LiquidTheater.Com Certification Checklist
written by Mike Shea on
10 May 2002
Experiencing the film's vision is what home theater is all about. We spend billions each year in our attempt to understand and experience the vision of talented directors, writers, cast and crew. Now the technology exists to recreate this vision at home.
Technology seems to be the focus of the home theater industry but other important factors are ignored. This checklist ensures a home theater is properly set up and calibrated. It goes hand-in-hand with the Home Theater Setup article.
It is not expected that every home theater will meet all of these requirements. These specifications are for an ideal setup, but one that is reachable for under $4000 total. Read through the descriptions of these guidelines and then print it for a quick "pre-flight" checklist before each viewing. And now, the checklist:
- 50" or bigger widescreen HDTV capable of 480p resolution.
- Screen size is 1/2 the distance to the viewer (example: 55" TV is no more than 110").
- Primary video source is a progressive scan DVD player.
- Receiver includes both Dolby Digital and DTS decoding.
- Receiver has 85 watts or better to all five main channels.
- Five timbre matched main speakers capable of 70hz to 20khz.
- Powered subwoofer for low frequency effects capable of 25hz to 100hz at 105db.
- Single remote control for the whole system.
- Equipment is positioned according to Dolby Home Theater standards
- Primary seating position in the rear center of the theater facing the middle of the screen.
- Display facing the primary viewing position, directly centered.
- Center speaker on top or below the display aimed at the primary viewing position.
- Left and right main speakers to the sides of the display, 20 to 30 degrees off the center and aimed at the primary viewing position.
- Left and right surround channels directly to the sides and aimed at the primary viewing position.
- Subwoofer is within the general viewing area, usually in the front left or right corners.
- Equipment is in a well ventilated area that is easily wired and easily operated with a remote.
- Wiring is done with Monster Cable or better.
- Video is hooked up with progressive component cables between the display and the progressive DVD player.
- Digital audio is hooked up from the DVD player to the digital input on the receiver with either optical or digital coax.
- Speakers are wired correctly, positive to positive, negative to negative using 14 gauge wire or better.
- Subwoofer is hooked up with a line level RCA connector to the subwoofer line out on the receiver.
- All main speakers set to "small".
- Low Frequency Effects (LFE) and bass sent to "subwoofer".
- Dolby Digital Dynamic Range set to "Max" or Dynamic Compression set to "Off".
- DSP modes (hall, church, movie, cinema, beer pub, toilet) turned Off.
- DVD Digital Input set to "AUTO". It should auto detect and display a Dolby Digital or DTS signal.
- If it exists, the variable crossover is set to 80hz.
DVD Player Setup
- Aspect ratio set properly ("16x9" or "widescreen" for widescreen displays).
- Dolby Digital and DTS output through coax or optical output.
- Video output through proper output such as component video for HDTV displays.
- Dynamic compression "off" or dynamic range "max".
- Black level "normal"
- Noise reduction or any other filters "off"
- Progressive video on if you have a progressive DVD player and an HDTV.
- Any audio filtering "off".
- Audio calibrations are done with the THX Optimizer feature on THX certified DVDs.
- 75db Speaker Balance to make sure all speakers are all working at the same volume level. This requires the use of the Radio Shack SPL meter
- Speaker Phase Check to make sure connections to the speakers are correct.
- Low Frequency Sweep to check the speaker to subwoofer crossover.
- Video calibrations are done with the THX Optimizer feature on THX certified DVDs.
- Contrast Check to set your white level correctly.
- Brightness check to set black level correctly.
- Tint and color tests to set your color levels properly. This requires the THX blue filter glasses.
- 16x9 aspect ratio check to make sure your aspect ratio is correctly set.
- Crosshatch for convergence on rear projection TVs and final color, brightness, and contrast checks.
- All light is removed, the theater is completely dark.
- External noise is removed. No dogs, cars, phones, pagers, annoying mother-in-laws, air conditioners, ice cream makers, electric toothbrushes, or gangsta' rap music.
- Floor is carpeted or has a large rug.
- Thick comfortable chairs with elevated legs.
- Non-reflective decorations on sidewalls such as tarps, drapes, or blankets.
- Book case full of old paperbacks on the back wall to act as a rear wall diffuser.
- Tasty beverages at hand.
- Viewer has just urinated.
- Viewer is not wearing restrictive pants.
- Room is 70 degrees.
- A blanket is at hand.
- Movie is one of Mike's Great Movies.
- Movie is rated three stars or higher.
- Movie does not violate the Movie Rules.
- Movie is watched all the way through with no interruption.
When properly used, these guidelines can greatly increase your ability to fully capture the director's vision. If left in the hands of evil, we could find ourselves watching non-car car movies on a 12" TV with an ice cream maker made by Harley Davidson going off four inches from our eardrum. Not to mention the full bladder. Use this well and become the film!
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