By Jeff Murray, Guest Blogger
Having been in the AV industry for over 13 years, and directly involved in test instrumentation and business building in the AV markets, I was excited to be invited to this seminar by John Dahl, Senior Fellow at THX. John is one of the guys who has probably helped you cut your teeth on audio and acoustics at some point in time over the past 30 plus years.
The seminar started with an introduction of the instructors:
Gregg Loewen, a successful calibrator with over 3500 calibrations under his belt and owner of global calibration provider Lion AV, was the Senior Instructor. Gregg probably has more knowledge specific to video calibration and hands-on experience than anyone on the planet. His priceless and plentiful pearls of wisdom helped the students bypass the typical gotchas that plague all new calibrators in the field. Michael Chen, an equally sought-after calibrator and trainer, assisted in the instruction as the seminar’s detail guy. Mike shared many specifics on calibration techniques for individual displays and processors during the course. Michael shared a lot of real-world situations and answered any questions posed by the attendees. Students learn at different paces and need different stimulation; Gregg and Michael made the learning fun and adapted well to each student’s learning style and speed.
In a nutshell, here is how the workshop progressed:
9AM – Background on video calibration, video signals, display technologies, analog and digital, and why it is the calibrator’s job to provide the “artist’s intent” for his clients. This overview was a brief, yet adequate preparation for the hands-on activities that lay ahead.
11AM – Hands on activities – Uniformity, Contrast Ratio, Black Level, White Level, Front Panel Controls and more…almost ready to calibrate and be dangerous.
6PM – 11PM – Hands-on practice of grayscale calibration, making sure every student has their laptop up and running and connected to the various hardware devices (color meters, generators, processors). This was a very good night and generated many good questions for discussion on day 2. It’s optional, but about 98% of each class stays.
7AM-9AM – Hands on labs open and available for practice.
9AM-6PM Gamma/Gray Scale – Enough said – an intense day of discussion and hands-on 2-point to 10-point calibration of HDTVs, projectors, processors and more.
6PM-11PM (optional, yet all attended) More of the above – students get to calibrate every display technology, solo or with a classmate. Instructors are available to answer questions and provide specific guidance on particular setups. Local industry experts and past attendees stop by to help and check out the latest gear and software.
7AM-9AM – Hands-on labs open and available for practice.
9AM-5PM – CMS, Gamut and putting it all together.
Newer top-tier projectors and flat-panel displays feature precise adjustments in color management systems (CMS), gamut control, and gamma adjusting. New, more affordable outboard processors deliver these features, too. This class’s demonstrations and hands-on practice demystified these adjustments and also reveals the quirks of various displays and processors.
Special Note: I learned that industry experts typically attend the second and third days of these sessions. Representatives of the major CE manufacturers, trade press, makers of calibration gear, and software providers share insiders’ tips and tweaks. At our class, Spectracal co-founders Derek Smith and L.A. Heberlein showed students ways to customize CalMAN video calibration software.
The course, the instructors, and the students all impressed me. THX is to be congratulated for pulling together the many manufacturers and supporters that supplied all the gear (and I mean a LOT of gear! I counted 8 projector/screen setups including two anamorphic lenses with matching screens; 15 flat-panel displays in all flavors, including side- and backlit LED; every video processor of note; video generators and color analyzers from all the major manufacturers. Gregg and Mike tied all this together by SpectraCal’s CalMAN professional software, which all students could try on their own laptops and employ for in-class and up to 14 days of post-class calibrations.
If you are looking for a course that prepares you to go back to work on Monday and start calibrating, this is the workshop for you. What impressed me most is that the course made me think: All displays and processors have their own uniqueness (I’m being politically correct here – this is not Windows – all displays are different as are the menus and controls); we were exposed to enough technologies, that when faced with something new in the field, students will be able to logically analyze menus and controls and come up with a solution to produce the best possible picture for their client.
In addition to the skills and knowledge they learn in class, students who complete and submit 10 approved calibrations and pass the exam earn the right to add the THX Certified Calibrator logo to their business marketing. They also get to keep learning. A members-only THX Video Tech forum becomes available only to graduates of the course. They enjoy open-door access to evening lab times at any future THX video certification class, for free. They can also re-take the class at a deep discount.
The course is continually updated with the latest-and-greatest displays and calibration gear supplied by generous manufacturers and sponsors.
A few comments from a few recent graduates:
“This course is the most extensive, hands-on instruction I could possibly hope for. If you are looking for 3 days (and 2 nights) of power packed instruction, hands on activities on literally every meter and display technology then this is the course for you…not for the faint of heart”
HDTV by Chad B
“I have taken many courses, including courses through CEDIA and ICIA and I can say this tops them all! The instructors were prepared, the materials were straight forward and well written, and with THX backing we were exposed and calibrated literally every display technology and meter/generator combination available today”
The Repair Group
Take the course – at $2700 it works out to a little over $100 per hour to be exposed to top notch instruction, more equipment than you will ever see in one room, and really happy and motivated students and instructors.
Jeff Murray is the President of SpectraCal Sales, Inc. For more information go to www.spectracal.com