A chat with Joel Silver on the importance of video calibration
Before the pandemic struck, Joel Silver — the founder of the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and the 2018 CEDIA Lifetime Award recipient – came to CEDIA headquarters in Indianapolis to give three staffers one-on-one calibration instruction. Steven Rissi (Director of Technical Training), Chaz deVerdier (Technical Trainer), and Walt Zerbe (Senior Director of Technology and Standards) all attended the three-day session, from lecture to hands-on work. The reasoning: CEDIA staffers — especially in these departments — need all the info they can get on a subject such as video calibration. This is how curricula are built -- and now ISF training is part of the all-new CEDIA Academy.
Silver followed up his visit with an appearance on the CEDIA Podcast to respond to a question that took an hour to answer (and could’ve taken vastly longer): Why calibrate?
Why is this important?
“Well, it's probably my favorite question, and I've been asked it for 20 plus years,” says Silver. “And the short answer is: It's just what we do. People trust us with their homes. We're supposed to know what we're doing with electronics. They trust their doctors and lawyers and car mechanics to have the equipment and training to run things properly.”
Silver notes that he saw a “Eureka” moment in the faces of Rissi, deVerdier, and Zerbe, a moment when they realized the impact on the image they’d had after following Silver’s process — on a TV that retails for less than $1,000. “It’s a lot of work on a set like that, compared to, says, a $5,000 display. But even with a less-advanced screen, you can give your clients a terrific experience.”
Calibration Goes Mainstream
Silver knows the questions he needs to ask when he’s working with a client to get the best results out of any TV: “Tell me where you watch. Tell me what the lighting is like when you watch. Tell me what time of day you watch. Tell me what you watch — movies, sports, concerts? — and your TV has all the adjustments necessary to make good pictures.”
“Right now, of paramount interest is power — high dynamic range.” -Joel Silver.
Zerbe, who’s logged decades in the custom business in many parts of the industry, from manufacturing to installation, backs up Silver’s premise. “It's not just about slapping a panel up on a wall for someone and getting a nice mount. It's about how the display performs as well.”
Fortunately, though, the message Silver has been preaching for years has been adopted by TV makers across the globe. “What's happened now with the advent of calibration going mainstream with major retailers and over 7,000 people globally doing it, manufacturers have really come through because this is a very competitive business. The sets I'm working on are state-of-the-art, reference-quality sets. And we work with menu management, writing the menus for the adjustments, checking functionality of the adjustments.”
There’s a trickle-down effect at work here, notes Silver. “The software that's written for high-end TVs is usually very close to what goes into the basic TV,” says Silver. “So, if you learn the $7,000 television foreign manufacturer, don't be surprised that the $700 TV has almost the same adjustments.”
But There’s a Big Difference
Zerbe asks the obvious question. “So why recommend a more expensive TV to your clients?”
“Right now, of paramount interest is power — high dynamic range,” says Silver. “We measure light in units that are nicknamed nits. It's the slang term for Candela per meter square. Back in the old cathode-ray tube days, we were lucky to see a set put out roughly a hundred nits on a good day.” Now, though, we’ve got pricier sets with high powered LEDs that are approaching 2000 nits.
What’s that mean? “I can open the blinds, I can have a room with a really beautiful view of the ocean or the mountains, have some light coming into the room, and have a set compete with that light successfully by getting close to 2000 nits,” says Silver. “It makes HDR look fantastic.”
Interested in learning more? Find Silver's ISF courses at the all-new CEDIA Academy.