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Issue: Imaging Science Theatre 2000 Special Edition

IST Attractions

Preface Gary Reber

This is it. Everything you wanted to know about video but were afraid to ask, or should I say, didn’t know what to ask.

We have packed this Imaging Science Theatre 2000™ Special Edition (IST2000) with volumes of knowledge whose scope is, what I believe to be, the definitive work on the subject of attaining good pictures from our NTSC/525-line television system.

IST2000 features the authoritative writings of Joe Kane, who has graciously served as Widescreen Review’s Video Technical Editor since 1994. Joe spent more than two months re-editing and updating all the articles he had written for the magazine during the previous three years, plus new material never before published. Nicholas Grieco, who works with Joe Kane and Joel Silver at the Imaging Science Foundation, Inc. (ISF), is credited for the assistance he brought to this project, which has been an immense effort.

The other featured writings in IST2000 are significant articles, which re-enforce and expand on Joe’s “The Science Of Imaging” article series. There is the “Angles Of View” series written by M.K. Milliken, Jr. of the Da-Lite Screen Company, Inc.; Runco International’s Bill Laumeister’s article on “Where Is The Perfect Display,” Snell & Wilcox’s Joe Zaller’s article on the “Interpolator: The Third Generation Display Processor—Home Theatre Redefined,” Dwin Electronics’ Alex Gilevich’s article on “Acoustic Considerations For Front Screen Projection Systems,” CyberTheater’s™ Bill Cruce’s article on “TV Monitor Environment Lighting” and three articles contributed by one of the magazine’s Video Equipment Review Editors, Greg Rogers entitled, “TV Monitor Evaluation,” “A Guide To Comb Filters,” and “Video Signal Formats: Y/C Separation”—plus a reprint of the equipment test review article “Video Cable Survey,” by Michael Wood, who is a Video Equipment Review Editor for the magazine. Also included are two previous On Screen Conversations with Yves Faroudja and Sam Runco, both leading practitioners of imaging science, that provide an excellent insight into the history of home theatre and its future promise. We have published our most comprehensive Home Theatre Glossary here as well, to serve as an in-depth reference resource to all with an interest in home theatre.

Readers new to Widescreen Review and new to home theatre may ask, “What is the significance of this work?” It’s all about making good pictures at home! After all, the core of the home theatre experience is the picture. But virtually no one has it right.

Now, with Joe Kane as your personal instructor and with a support team of leading and experienced imaging science practitioners, you have the wherewithal to get the best possible picture quality from NTSC/525-line display devices and signal sources.

If you own a television set and think that your set delivers a good picture, you have been deluded. The fact is, your TV picture is all wrong. It’s not your fault. How would you know? And what about the millions of other television set owners who have never really experienced their TV’s full performance?

When you bought your TV you may remember that the televisions on display in the store showed the same program on all the sets simutaneously. Looking at them carefully, you probably noticed that the pictures were different; often no two were alike. Did you ever wonder how one source could have several interpretations? Did you ever wonder if there was any way that the pictures you were seeing actually matched what the program content producers actually intended to be experienced? Did you ever wonder if there was any way to get the television picture on the set you were considering to buy or had already purchased, to accurately match the display standards adhered to by the production community?

While such thoughts may have crossed your mind, like most everyone else you just don’t know how to recognize the important attributes when choosing a television set to ensure optimum picture quality. You, and most other television viewers, have never seen a genuinely accurate video image. So, where do you begin?

First, you need to know who to ask and what questions to ask to know everything there is to know about realizing the full potential of your television picture. The “who” to ask is simple. That is the Imaging Science Foundation, an educational and advocacy organization formed by Joe Kane and Joel Silver to optimize reproduction of images on direct view and projection televisions by applying forgotten NTSC standards. The ISF has established a Video Standard service for home theatre dealers and installation specialists that enables consumers to get the highest possible picture quality from any type of NTSC/525-line display product and signal sources. The foundation conducts hands-on seminars to impart knowledge and train individuals in the science of extracting the best possible image quality from any television or projector.

As for what to ask—Imaging Science Theatre 2000 provides all the questions and answers you will need to reach the end result every video display owner wants—the best possible picture your display device is capable of delivering.
Joe Kane, whom the home theatre sector acknowledges as the most experienced video display perfectionist in the world, has an unrelenting passion for his crusade to get set manufacturers to work by the rules of display standards. Joe, who is regarded as “Mr. NTSC” and President of ISF, is known for his candor when critiquing television manufacturers’ products, and is a consumer advocate for sets that produce good pictures.

The ISF was founded to create an awareness of the need for proper video display calibration, and to insure that the tools and people knowledgeable in their application were in place to serve that need. To that end, Joe Kane, Joel Silver, and ISF personnel travel extensively giving fee-charged two-day plus “Display Device Calibration Seminars” to train and consult technicians, engineers, video equipment manufacturers and corporations, anyone with a need for accurate video displays. One aspect of their work is in providing an in-home service performed by an international network of ISF-trained people (see the complete ISF dealer listing in the Appendix Section). Independent ISF contractors are located in most major U.S. metropolitan areas and for a fee they will come to your home and calibrate your video display, be it a direct view set at $175, rear projection TV at $250, or video projector installed for front or rear screen projection at $300, plus an hourly rate charged for special adjustment services beyond the standard calibration job.

Misadjustment A Fact

Televisions are one of those familiar appliances where people often feel they know the product intimately, yet really don’t. We’ve all been told to adjust the front panel knobs “until the picture looks good.” That advice is partially responsible for our NTSC television system being known as “Never Twice The Same Color.”

There are specific positions for each of the front panel controls, in addition to other adjustments, needed to obtain the best possible picture from a television. Yet, in the majority of display devices currently on the market, the controls are not set properly as they come from the factory. Most manufacturers’ preset positions are designed to get your attention on a brightly lit showroom floor, not accurately reproduce the information contained in the TV signal. That’s because most people are attracted by bright television pictures, not realizing that overall visual quality is harmed. The other harsh reality is that the majority of U.S. homes demand that TV sets be able to compete with high ambient room light. This requires huge amounts of light output from the set which is counterproductive to a good picture, not to mention that cranking the brightness up takes years off the life of your television. With such expectations, and competition on the brightly lit sales floor, manufacturers intentionally misadjust at the factory color, brightness and contrast. Once at the store, the retailer then deliberately increases the internal brightness controls further to attract buyers. The end result is that the set you purchase never looks the way it should or even the way it was shown at the showroom drastically misadjusted. Thus, significant changes after the sale have to be made in the factory settings to obtain a good picture.

Calibration A Necessity

To set things right and return your video display to some semblance of NTSC accuracy requires calibration. But, before administering the cure, you need to know that no television can perform at its best in bright ambient lighting. Then, if you are serious about home theatre, you probably already realize that the movie experience is best enjoyed in a darkened theatre environment, a perfect complement to seeing the best picture your set is capable of delivering. This applies to any set, direct view and particularly rear projection and front projection—though direct view sets are better suited to conditions of higher room illumination.

Televisions offer picture controls such as contrast and tint, but instructions for adjusting the image are not readily available, and any factory default settings that may exist do not represent the NTSC display standards.

Even though our NTSC color television system was set out on paper in 1953 and first introduced to consumers in 1964, it has taken an additional 30 years for all of the elements to come together to make it possible for the consumer to get out of the system what has been put into it by the program production community. There are now a few sets and projectors available to consumers that can be properly calibrated. That wasn’t true even as late as 1992, when Widescreen Review was first published.

ISF’s seminars teach how to calibrate black level (brightness), white level (contrast), color, tint, sharpness and gray scale on projection and direct view televisions and monitors, using the controls found on a set’s interior, front panel or remote control. Once introduced to the basic test patterns, seminar participants are taught to use tools as simple as red, green, and blue filters and as sophisticated as a color analyzer in order to reproduce the film-like images demanded in true high-end home theatres.

The workshops are extremely comprehensive and in-depth. The materials covered relate to display system evaluation and color temperature calibration; screen white field uniformity and gain; display device peak light output requirements, electronic and mechanical focus as it relates to picture resolution; correct levels of black and white; geometry and color convergence; correct gray scale calibration; monitor and projector calibration differences; line doubler/ quadrupler and line scaler application and calibration monitor interface; and use of test signals and a color analyzer to set picture parameters according to NTSC display standards.

The seminars are hands-on courses that include discussions on the parameters of, and the theories behind, NTSC imaging, in addition to the workshop tutorials. Other topics include the importance of the projection screen and the option of line scalers. The goal is for the participants to gain a thorough understanding of the NTSC system, empowering them to optimize the performance of any set.

Anyone who has taken the ISF course has benefited tremendously by the knowledge and hands-on experience provided. Video dealers and custom home theatre installers who have taken the seminar have benefited by the boost in credibility with customers. But, ultimately it is the customers who benefit the most with imaging results that can be clearly seen and appreciated.

There are no restrictions on who may sign on for a seminar. The Imaging Science Foundation expects its graduates, who are predominately video dealers and custom installers, to provide a NTSC calibration service within their company or retail establishment, or to contract out to other businesses. Individuals who intend to become independent contractors are required to have manufacturers’ training. ISF clients already include several major electronics retail chains and manufacturers of consumer video and computer display products. For complete information and seminar scheduling contact Joel Silver at the ISF office: 3257 Harrington Drive, Boca Raton, Florida 33496, Phone 407 997 9073 / Fax 407 995 7715 / E-mail

If you are serious about obtaining the very best picture quality from your display device, there is no better opportunity than that provided by the Imaging Science Foundation. Joe has a talent for teaching and a passion for excellence that, unfortunately, too few people in the industry can match. If there were, we would not have had the sorry mess that we had all these years and still have, in that virtually no consumer manufacturer’s display device (with exceptions that, when discovered, are duly noted within this publication) work exactly by the rules of NTSC display standards. The seminar program is Joe’s way of cloning himself, and thus effectively bringing his crusade for accurate picture reproduction to greater numbers of consumers to help enthusiasts tune-in to good pictures.

A Recipe For Good Pictures

Following the NTSC standards recipe book really does work. We do here at the magazine and have been supporting Joe Kane’s quest ever since our first issue in 1992 . Every monitor(s) in each of our reference systems is calibrated to the potential it has to meet the NTSC display standards. Unfortunately for consumers, no television set or monitor directly out-of-the box will meet NTSC standards, no matter how expensive it is!

But with Imaging Science Theatre 2000 you now have a resource that will allow you to plan your display system and calibrate your display device to reach its full performance potential. To do so will require you to purchase either the LaserDisc version of Joe Kane’s A Video Standard or Video Essentials, the latest and expanded version with interactive tutorials. A dedicated DVD version of Video Essentials is the first “neccessory” you need to even approach the end result, that the knowledge in IST2000 will provide you, to optimize the picture quality of your television or projection monitor fed by a DVD source signal.

With this IST2000 Special Edition and either of the Joe Kane-produced discs, you have on a single disc all of the test patterns needed to calibrate a television properly, along with interactive and detailed step-by-step instructions on how to use them.

Well, almost. That’s where an experienced and trained-ISF technician is helpful. The one adjustment that can’t be done by you without the use of an expensive color analyzer is setting the proper gray scale or color temperature. The color of gray in a picture is determined by a critically exact measure of the red, green, and blue electron guns that generate the image. The standard is based on the color temperature of a theoretical black body heated to a specific temperature. The color temperature specified for color video is 6500° Kelvin, for black and white the gray scale temperature is 5400° Kelvin. The color temperature must be registered accurately and maintained throughout the range of every shade of gray illumination from maximum peak white down to pure black in order to accurately render a black and white picture’s overlaid color image structure. All this is explained in IST2000.

The problem is the majority of display devices cannot perform the gray scale tracking accurately across the entire spectrum, so the colors become distorted as the picture illumination changes, thus resulting in poor color fidelity.

Once an accurate gray scale has been set—small tracking errors are tolerable and a factor often dependent on a set’s cost—then you can calibrate your set with the test patterns on the discs, and when needed, touch-up your set’s calibration when the control settings within the set have shifted, as they will over time, or when you move the set.

But the larger problem is knowing what manufacturers’ products conform to or at least can be made to conform to the NTSC display standards and what ones don’t. That’s this magazine’s challenge, as well and why in our product reviews and selection of our reference displays we adhere to the NTSC display standards. I hope now I have gotten the point across why Joe Kane’s preaching and the ISF efforts are so important to getting video display manufacturers to conform to the NTSC standards and set things right. Some have or are doing a better job with each new product release. Others unfortunately have not. Increasingly, set manufacturers are giving their customers multiple color temperature settings, at least on high-end models. Even so, the “will work” setting is usually still too high in color temperature. Manufacturers must be convinced that there is consumer demand for displays that are accurate—including proper NTSC color decoding—then be willing to build them and provide the settings and set-up features to optimize picture quality. Those desired features are component video inputs and progressive scan line scaling, all fully covered in IST2000.

No matter what brand or model of video display you own or are contemplating purchasing, with the guidance provided by the articles in IST2000 and the help of an ISF-qualified technician you should be able to get the best possible picture from it. The ISF provides its technicians with the menu commands and instructions for the internal settings necessary to adjust the color temperature of most video displays, and collects field reports (see “Calibration Report” in the Appendix Section) from all its technicians on the characteristics of different video display models, so the ISF can offer advice as to the best calibration procedure with a certain set and provide the manufacturer with detailed data on the performance of their product before and after calibration. This is important work that is proving to have an impact on manufacturers who want to market displays that can produce good pictures according to the rules of the NTSC display standards.

Enjoy the adventure in learning how to optimize the picture quality of your home theatre experience with IST2000. Setting it right will make a believer out of you.