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‘Do not – not – adjust your set’: a 1970s guide to respectable picture quality from your new TV…

Your new TV is factory-set to ‘buy me’ mode when you get it home and tune it in. Thankfully our set-up method – drawn from the dawn of colour television – will see your new TV deliver its best possible picture quality.

Newsreaders make good test material because they’re usually filmed wearing dark clothes with the best studio cameras and lighting.

1. Turn OFF all of the ‘auto’ or ‘smart’ settings for colour, contrast, brightness and sharpness. We have to take things back to 1976!
2. To begin, we want to develop the image’s shadows and highlights – all the grey scale from white to light greys and dark greys to black. Contrast and brightness are, for a picture, like treble and bass controls for sound. They govern overall tone. To set them, we start with a black-and-white image.Turn the colour setting as low as it goes.
3. Contrast adjusts the ‘white level’. You’ll notice that the factory settings show a lot of ‘pure white’ on the screen. Adjust the contrast setting (usually down) so that the screen’s only pure white glints are catch lights in eyes and twinkles on chrome – everything else should be a shade of grey. In setting that correctly, you should now see the full scale of light grey tones.
4. Brightness adjusts the ‘black level’. Fabric folds and pinstripes in jackets make good test subjects. Adjust the brightness control (usually up) so that details in shadows become visible. When the brightness is too high, the picture takes on a ‘milky’ look. Another way to achieve a good result is to turn down the brightness until the ‘milky look’ fades. You should see all the shades of dark grey.
5. Contrast and brightness affect each other, so double-check your contrast setting in case brightness settings have changed it and, if it does needs changing, double-check the brightness.
6. Next, we want to achieve the highest colour setting from your television without causing the blurriness you see when colours ‘bleed’ into one another. Using the skin of your own hand as a guide, increase the colour until the on screen skin-tone begins to look realistic. If the colour is too high, skin tones will take on a glowing orange or pink look.
And that’s it! That’s how we adjusted TVs in the ‘70s & ‘80s. There are a few more features in your new TV to bring it into the new millennium!
7. ‘Sharpness’ is a crude edge enhancer. Your television can increase sharpness by outlining all the elements of your image with thin black and white lines. You can see it clearly on text – it looks like ghosting. Turn the sharpness setting down until no ‘outline’ or ‘ghost’ is visible – usually close to the minimum setting.
8. If your television has a colour temperature control, adjust it so that the image colour looks sharp – and doesn’t fuzz or bleed – usually cool or natural.
9. If your TV has a ‘Tint’ control, you can adjust the cursor a few steps to the right or left until you achieve a picture with the least amount of colour in it. Red and green tints neutralise each other when the tint is perfect so when the colour slightly drops, you have usually achieved a natural tint level. Simply adjust the colour up a notch or 2 until it looks bright and clear again.

We’re looking for an image that looks like a photograph. It has a perception of depth and believable natural colour. It should be comfortable and relaxing to watch – and look a good deal better than the TV you originally unpacked…

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