How to calibrate your TV to ISF standards

Updated April 17, 2017

Professional calibration, even by experienced pros, can be a multiple-hour process involving retracing steps to achieve desired results. Years of practice is typically required, and this is done one the job. Many times, calibrations can last as little as two hours, while others can take the majority of a day. The results can be shocking, depending on how out-of-spec the television was initially. Many times, TVs are deliberately "hot" to look appealing on a showroom floor, but this is not how discriminating viewers wish to view their sets at home. Following a few steps will get calibrators on the right path.

Ensure ambient light is removed. Too much light from other sources can (and will) affect the reading that the colorimeter receives, and will skew calibration.

Using a test DVD (AVIA, Video Essentials, etc.), display an image that shows levels just above and below black. Adjust image so the darkest black bar is invisible, and the bar above it slightly visible. This sets the baseline for image brightness.

Using a test DVD or patterns, use white level pattern has a just-below-white stripe against a white background. Set contrast as high as possible without distinguishing the just-below-white stripe from full white.

Using colorimeter, point at screen while displaying a 100 per cent white test pattern.

Using calibration disc, display a 100 per cent red screen.

Set display's colour control such that it red measures 21 per cent of white reading.

To set tint, use calibration disc, displaying a cyan test field.

Put display's tint control at midpoint.

Select cyan as target on calibration software.

Setting calibration software to "continuous reading" mode, adjust tint on display until point gets as close to target as possible.

Using calibration disc, display an 80 per cent white field.

Point colorimeter at display.

Adjust display's white level controls until RGB reading is at 100 per cent. Target coordinates on calibration software should read x0.3127, y0.329

Using calibration software, display a 20 per cent white field pattern.

Adjust display's white level controls until RGB reading is at 100 per cent. Target coordinates on calibration software should read x0.3127, y0.329

Point colorimeter at screen.

Display a 100 per cent white field test pattern. Note reading on calibration software.

Display 100 per cent red field test pattern. This must be at the same intensity (stimulus) as the white field displayed in Step 2. Note reading on calibration software.

Repeat Steps 1-3 in Section 3 until all primary and secondary colours are measured. Write down all values.

Setting calibration software to "continuous reading" mode, attempt to get all colours to the target (x0.3127, y0.329). Calibrators will notice the plotting point constantly moving during colour adjustments. Note that perfection may be impossible, given display tolerances.


-Calibrators will have to repeat steps in order to ensure grey scale and colours are tracking throughout the gamut. -Remember that service menus in televisions (typically) have the option to reset to defaults in case calibrators get lost during the process.


-Proper test equipment can run into the multiple thousands. -Damage to display is possible if proper care is not taken. -Warranties from most manufacturers are (typically) rendered void if unauthorised individuals access the service menu. This includes display owners.

Things You'll Need

  • Colorimeter
  • Calibration software
  • Test Patterns
  • Computer
  • Access codes to enter display's service menu
  • Display with ability to individually control primary colours (in service menu)
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About the Author

David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.