Calibration Obsession

If I want accurate colors from my a7s III, I shoot the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Video, and in post, (1) I pull diffuse white down to 200 nits; (2) white balance using the white, grey and black chips, color curves and RGB overlay; (3) correct colors using the color chips, vectorscope and hue vs. hue; (4) adjust skin tone using the shape mask, color wheels and the skin tone line in the vectorscope; and (5) adjust saturation to my liking. I double-check white balance by looking at the RGB parade. At that point, I’m ready to view the image on a calibrated HDR display to refine corrections and begin color grading.

It’s imperative to connect an I/O box between the Mac and the display to bypass MacOS color management, for which I use a Blackmagic UltraStudio 4K Mini. The UltraStudio Monitor 3G, at only USD $115.00, is a good budget option if you don’t mind 1080p.

LG OLED televisions are renowned for their picture quality. The C7, C8, C9 and CX series OLEDs are the only consumer TVs approved by Dolby Vision for use as consumer reference displays. At only $1,300.00, the 55CX was a bargain!

After calibration with Calman Home for LG and an X-Rite i1Display Pro colorimeter, color accuracy of the 55CX was excellent, with delta error measuring below 2.0. LG recommends burning the set in for 100 hours prior to calibration for the utmost in consistency.

The final test is in the viewing, and overall, the colors look pleasing. Because most people watch YouTube videos on their phones, not on a television, I thought I’d pick up the iPhone 12 Pro Max – considered by many to have the best picture quality of any smartphone on the market today – as a sort of consumer reference display of my own. According to DisplayMate and HDTVTest, the color accuracy of the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max is virtually perfect, leaving many consumer televisions in the dust. The iPhone 12 Pro Max 256GB cost me USD $1,600.00 in Vietnam.

Comparing the iPhone to the 55CX, my very first impression was just how colorful the LG OLED is. The reason for this is that the larger the display, the more vivid colors appear. On the other hand, scenes with very bright highlight detail, such as sunlight or moonlight passing through white lace curtains, are thrilling to behold on the 1,200 nit OLED display of the mobile device (around 3/4 stop brighter than the LG). Mind you, that’s 1,200 nits full screen, whereas the LG CX can only reach peak brightness on a 10% window. And whether it’s more precise PQ tracking or some other voodoo, transitions between shadows, midtones and highlights are handled more nimbly by the 12 Pro Max, giving images more three-dimensionality. However, the iPhone has a distinct greenish cast which I’d hoped in vain that iOS 14.4 would alleviate.

I downloaded MobileForge from the App Store with the intention of measuring the display, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Could it be the screen protector? I went to the authorized reseller where I purchased my phone and compared mine with four iPhones on the showroom floor – the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Mini – and all were pretty much identical looking except for the iPhone 12, which looked ever so slightly cooler. On the way back home, I stopped by another dealer and compared my phone with another iPhone 12 Pro Max that looked a touch cooler, similar to the iPhone 12 at the previous shop. I came away impressed with the consistency of the panels overall, satisfied that my phone wasn’t defective, but wondering how the white balance could be so different from my television set…

10 thoughts on “Calibration Obsession

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  1. Hi Jon,
    Great post again.
    I dreamt of you some days ago, but don’t worry we were only talking about image accuracy and I have a girlfriend :))
    Well, I’m almost decided to go for a LG55CX, just waiting a bit the time to gather the money.

    Finally, are you happy of the image calibration? Your videos are still very good on it? Do you see a difference with your eyes?

    I’m not sure of understanding the meaning of the sentence about the 100 hours. You mean that we should use the TV 100 hours before calibrating it?


    1. Haha. There will be smaller, less expensive OLEDs released this year. The reason I prefer a larger display is to watch Netflix shows from time to time. If someone had secretly calibrated my TV while I was away, I might not be able to tell the difference! Perhaps a touch less magenta in the skin tones and better near black shadow detail. Primarily, calibration instils confidence, knowing that the picture you’re looking at while grading is the best it can be. Of course, unless the viewer also disables a half dozen settings, uses the most accurate picture mode, calibrates their set and watches in a totally darkened room, they won’t be seeing the most faithful reproduction! Hardware-based auto-calibration is a godsend: it’s much quicker than having a calibration technician calibrate manually with a LUT box and is much less expensive, too! And yes, LG OLEDs should be ‘broken in’ prior to calibration by playing HDR content for around 100 hours. My own TV only has 67 hours of SDR and HDR power on time.

  2. I agree, it’s always better to calibrate and even if the viewers don’t have exactly the same configuration, the most important thing is to grade on an acccurate setup.
    Then viewers will have the opportunity to enjoy it more or less depending on their own installation but we cannot do anything to that.
    I will stay on the 55″ because this purchase will also replace my main TV. Better to “kill two birds with one stone”.

    The second part of this video reminds me the moment when Omar Sy (aka Assane Diop/Lupin) comes to the journalist’s flat (touches of sun in the room, etc).

  3. Hi Jon,
    Are you still happy of the BlackMagic Ultrastudio 4k mini plugged to your M1 Max and to your Calman Home calibrated CX TV?

    I’m thinking more and more about the Blackmagic box.
    I currently grade on my Eizo CG2420 which has an integrated hardware calibrated profile but I don’t know if what I see is accurate without Blackmagic box in between.

    Also, I start to hate going back and forth between the room and the living room to watch on the TV and get a different result.

    1. The UltraStudio has been trouble-free since I bought it and I’ve used it with both Resolve and Final Cut, a couple of LG OLED TVs, the Asus PA32UCX and multiple laptops and desktop computers already. I started teaching again so I will probably be slowing down with the blog posts, but switching to video levels in Resolve and ditching the ColorChecker are going to end up making a big improvement in the video quality. Calman has come out with several new software updates that should really improve the calibration but currently I’m unable to use it because VMWare Fusion is not compatible with Apple Silicon. Also, if you intend to grade PQ/ST 2084 P3 D65 you might need to invest in more than the UltraStudio but it is difficult to get info on that. Still, I’d say the UlteaStudio has been a solid investment.

  4. Ok Jon, good and thanks.
    For now, I only try to get nice Rec709 image in my videos, so from what you say the BMD ultra Studio 4k Mini should be enough.

    What do you teach ?

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