We live in a terrific time, when 4K-TVs have ceased to be something unattainable. The prices for them are quite acceptable, HDR has become a common thing, and the choice of available models goes off – take at least a recent release
Once you enter the settings, you will see many functions with eye-catching names – for example, “Ultra Black” or “Live colours”. Many of these functions, however, are just a marketing trick and are designed to make the picture stand out against the background of other TVs in the store’s demo zone. In fact, many of them deprive the picture of the volume or cause distortions and artifacts, which worsen image quality. In order to get a really good result, you should turn to manual settings – and we’ll show you how to do it.
Functions that can be turned off
Open the settings of your TV. Before you start to change something, make sure that the “Cinema” display mode is selected (on TVs of different manufacturers, there may be other names – for example, “Expert” or “Cinema”). This ensures that the basic settings for brightness, contrast and color are as realistic as possible – at least as far as possible without fine calibration.
Now you can go to advanced image settings. Again, in TVs of different manufacturers, this can be called differently. Note that all of the following are relevant for both conventional TVs and models with HDR.
Sometimes called “Improved Contrast” or “Advanced Contrast”, makes the dark parts of the picture darker, and the brighter – brighter. Due to this the image looks clearer and more vivid, but many shades are “eaten up” and turn into just black or white. This can also lead to image artifacts. Turning off this function allows you to get a more detailed picture.
Like Dynamic Contrast, this function is designed to make darker shades more profound. This leads to a distorted colour rendition, when shades appear darker than they actually are. The gray details will look black, which will reduce the detail. This function is also better left aside.
This function is the opposite of the previous one. It is designed to improve detail in the shadows by highlighting them. It would seem that a great idea: the more details, the better. It is not so: in fact, it is almost guaranteed to lead to the appearance of artifacts.
Makes the image more sharp. From the excess of sharpness around the details there are ghosts – for sure you saw pictures and photos, on which such an effect appeared due to improper compression. In most cases, it is better to refuse this function.
Live colors | GDR + | Skin Tone
All these functions are somehow aimed at further processing the image in order to improve the colors. “Live colors” make the image more saturated, HDR + tries to make normal content look like HDR, and “Skin Tone” tries to make people’s skin more realistic. But if you watch a movie or a TV show, it’s better to turn off such functions: as a rule, specialists spend a lot of time on color matching, and automated filters are unlikely to make them better than they are.
Super-resolution | Gradual gradation | Active Noise Reduction
These and any other functions aimed at sharpening, followed by suppression of artifacts, do a good job of improving content in low resolution. If you watch, say, YouTube in 1080p or a Blu-ray movie, it’s better to turn them off, because they can, on the contrary, cover up a bright and clear picture. At the same time, these algorithms can be useful if you are watching an old DVD or even a cable TV and you think that using the mode makes the image more pleasing to the eye.
Almost every manufacturer has a proper name for this. For example, Sony has MotionFlow, Samsung has Auto Motion Plus or Motion Rate Supreme, Sharp has AquoMotion, Toshiba has ClearFrame or ClearScan, LG has TruMotion – it can be enumerated indefinitely. Regardless of the name, they do literally the same thing: add intermediate frames between the existing ones for super smooth motion. As a result, there is something called “soap opera effect” – the feeling that the picture is too smooth, and so it should not be. Few people like it, besides, it can create artifacts – so we recommend that you disable this feature (unless, of course, you like the effect it creates).
Auto Image Mode
This is one of the chips of some Sony TVs, allowing you to adapt the image mode depending on the content of the screen. As a rule, a properly tuned TV does not need anything similar and it’s better to turn off switching to the “Cinema” mode.
Note that not all of the listed options may be available on your TV. As a rule, cheaper models have fewer functions. Perhaps we have indicated most of the functions that manufacturers mention in advertising their TVs. Note that everything said above is not a direct guide to action. For the most realistic image, you should disable as many of the listed functions as possible, but each viewer is individual, and if you think that with the “Smooth gradation” TV is more pleasant to watch, leave this add-on.
Disabling the functions for post-processing images is the easiest part of setting up the TV. Now let’s proceed to options that can make the image much better or much worse – depending on which panel you have and to see what content you use it. Here are a few functions that you should experiment with in order to find the best combination for your conditions:
In many models of TVs, the backlight and brightness are made into separate settings – and perform different functions. Brightness is best avoided if you do not want to completely calibrate the TV, because it affects the black level. But the backlight can be customized to your taste – it does not change the color, but only determines how bright the screen of your TV shines. As a rule, it is most comfortable to make it brighter in the daytime and reduce if you are watching TV in a dark room. Many manufacturers also add an energy-saving mode that automatically adjusts the backlight depending on the environment.
HDMI Range | Color Space | RGB Range | Black Level
Again, this is all a different name for the same settings, taken from different manufacturers. It determines how the color signals received by the TV are processed. If your device has the option “Auto”, it’s easier to set it and forget about this setting. If there is no such option, select “Limited” (on Samsung TVs – “Low”). Make sure that this setting is also set to “Restricted” in all devices connected to the TV. With one exception: if you do not plan to use the TV as a monitor for your PC. In this case, you should choose “Full”. Note that on Sony TVs, the “Black Level” function does the same as “Black Tone”, so you should turn it off.
This function extinguishes some of the lights in your TV to get a deeper black in certain parts of the image. With proper implementation on large panels this function can show itself perfectly and improve the image. However, on some TVs (especially closer to the edges), the algorithm may lag behind the image, making some areas too black or causing flicker. Watch TV for a few minutes with local dimming on, then turn it off and see what has changed. If you like the processing more – leave it turned on.
Playback in 24p
Typically, this mode is called 24p True Cinema. When activated, the content will be played at 24 frames per minute – instead of the standard 25. Without going into the details of the system, we only note that the inclusion of this function can remove the sharpness and unnatural movements of the characters in the films and serials. Some TVs adjust the frame rate automatically depending on the content, some even do not have this option. If your TV is available 24p True Cinema, try to turn it on.
Designed, as you might guess, for gamers, this mode reduces the input delay so that the result of each keystroke appears on the screen as quickly as possible. On some TVs in this mode, the quality of the image suffers, so it is worthwhile to check this first. If this is the case on your model, turn it on only when playing.
On the shelves of stores are presented hundreds of models of TVs for every taste and budget. Functionality is different for them, just like the name of the technologies used, and it’s impossible to tell about everything. However, changing the above settings should bring the image quality to optimum as much as possible without fine calibration. If you do not understand what a function is for and I’m not on our list, try to google it – as a rule, users generously share their experience on the forums and tell how useful this or that technology is. In addition, you can write about this in the comments to this entry, and we will add the information you are interested in.