Do that to your TV now: 9 essential settings to enhance the image

Correct colours assist make a TV’s image look extra pure.

David Katzmaier/CNET

Your TV might look quite a bit higher than it does now. Whether or not you are watching the most recent streaming TV present, having fun with 4K HDR motion pictures or enjoying video video games, tweaking a couple of fundamental image settings can assist. Colours can look extra lifelike and correct, brightness may be snug for viewing in daytime and at night time, and movement can look extra pure. Making sense of the settings on at the moment’s TVs, nonetheless, may be tremendous complicated. That is the place this text is available in.

You would purchase a setup disc, just like the Spears & Munsil UHD HDR or HD Benchmark Blu-rays, which have take a look at patterns and directions on the right way to modify your display screen. You can too get your TV professionally calibrated, however that form of service is dear and for most individuals will not provide sufficient of an enchancment to justify the fee. Even and not using a disc or a professional, nonetheless, you may get your image high quality trying higher simply utilizing your eyes and the choices out there in your TV’s settings menu. And it is fully free.

A phrase of warning earlier than we start nonetheless: Image setting names are in all places. A setting one TV-maker calls “brightness” might management one thing completely completely different on one other TV, for instance. We deal with numerous the variations beneath, however we will not account for each TV-maker, particularly on older fashions, so your mileage might differ.

Begin with the correct image mode


The best method to get your TV trying “cinematic?” Put it in Cinema mode.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Your TV’s image mode has the biggest impact on total image high quality. This one setting controls a number of different settings to alter the general “look” of your TV. Should you’ve by no means modified this setting it is in all probability nonetheless the default mode, usually labeled Customary, Vivid, Dynamic, Brilliant or one thing comparable. The TV is its least correct on this mode, with usually blown-out colours and picture “enhancing” options that may catch the attention on a shelf in a retailer, however at house may make the TV look worse than it might. 

A spot to begin is switching to the mode referred to as Cinema, Film, Calibrated or Filmmaker. These will dial again a few of the extra garish features of the image. At first, the TV may even look mushy or too heat (“reddish”). We’ll focus on beneath why that’s, however for now belief that you simply’re truly seeing extra tremendous element, and the picture is extra lifelike. 

Learn extraWhat’s the perfect image mode?

Let’s transfer on to some particular controls.

Backlight/OLED gentle

  • Controls the sunshine depth of the whole show
  • Too excessive and it may trigger head/eye aches in some individuals, can waste vitality and, in some instances, trigger untimely put on on the TV
  • Too low and the picture is simply too dim and onerous to see

Almost all TVs could have some management that adjusts the general gentle output of the TV. It is labeled because the backlight management, or OLED gentle, or one thing comparable. On newer Sony TVs this setting is labeled Brightness, and on Roku TVs there are 5 settings (Brightest to Darkest) along with a backlight management. Regardless of the label, this setting is the precise brightness, which is mostly separate from the management labeled “Brightness” (see beneath). 

It is best to modify this setting based mostly on room lighting and private choice. Brighter rooms and daylight viewing will name for the next setting, whereas house theater or nighttime viewing usually appears to be like higher at a decrease setting. On an LCD TV, a brilliant backlight can wash out the picture considerably and cut back distinction and pop, particularly on fashions that lack full array native dimming

The brighter the TV is, the extra vitality it should eat, should you’re involved about how a lot electrical energy you employ. Increased brightness additionally makes OLED TVs considerably extra inclined to picture retention and burn in — though with typical viewing habits that is unlikely, even at most brightness. 

Learn extra: OLED display screen burn-in: What it’s essential know in 2021


On the left, what the picture of some pleasant beachside ‘roos ought to appear to be. On the correct, when the distinction management is about too excessive. Discover the dearth of element within the sand and the way the clouds are blown out.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

  • Controls the white/brilliant components of the picture
  • Too excessive will erase element from clouds, snow and different brilliant objects
  • Too low will look dim and flat

The distinction management adjusts how brilliant the intense components of the picture are. There’s an higher restrict, nonetheless. Should you set the management too excessive, it “clips” the whites, making near-white particulars completely white. This successfully erases any element in brilliant objects like clouds with out making the picture truly brighter.

To set distinction by eye, you may want one thing with numerous brilliant areas of the picture. Baseball works fairly effectively for this — a fly ball, pop fly, house runs, one thing with photographs of the sky — or snowboarding (relying on season, clearly), or one thing with clouds. What you are in search of is a brilliant picture, however nonetheless with spotlight element. In different phrases, the intense areas of the picture nonetheless have element, and are not simply awash in white. 

As soon as you’ve got discovered one thing you assume will work, flip the distinction management up till you begin dropping element. Clouds will stop being clouds, snow will simply be glare. Now flip the management again down until you see element once more. Someplace on this vary can be splendid. Since all content material is a bit of completely different you may have to tweak it a bit as you watch different reveals/motion pictures.

Do not wish to mess with all that? Simply depart it on the default for the Film or Cinema setting.


On the left, what the teahouse ought to appear to be. On the correct, when the brightness management is about too low. Discover how the shadows disappear fully.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

  • Controls the black/darkish components of the picture
  • Too excessive will look flat and washed out
  • Too low will erase element in shadows and darkish areas of the picture

On most TVs, the brightness management would not truly management the TV’s “brightness.” As an alternative, it adjusts how darkish the darkest components of the picture are. Like distinction, there is a tremendous line between too excessive and too low. On this case, too excessive and the picture will seem washed out. Too low and all shadows will disappear into black. (On newer Sony TVs this management is labeled Black Stage.)


A closeup from the picture above. Discover how one can’t see something within the shadows within the picture on the correct.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

To set brightness, you are in search of the other kind of content material from distinction. Darkish motion pictures, like Aliens or The Darkish Knight, are excellent for this. Some famously darkish TV episodes could be too darkish to make use of for this. 

Flip the Brightness management down till the whole lot disappears into blackness (or one thing shut). From there, flip it again up so you’ll be able to see element in the whole lot, however the picture would not look washed out. One other take a look at for this can be a darker scene with somebody with lengthy hair. The underside of their hair (I do not know what you individuals with hair name it) away from the sunshine could be a good place to identify shadow element. Additionally, darkish coats at night time. Once more, you may have to attempt a couple of completely different reveals or motion pictures to get it proper.


On the left, the unique picture of the partitions of Tallinn. On the correct, what it might appear to be should you set the sharpness management too excessive.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

  • Controls synthetic edge enhancement, not picture sharpness
  • Too excessive erases picture element, provides a halo to tremendous strains
  • Relying on the TV, set to 0 there is no impact, or a slight softening

Imagine it or not, the sharpness management would not actually enhance sharpness. In a approach it improves obvious sharpness, however on the expense of precise tremendous element and normally with further noise. On almost all TVs the sharpness management provides “edge enhancement,” artificially accentuating any edges the TV finds within the picture. The issue is, doing this hides the precise element within the picture, so the consequence appears to be like extra synthetic with much less precise element.


A closeup of the instance above. Observe the additional noise and synthetic “halo” across the spires on the correct.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

So it could appear counterintuitive, however you must flip the sharpness management down, approach down. Some TVs look finest with the management at 0. Others look finest inside the first 10% or so of this management’s vary. Should you’re used to how your TV appears to be like with the sharpness management approach up, because it usually is within the Dynamic/Vivid modes, it would seem mushy at first if you flip it down. Discover some high-quality 4K content material and also you could be stunned how detailed it now appears to be like. It is best to have the ability to discover the candy spot in your TV trying carefully for textures in clothes, wrinkles in faces, hair and beards, that form of factor.

Learn extraWhy it’s essential flip down your TV’s sharpness management

Coloration and tint

  • Controls shade saturation and pink/inexperienced shift
  • A holdover from the analog TV days
  • Usually can be right, or shut sufficient, out of the field

Usually, the shade and tint controls can be moderately near right out of the field, particularly in Cinema/Film mode. You possibly can experiment with their results, however it’s uncommon they’re off by multiple or two steps in both route.


On the prime, the colour temperature is about too low, or heat. On the backside, it is set too excessive, or cool.

Geoffrey Morrison

Coloration temperature/white stability

  • Controls how heat or cool the picture appears to be like
  • Too excessive and the picture can be too blue
  • Too low and the picture can be too pink

Coloration temperature is a troublesome one. Your mind will get used to the colour temp of your TV, so should you change it, it may appear “improper.” In actual fact, that is in all probability the very first thing you may discover should you swap to the Cinema/Film mode. It will look too heat or “reddish.” On most TVs, that is truly probably the most correct and lifelike. Your TV has been mendacity to you for years! 

Swap to your TV’s heat shade temperature mode and watch it for a couple of days. If it nonetheless appears off to you, attempt the usual mode. I promise the cool mode will look far too blue when you get used to heat.

Try my article on shade temp and why it issues for more information.

Movement interpolation/smoothing (the cleaning soap opera impact)

Soap opera effect smoothing tom cruise Vizio

David Katzmaier/CNET
  • Controls how “clean” movement is by artificially creating new frames of video
  • Too excessive, and even enabled in any respect, it may be annoying to some
  • Too low and the TV may seem mushy with movement, equivalent to sports activities

As TV settings go, movement interpolation is a somewhat controversial subject. Many individuals, together with movie purists and just about everybody who works in Hollywood, hate it. It makes motion pictures appear to be an inexpensive cleaning soap opera or a video you’d shoot in your cellphone. Should you’ve ever checked out a brand new TV and simply felt one thing was off, or the picture simply did not look actual, it is in all probability this. Some individuals prefer it, however lots of people do not. Your new TV virtually definitely has this function turned on in non-Cinema/Film modes. Turning it off may change how you are feeling about your buy.

Learn extra: Cleaning soap opera impact: Tom Cruise desires you to show it off. This is how

Sport mode

  • Reduces enter lag, or how lengthy it takes in your enter to register on display screen
  • Often disables options that may make the picture higher
  • Helpful for any sport that requires timing or aiming, particularly on-line multiplayer

Enter lag is how lengthy it takes so that you can press a button on a sport controller, and that to impact display screen within the sport. For many individuals this delay, measured in milliseconds, is not noticeable. For others, particularly with sure kinds of video games, it may make a large distinction. From leaping puzzles to pixel-perfect goal in a first-person shooter, getting the timing proper in lots of video games is essential. 

Minimizing enter lag, normally by way of a function referred to as sport mode, could make a major distinction. Should you’ve purchased a brand new TV and instantly your scores and rankings have dropped, this could be why. It is not one thing you wish to depart enabled on a regular basis, because it normally disables processing options that may enhance the TV’s image high quality.

Some TVs and consoles now help switching to this mode robotically.

Additional steps

As talked about above, the following step to fine-tuning your TV to perfection is getting a setup disc. The Spears & Munsil disc is a superb possibility as a result of it will get you proper to the patterns with none extraneous fluff. Should you simply need another person to do it, ideally with specialised take a look at tools, see if there are any TV calibrators in your space.

Lastly, make certain any sources you could have, like a streaming stick or a cable/satellite tv for pc field, are set to your TV’s decision (4K for 4K TVs, and so forth). Usually talking they need to do that robotically, however it’s price digging into the settings to make sure. Your 4K TV will not look its finest with out 4K content material. You may have to pay for the next tier to get that, relying on the service. 

Lastly, HDMI. Chances are high no matter HDMI cables you could have are tremendous. Should you attempt to ship 4K from a media streamer and it would not work, it is attainable your HDMI cables cannot deal with the extra decision. Thankfully, new HDMI cables are low-cost. In case your TV is getting the decision you need out of your sources, new HDMI cables will not make the picture look or sound higher, so it can save you your cash.

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Calibrate your TV by eye


In addition to protecting TV and different show tech, Geoff does picture excursions of cool museums and areas around the globe, together with nuclear submarines, huge plane carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and extra. 

You possibly can comply with his exploits on Instagram and YouTube, and on his journey weblog, BaldNomad. He additionally wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-sized submarines, together with a sequel. 

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