Digital Digest
  • About the Author
  • Email
  • Disclaimer
  • Essential Links
  • Essential Tools
  • Ethics, Piracy & Philosophy
    Convert DVDs with Flask Mpeg
  • Extracting the DVD
  • Using FlasK Mpeg
  • Resizing in Flask
  • Convert DVDs with Mpeg2avi
  • Extracting the DVD
  • Using Mpeg2avi
  • Resizing in Mpeg2avi
  • Advanced DVD Conversion
    Convert DVDs with DVD2AVI
    Nandub SBC Encoding
  • Using Nandub
  • Using DivX 4.0
  • Audio / Video Editing
    Advanced VirtualDub
    Digital Video Capture
  • Video Capture: Part 1
  • Special FX Tutorials
  • Morphing Buffy Style
  • Star Wars LightSaber Effects
  • The Exorcist Effect
  • Other Video Formats
    VCD & SVCD Guides
  • DVD to VCD
  • AVI to VCD
  • Multimedia Guides
  • DivX with Subtitles
  • Mutilanguage DivX
  • Multimedia DivX Pt 1
  • Multimedia DivX Pt 2
  • Appendix / Tips
  • Aspect Ratio's
  • Resizing DVD's
  • DivX Quality Guide
  • Bicubic vs Bilinear Resizing
  • Deinterlace Method Test
  • Video Comparisons
  • WM8 Quality
  • Basic DVD Structure
  • NTSC / PAL & Interlace
  • AVI 4GB Limit
  • Key Frames & Delta
  • Monitor Setup Guide
  • FAQ's
  • Questions Answered
  • Downloadable PDF Guides
  • Glossary
  • Word Definitions
  • My Guides Translated
  • Go Here
  • Monitor Setup

    If you are quite serious about graphical editing, photographic retouch or general digital video then a good monitor setup can be very important. Lets say, for example, that you notice that when you capture video or when you scan in a photograph the picture looks too dark. You think, right, open it in Paint Shop Pro or VirtualDub and change the brightness…bingo! All done! But if your monitor were set up incorrectly then you may send your new video or picture to your friends on the Internet and they will tell you it is too bright! It is absolutely impossible to do correct digital editing unless we have our monitors set up right!! In this guide I will do my best to offer some sound advice on what you can do to get the best out of your monitor. Of course what you can do will depend on the quality of monitor and also what colour management software you have installed.


    Choice of Monitor

    My cousin has a cheap 14-inch monitor and it's very hard to do any serious video or picture editing on it. It's not that bad as monitors go, in fact the average PC game player wouldn't complain because it's a perfectly normal PC screen. But for digital editing use the screen is just too dark and blurry. It does, however, have one weird yet redeeming feature - almost every DivX movie I play on it looks perfect! This is not my genius at work its just the monitor! Even quite bad quality movies and mpegs look better than they should because the screens fuzziness gets rid of most of the macroblocks. The same result can be seen if we use a graphics card to output a mpeg movie to a normal TV. You will usually find that even quite blocky mpeg movies will look like VHS video on a normal TV set. This is because TV sets give quite fuzzy images compared to the average PC monitor. This fact probably explains the great difference of opinion on the quality of Divx movies we see. You know, those people who say they have managed to fit the whole of Saving Private Ryan on a single 1.4MB floppy disk and that it looks DVD quality. That's probably because their monitor shows them high fuzz. As soon as they send it to show someone else they are gonna look quite stupid!

    People in general are quite happy to pay out hundreds of pounds on a state of the art graphics cards but probably tend to scrimp when it comes to their choice of monitor. But considering the amount of time we spend looking at the screen perhaps we should put a little more thought into what monitor we choose. If you are a graphics professional then a good monitor is absolutely vital. You are looking at a price easily of between £300-£2000 depending on your budget. There are actually only four manufacturers in the world who make CRT screens and they are: Sony, NEC, Mitsubishi and Hitachi. All other companies buy from them and put their names on the technology! If you are not too knowledgeable about monitors I suggest you look for anything that says "Trinitron CRT display". Sony Trinitron technology gives one of the best quality outputs you can buy. Other great names to look for are Barco and Viewsonic both of which give excellent results.

    You can still get good quality monitors that can be used for the semiprofessional at a fraction of the cost of these of course. The only real test is with the eye. Check out the screens for yourself and see what you think. Always check a monitor after it has been turned on for half an hour to give it time to warm up. If you have the chance change the windows desktop to a neutral gray and check to see if any other colours show (green or red tints etc). If you see any colours walk on to your next monitor.

    The first rule in buying is no liquid crystals screens! Only buy tube style monitors. If you have a laptop you cannot do meaningful video or graphic editing. The second rule is: buy the flattest screen you can find. The third rule is: look for the smallest dot pitch (i.e. choose 0.25 rather than 0.26 and 0.23 rather than 0.25). Obviously you want a monitor with all the other goodies too: we want at least a 17 inch monitor. We want a high refresh rate (between 80-90hz) and a high resolution i.e. 1280 x 1024 or better. There are some quite cheap ones on the market that fill these shoes, for example CTX monitors.



    A friend of mine tried their hand at retouching their photograph collection by scanning them into the computer and editing out scratches and stuff like that. I went to their house and examined what they had done and thought they had done a pretty good job of things. Then I took a copy of their picture to my computer to my horror the image looked terrible. It was obvious that it had been retouched! The only difference between my computer and their computer was the monitor. I went and set up their monitor correctly for them and since then everything has been fine.

    In a design studio regular calibration is a way of life. There are all sorts of packages to calibrate the scanners, printers, monitors etc. Calibration is a very important and serious issue. The scanner must scan as close to the original picture as possible. The picture on the monitor must look almost exactly as the one printed out on the printer etc., etc. Unless everything is set up correctly we would waste hours of time trying to match colours. In reality it is impossible to match everything, but nevertheless we can only do the best we can and then its time to grin and bare it!

    If you are a graphics professional you would do well to invest in a colorimeter to set up your display. There are also some quite cheap monitor colour management applications you can buy that can either work alone or in conjunction with a colorimeter. ColorBlind's ProveIt! is one example (

    For the semiprofessional Adobe Photoshop's Gamma feature may be all you need. If you have Adobe Photoshop installed on your computer go to your control panel and double click on Adobe Gamma. Adobe Gamma is a handy wizard that will help you easily set up your monitor better for digital editing. I will speak more about this a little later.


    The Basic Setup Procedure

    If you don't have Adobe Photoshop or any colour management software that can correct your monitors gamma and setup there is not a great deal you can do. This basic setup procedure is the bare minimum you will be able to do alone. If you have more advanced software then you can continue to the advanced setup section below it.


    Graphics Cards

    Obviously your graphics card should be a modern one that supports at least 24 bit colour. Make sure it is set on the highest best quality colour settings before you start to set up your monitor. To do this, right-click on your desktop and choose properties from the drop down menu. Up will pop your display properties. Then go to the settings tab and select 24 bit (or 32 bit or 64 bit etc., as long as its above 24 bit you will be okay). Select apply and close.


    Heat & Light

    Before you calibrate any monitor you must wait until it has warmed up. It is advised that you leave it on about an hour before you start. Never adjust a monitor that has direct sunlight shining on it. You want a well lit room that is not too bright and that doesn't cast harsh reflections on the screen. Have you ever noticed that when it is very sunny and it is hitting your monitor that turning up the brightness will make it easier to see? Yes, this is because the monitor brightness is competing with the sunlight. If there is bright lights hitting your monitor you will set it up wrongly.


    Brightness & Contrast

    Everything starts with the brightness and contrast. Adjust your monitor's contrast and brightness controls until the black looks pitch black and the white looks brilliant white. It doesn't matter if your gamma or any other settings are off yet, getting the white and black levels are the most important first step.

    the contrast control

    The contrast actually controls the luminance level of the monitor. That is, it controls how bright each pixel on your screen will be relative to each other, in short it sets how bright the brightest pixel can become. It is often easiest just to set the contrast up full power, this will always guarantee pure white. If later you find that the white "oozes" too much (see pixel clarity below) then you can adjust the contrast to compensate a little

    the brightness control

    The brightness control actually controls what is called the black-point of the screen. Its the opposite of the contrast control in that it regulates how dark the darkest pixels will end up. Before we can accurately adjust the brightness we need something to compare it to. To do that we use the boarder of our monitors.

    Find your monitors screen resize controls. They should look something like this: Then shrink your screen so you can see the black area behind it (A). It doesn't matter if your screen is out of shape, we are only doing this to gauge brightness and will change the screen back later.

    The black boarder around the screen has no pixels and no electron beams hitting it. It is as pure a black as your monitor can get! You now need to go to your desktop and change the background to pure black. To do this, right-click on your desktop and choose properties from the drop down menu. Up will pop your display properties. Then go to the background tab and choose none. Then switch to the 'Appearance' tab and press the colour button and choose black. The default black here is RGB 0,0,0 and is pure black. You should also clean up the desktop so there are few or no icons on it because this spoils your judgment.

    Great! Now turn up the brightness full or until the desktop looks much brighter than the boarder. Then slowly lower the brightness setting until it is the same blackness as the boarders black. Do NOT just turn it right down because that destroys all your screen gradients. You want to slowly turn the brightness down until its just barely brighter than the boarder, so its so close that you almost cannot tell if there is a boarder at all, but so the screen is just barely brighter than the boarder.

    If you do not have Adobe Gamma or any advanced colour management software here is something you can try to help make the best of a bad situation:

    If you do NOT have Adobe Gamma

    Having correct gamma allows us the best range of visible tones in an image. If we cannot control the gamma correctly it may still be possible to at least be able to see most of that range by fiddling with our monitor setup. If we cannot clearly see these changes in tone then its going to be hard to, for example, do any serious retouch work since it may look perfect in the tones we can see but bad in those darker or lighter tones.



    The above picture shows a grayscale of about thirty individual tones. The far left is pure black and the far right is pure white. I suggest you mess about with your monitor brightness and any extra options you have been given with your graphics card to make it so you can see as many changes in tone as possible. The picture underneath it is given to help show where these changes in tone appear. You will probably find that there will be a couple of tones either end that you just cannot see. Be careful not to make one side all black or all white. If you loose the tones either side you are making a bad situation worse.

    Note: Do not mess about with your brightness and card settings if you have Adobe Photoshop or a good colour management utility since it may mess up the whole idea of gamma correction!


    Colour Gun Correction.

    Look very carefully at the following gradient again. It should be pure black going up until it reaches white, there is no colour in it at all. If you notice a slight tinge of red or green or blue then its very likely your monitor colour guns are set slightly out. As you know any computer monitor uses three electron guns to fire electricity at the screen. One targets the red phosphor dots the other the green and the other the blue. It is the mixing of the red, green and blue colours that give us all the millions of colours on our computer screen. But if one of the three guns is too strong or weak you will notice a slight tinge of colour.



    Most modern monitors allow you to adjust the Red, Green and Blue settings on your monitor to compensate for this. Some monitors have switches on the back but many will have it in an on screen selection instead. Check your monitors manual for details of how to adjust them. If your monitor doesn't have any control over the colour guns at all then you may be able to do this adjustment with your graphics cards options. Since there are so many monitors and graphics cards you will have to check your manual for all details on how to set them.

    Fixing the colour guns is quite easy in theory, you just need to play about with them until your screen looks right. As a rule a yellow tinge can be corrected by adding more blue. A pink tinge can be corrected by adding more green. And a blue tinge can be corrected by adding more red. Of course if more than one gun is out then you will get all sorts of colours. But you will only need very tiny alterations to fix them.


    Screen Resizing

    After the brightness and contrast have been sorted out, you can now resize your monitor so the picture is square again. When you resize your screen make sure you can see all of it. The corners of the screen should not disappear off the edges anywhere. To make this easier, turn the desktop a light colour in the same way we turned it black. I suggest you use sky blue or gray, do not use pure white. Next, since PC screens use perfectly square pixels, we must resize the screen so the pixels are all equal. To do this look at the following picture:

    This isn't a special test grid or anything its just a geometric shape I made up. Some graphics cards offer a similar screen. The idea is that when you resize your screen you should do the final size adjustments so that the squares in the picture are perfectly square and the circles are perfectly circular. If the squares start to look rectangular or the circles look oval shaped you must adjust the screen size until they are correct. If it helps you can use a ruler on the screen to measure the width and height.


    Pixel Clarity

    This geometric image also serves us for getting the contrast correct. Since PC screens emit light, sometimes the pixels will glow too strongly making sharp lines blurry. This blur is highly dependent on the monitor you use and the dot pitch. Each line in the picture above is a single pixel (dot) thick. If you notice the lines are not very sharp or as crisp as they could be, try altering the contrast or brightness a tiny tiny bit until they become less fuzzy.

    That's it! the monitor has has the perfect brightness and contrast levels. The colour guns are correctly set up and all the pixels are as sharp as they can be. What's next?


    Advanced Setup Procedure

    The slightly more advanced setup procedure involves using Adobe Gamma to get the correct monitor management profile for your system. This utility comes with the full version of Adobe Photoshop 5.x and higher. Adobe Gamma sets an ICC (International Color Consortium) profile for your computer system. What that means is everything on your computer, not just Adobe Photoshop, will now follow these colour correction settings. Apart from giving you a display that shows the optimum shades and colours you can with your monitor, it should also automatically make whatever graphics you print a much closer match to that on screen! Windows will save this monitor setup as an *.icm file and always use it when it starts. If you reinstall your computer I suggest you back up your ICM file from C:\Windows/System/Color. Anyway, lets get started with Adobe Gamma.

    Go to your control panel and double click on Adobe Gamma.

    Up will pop the Adobe Gamma settings. Select the wizard option since its easiest to use and just as detailed as the manual. The first screen will ask what Monitor profile you'd like to start out with. It doesn't really matter which you choose, the default option is usually the best since it is based on your monitor. If you wish to load another one select the load button, otherwise press Next >.

    The next screen offers the option to set up the brightness and contrast settings. We have already spoken about how to do this but you now have the chance to double check. The center box is all we are concerned about here, it may even be very hard to see at first so turn your brightness right up. Then lower it slowly until you almost cannot see the center box and you'll have it perfect.

    Now it will make sure you are using the correct phosphor dot profile for your monitor. This option doesn't really matter since we are configuring everything by hand anyway. If you know what monitor setting to use select it, otherwise select P22-EBU. This selection is not vital so don't fuss and worry about it. If you choose the wrong one it probably will not matter much.

    The next is the gamma option which is the main reason we are using Adobe Gamma. Uncheck the box that says 'View Single Gamma Only' so that we can see the Red, Green and Blue correction bars. The drop down selection box will offer Macintosh Default and Windows Default options. Just select the default one for Windows or the Mac. It also offers the choice to do a custom one but that is not really needed.

    To correct the Red, Green and Blue balance move each slider bar left and right until the center squares look almost invisible and all you can see is a block of colour. I suggest you spend some time making sure, the better you set it by eye the better the results will be. Try moving a few feet away from your monitor and slightly squinting your eyes. Then adjust each one until you are happy. When done press Next >.

    Next it will ask you to select which lighting condition you use with your monitor. These lighting conditions i.e. daylight, warm white, cool white etc., are called the 'White point' setting. Selecting warm or cool lights bring out their own distinctive colours with them based on temperature. For example a low temperature. will give a warm glow like that of a sunny day; higher temperatures will give the the cold harshness of a neon lamp. Most monitors will default to an average heat of 9300'K. I suggest you use the default setting. If you think it may be wrong or want to set a different white point on your monitor, then check your monitor manual. Most modern monitors will let you select what white point they should use. There are only two realistic choices: either use the default 9300'K or 6500'K which I am told is the preferred choice among professionals.

    If you think you are really good with colour you can try and guess the white point by choosing the measure button. After pressing it, up will pop three gray boxes (as seen below). You want to make the center gray the most colourless gray you can. It must not have any tinge of colour in it at all. To do this you should click on the left and right squares to modify the center's colour. Clicking on the left square tells it you want the center square to be more like the left and clicking on the right says you want the center square more like the right colour. Once the center square is a perfect gray, then you should click on the center square and it will save your choice as a custom setup.

    Next it offers an option that at first appears confusing; it asks if you'd like to work at a setting other than your monitors white point setting. This can be handy if you cannot change the monitors white point but need to work in another temperature. But usually it will be best for you to choose the 'Same as Hardware' option.

    Woohoo, that's it! To test that the before and after settings are an improvement you can swap between the two by checking either box. I suggest you open up a detailed picture in Photoshop and try the before and after options again. Hopefully if you've done a good job you will be amazed at the difference. If you don't like the change try going back and playing with previous settings until you are happy the colour has been corrected right.

    Once you are done select the Finish button and your setting will be saved.


    Final Thoughts

    The most common problem with any monitor setup is that the pictures end up with too much shadow on them. The picture of the fruit on the left illustrates the shadow problem while the picture on the right represents a colour corrected one.

    Even after using Adobe Gamma some systems still do not show the full range of tones clearly. If you find that after all the configuration is over you are still having some problems with too much shadow then I suggest you play about with the brightness setting of your monitor or graphics card. In my opinion its better to have it a little too bright than a little too dark. This way you have more chance of seeing the full range of tones. Just be careful and use your common sense - your eye should always have the final say.

    Duplication of links or content is strictly prohibited. (C) NICKY PAGE 2000