How To Avoid Being Torched By Eco-Mode On Your New HDTV

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How To Avoid Being Torched By Eco-Mode On Your New HDTV

Eco-Mode.jpgI recently wrote an article entitled "Calibrating Your HDTV is a Problem You Shouldn't Have", which was met with some, shall I say, spirited criticism and some praise. It wasn't my intention to necessarily spark such a polarizing debate as it was to simply share my thoughts on the current state of affairs surrounding display modes that manufacturers use in order to sell you an HDTV. There was so much debate that the conversation spilled over onto Home Theater Review's forum, Home Theater Equipment, where the discussion continues to this very day. I'm not joking, check it out and see for yourself. In fact, it's because of the ongoing dialog over at the forum that I'm writing what I guess you could label as a follow-up article.

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Following the initial publication of my original article I received a message from Home Theater Equipment member "Michael TLV", who is a THX certified calibrator and a regular contributor to our new forum. In Michael's message he wrote; "...TVs no longer come out of the box in Vivid mode or Dynamic mode anymore like they used to. They come out preset to a mode that is so devoid of light output that no one in their right mind would use. You will need to convince the environment people that the TVs should consume more energy out of the box now." Michael is absolutely right, your local big-box retailer or dealer may use a display's "torch mode" to get you to buy the set, but out of the box the new picture setting of choice appears to be one that is eco-friendly. I confirmed this on two different HDTVs by resetting the displays back to their out-of-the-box configurations and sure enough, the images were dimmer than snot. Moreover, the image actually began to fluctuate in its brightness and color uniformity, seemingly with the wind (not actual wind of course). Oh boy. What are we to do?

Simple, here's what you do. If you want to enjoy the best picture experience your new HDTV has to offer out-of-the-box, follow these simple steps. First, most HDTVs, upon initial power up, will ask you which environment the display is going to be featured in: "store" or "home." Be sure to select "home." Doing so will grant you the ability to control the display's various picture modes and controls more accurately. This will most assuredly also put the display into its most eco-friendly mode as well as activate a slew of so-called features you probably don't need. Once you've chosen "home" as your location you'll more than likely have to set date and time, etc. These settings have no bearing (at least to my knowledge) on your display's overall picture quality so enter in the data as you see fit. From there I would ask that you open up your display's on-screen menu and find where the eco modes are kept. Hint: they're either in the advanced picture menus or the "more" menus. Once you've located the eco setting(s) on your HDTV, you need to turn them off. This will ensure that your display takes a giant step forward in ensuring you consistent image quality - especially with regards to panel brightness, the tradeoff being that your display will lose a bit of its energy saving capability. If you prefer to hug trees more than loved ones on movie night, then by all means leave the eco setting on, stop reading this article and go outside - for the rest of you, let's continue.

Once you've given Mother Nature the finger (it's really not that bad), you'll want to venture over to your display's picture or image menu and select "standard," "movie," "cinema," or the "custom" picture mode. From there go immediately to the advanced picture modes section. In these sub menus you'll often find features such as "motion processing," "dynamic contrast," "dynamic black" etc. You're going to want to turn all of these off. I mean it, turn them off - for if you care at all about the director's intent you'll do it, for I assure you Cameron, Spielberg and Bay didn't make their latest masterpieces in order for you to be able to make them look like crap. Each time you turn these features off you may notice your display becoming brighter or at least more stable. This is a good thing. With all these features turned off you need to find your display's size options - this option is often on its own within the picture mode menus, though can sometimes be found in the advanced settings menus. More than likely your new display is set to 16:9, which sounds good, except for the fact that it's cropping your image by either two and a half to even five percent (I've seen this much in some front projectors). You're going to want to select the size that is the equivalent to "full," "just," "pixel for pixel" etc. Doing so will ensure that you're seeing the entire image. If you want to double check to make sure you've set your display's size correctly, tune your DVR to Sportcenter, then wait for a commercial to start. If you see what looks like video garbage or black and white signal noise at the very top of your screen - you've done it right. This is the very "junk" 16:9 mode eliminates, thanks to its two to five percent overscan. Now, if you're not willing to endure video noise at the top of your screen, may I suggest a compromise? For broadcast viewing leave your display in 16:9 mode and when viewing Blu-ray material be sure it's in one of the pixel for pixel modes.

From here you can now do one of two things: first, you can insert your copy of Digital Video Essentials and adjust in your basic image settings such as brightness, contrast and sharpness and leave well enough alone, or you can call up your local calibrator and procure their services in helping you get the most out of your new HDTV. Keep in mind using a disc such as DVE or the like does NOT equal calibration - tuning or even fine tuning yes, calibration no. Regardless, you'll be a few steps ahead of the curve and will be enjoying a better HDTV experience out of the box by following the above-mentioned steps.

I'd like to thank Michael TLV and all of our forum members who chimed in and helped inspire this article.

Additional Resources
• Read more original content like this in our Feature News Stories section.
• See similar stories in our Green Home Theater News section.
• Explore reviews for LED HDTVs and Plasma HDTVs.

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