Change these TV image settings now (you will thank us later)

David Katzmaier/CNET

With a number of simple tweaks of its image settings, your TV can look higher than it does proper now. From the most cost effective LCD to probably the most costly OLED and MicroLED shows, altering a number of settings will enhance image high quality it doesn’t matter what sort of programming you watch, from streaming TV to 4K HDR motion pictures to video video games. The most effective half is, discovering the suitable settings in your TV is not laborious, and aside from your time, it may be completely free.

In a super world you’d use a setup disc, just like the Spears & Munsil UHD HDR or HD Benchmark Blu-rays. You may also get your TV professionally calibrated
, however the service is pricey 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 obtainable in your TV’s settings menu. This is how.

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

Begin with the suitable image mode


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Your TV’s image mode has the most important impact on general 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 Normal, Vivid, Dynamic, Brilliant or one thing related. 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 would possibly make the TV look worse than it may. 

A spot to start out is switching to the mode known as Cinema, Film, Calibrated or Filmmaker. These will dial again a number of the extra garish elements of the image. At first, the TV would possibly even look mushy or too heat (“reddish”). We’ll talk about under why that’s, however for now belief that you simply’re really seeing extra fantastic element, and the picture is extra lifelike. 

Learn extraWhat’s the most effective image mode?  

Let’s transfer on to some particular controls.

Backlight/OLED gentle

  • Controls the sunshine depth of your entire show
  • Too excessive and it could trigger head/eye aches in some folks, can waste vitality and, in some instances, trigger untimely put on on the TV
  • Too low and the picture is just too dim and laborious to see

Almost all TVs may 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 related. 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 under). 

It’s best to alter this setting based mostly on room lighting and private desire. 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 vibrant backlight can wash out the picture considerably and scale back distinction and pop, particularly on fashions that lack full array native dimming

The brighter the TV is, the extra vitality it’s going to devour, when you’re involved about how a lot electrical energy you utilize. Larger brightness additionally makes OLED TVs considerably extra prone to picture retention and burn in — though with typical viewing habits that is unlikely, even at most brightness. 

Learn extra: OLED display burn-in: What you want to know in 2021


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

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

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

The distinction management adjusts how vibrant the intense components of the picture are. There may be 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 vibrant objects like clouds with out making the picture really brighter.

To set distinction by eye, you will want one thing with a variety of vibrant 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 on the lookout for is a vibrant 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 might be preferrred. Since all content material is a bit of completely different you would possibly must tweak it a bit as you watch different reveals/motion pictures.

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


On the left, what the teahouse ought to appear like. On the suitable, when the brightness management is ready too low. Discover how the shadows disappear utterly.

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 does not really management the TV’s “brightness.” As an alternative, it adjusts how darkish the darkest components of the picture are. Like distinction, there is a fantastic 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 suitable.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

To set brightness, you are on the lookout for the other sort of content material from distinction. Darkish motion pictures, like Aliens or The Darkish Knight, are good for this. Some famously darkish TV episodes is likely to 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 possibly can see element in the whole lot, however the picture does not look washed out. One other take a look at for it is a darker scene with somebody with lengthy hair. The underside of their hair (I do not know what you folks with hair name it) away from the sunshine could be a good place to identify shadow element. Additionally, darkish coats at evening. Once more, you would possibly must strive a number of completely different reveals or motion pictures to get it proper.


On the left, the unique picture of the partitions of Tallinn. On the suitable, what it may appear like when 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 fantastic traces
  • Relying on the TV, set to 0 there is not any impact, or a slight softening

Consider it or not, the sharpness management does not actually enhance sharpness. In a manner it improves obvious sharpness, however on the expense of precise fantastic element and normally with extra 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 end result appears to be like extra synthetic with much less precise element.  


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

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

So it might appear counterintuitive, however it is best to flip the sharpness management down, manner down. Some TVs look greatest with the management at 0. Others look greatest 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 manner up, because it usually is within the Dynamic/Vivid modes, it’d seem mushy at first while you flip it down. Discover some high-quality 4K content material and also you is likely to be stunned how detailed it now appears to be like. It’s best to be capable to discover the candy spot in your TV trying intently for textures in clothes, wrinkles in faces, hair and beards, that form of factor.

Learn extraWhy you want to flip down your TV’s sharpness management

Colour and tint

  • Controls colour saturation and pink/inexperienced shift
  • A holdover from the analog TV days
  • Typically might be appropriate, or shut sufficient, out of the field

Typically, the colour and tint controls might be fairly near appropriate out of the field, particularly in Cinema/Film mode. You may experiment with their results, however it’s uncommon they’re off by a couple of or two steps in both path.


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

Geoffrey Morrison

Colour temperature/white steadiness

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

Colour temperature is a tough one. Your mind will get used to the colour temp of your TV, so when you change it, it’ll appear “unsuitable.” In truth, that is in all probability the very first thing you will discover when you swap to the Cinema/Film mode. It’ll look too heat or “reddish.” On most TVs, that is really probably the most correct and lifelike. Your TV has been mendacity to you for years! 

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

Try my article on colour 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 “easy” 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 would possibly seem mushy with movement, corresponding to sports activities

As TV settings go, movement interpolation is a quite controversial matter. Many individuals, together with movie purists and just about everybody who works in Hollywood, hate it. It makes motion pictures appear like an affordable 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 folks prefer it, however lots of people do not. Your new TV nearly definitely has this characteristic turned on in non-Cinema/Film modes. Turning it off would possibly change how you’re 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
  • Normally disables options that may make the picture higher
  • Helpful for any recreation 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 recreation controller, and that to affect display within the recreation. For many individuals this delay, measured in milliseconds, is not noticeable. For others, particularly with sure varieties of video games, it could make a large distinction. From leaping puzzles to pixel-perfect purpose in a first-person shooter, getting the timing proper in lots of video games is essential. 

Minimizing enter lag, normally through a characteristic known as recreation mode, could make a major distinction. Should you’ve purchased a brand new TV and immediately your scores and rankings have dropped, this is likely to be why. It isn’t one thing you wish to go away 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 assist switching to this mode mechanically.

Additional steps

As talked about above, the subsequent step to fine-tuning your TV to perfection is getting a setup disc. The Spears & Munsil disc is a good 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 gear, see if there are any TV calibrators in your space.

Lastly, ensure any sources you’ve, 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 on). Typically talking they need to do that mechanically, however it’s price digging into the settings to make certain. Your 4K TV will not look its greatest with out 4K content material. You would possibly must pay for the next tier to get that, relying on the service. 

Lastly, HDMI. Likelihood is no matter HDMI cables you’ve are fantastic. Should you attempt to ship 4K from a media streamer and it does not work, it is doable 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 overlaying TV and different show tech, Geoff does picture excursions of cool museums and places world wide, together with nuclear submarines, large plane carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and extra. 

You may 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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