Calibrating a PAL Video Monitor

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the Jan, 2007, issue of
Larry’s Free Monthly Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


Steve, from Australia, writes:

Thanks for your newsletters. Here’s a question that I’m hoping some of your European readers might be able to help me with.

How exactly do you calibrate a PAL monitor with the FCP colour bars? There are many tutorials on how to do it with NTSC, but I can’t find any information on how to do it with PAL. And I’ve had a really good look on Google.

I have a JVC TM-H160CG reference monitor – 15″ and with Blue gun [able to be isolated]. Using NTSC footage, sequences and colour bars and putting it through my camera switched to NTSC, I am able to calibrate my monitor successfully and the footage looks great.
For your info: Brightness + 4, Contrast + 4 (tricky this one), Chroma 0, Phase 0.

But using the FCP PAL bars in PAL sequences, its quite nuts. I want to raise the Chroma to + 30, and similar for Brightness.

Not only is the last bar 100% white instead of 75%. But the PAL PLUG bars register differently in the waveform monitor than do the NTSC bars. In NTSC the Plug are say +5 and -5, while the PAL Plug are +1 and -2.

So obviously there must be another system for PAL. My answer at the moment is to use the same monitor settings for PAL as I calibrated for NTSC. (Brightness and Contrast up 4). And frankly the footage looks pretty good. But I would really like to know if there’s a more exact and scientific method to do it, and I’m hoping you’d be able to help.

Larry replies: Steve, I’m not a PAL engineer, so I’ll throw this open to our readers to see what they suggest.

UPDATE – 12/29/06

Sven Pors, of TV-Glad, Copenhagen, helps answer this question:

I have used these mixed but common methods of setting up PAL monitors for years.

Choose the EBU 100% standard “PAL full-frame bars” from FCP.

  1. Turn color, contrast and brightness all the way down.
  2. Turn up brightness until you see the black bar just start to light up.
  3. Turn up contrast until the bars display an even grayscale – not including the 100% white bar. This bar should not be glowing (turn up until the white bar doesn’t get brighter then pull back a bit).
  4. Turn up color until the red bar is fully red but not glowing. On monitors with “blue-only” the 3 bars to the right should be equal shades of blue.
  5. Test and maybe fine-tune using a real picture you know has full color information and dynamics. This means good saturation, blacks, whites, low and high mid-tones.

Or in short:

Turn down everything. Turn up brightness. Turn up contrast. Turn up color.

Note: If the lightning conditions around your monitor changes (day/night) you need to adjust the brightness to get good blacks and low mid-tones. Ideally this means daily if your workingplace is near a window…

On some cheaper/older monitors brightness and contrast affect each other and you may have to repeat steps 1 and 2.

If your monitor does not have a blue-only feature, you can look at it through some layers of blue filter normally used for lamps at theaters.

Major broadcasters sometimes get their reference monitors callibrated using measuring probes and some kinds of software or oscilloscopes. The contrast and color levels used are lower than for consumer televisions.

Some use other test-signals from a signal generator or from a picture file to set up their monitors.

In FCP the current PAL full frame bars are 100% bars (luminance level). Using 75% bars (currently not present in my FCP) slightly alters the method above.

In the living room (without a color bar):

  • Use brightness to get best details in the lows.
  • Use contrast to get most definition in the highs.
  • Set color at will but not too high

Larry replies: Sven, thanks for taking the time to write. This is very helpful.

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