use an advanced convergence test. While I may have a slight quibble about some of the demo material, the disc does what it is supposed to do. Allow users with a wide range of knowledge and experience, to properly set up their video and audio systems.
All things considered, I would highly recommend this disc to anyone who is looking to get the most out of their home theater experience.
* Audio/Languages: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, 5.1 and 2.0
* Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 and 2.35:1 (varies)
* Region: A
* Number of Discs: 2
* Rating: Not Rated
* Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
* Blu-ray Disc Release Date: November 2, 2010
* Run Time: 240 minutes
* List Price: $39.99
* Bonus Disc: "Visions: Inspired by Nature" (60 minutes)
* BD LIVE
*Also included is a blue filter for use in the color tests.
Disc Release Date: November 2nd, 2010