What is Display Calibration?

Display calibration is the process of using the display’s controls to calibrate the on screen image so that it matches the original source content, as its creator designed it. This allows the calibrated display to accurately reproduce the video signals from any source device, be it a digital signage player, cable box, satellite box or Blu-Ray player.

Digital signage is a universe of different displays, mounts, cables, and kiosks… before we even talk about all of the available digital signage software packages! Among all this chaos, one single element remains as the center point and focus for any digital signage installation, content. Without good content, properly displayed, there is no point to even the most advanced and sophisticated digital signage system.

Why is Display Calibration Necessary?

Manufacturers do not ship displays calibrated from the factory. The display’s viewing environment has an impact on what is seen on screen that cannot be accounted for before the display is installed. Not all displays are the same; one size does not fit all!

Why aren’t Displays Already Calibrated?

Display manufacturers advertise incredible image quality straight out of the box, just by selecting one of the preset image settings. However, this is actually not the case. Display manufacturers build their displays to get noticed in a lineup of other displays in a big box store. This is true even with commercial displays. This may sound like a good thing.

After all, we are trying to get our digital signage displays noticed, right? Again, this is not exactly ideal. The manufacturer attempts to make the display more noticeable by oversaturating colors, by shifting color balance to make a bluer display, and by crushing the blacks and pushing the whites, to make the image as eye catching as possible. This is completely unnatural and inaccurate.

The Effect of the Environment

Display-in-MallA major reason that a display cannot be calibrated before it is installed is the effect of the environment on the image. Every different location where a display is to be installed has its own unique environment, consisting of the following elements:

  • Wall, ceiling, and floor color
  • Amount of ambient light
  • Color temperature of ambient light

Since the display relies on getting light to our eyes to be seen, and each of these elements changes what, and how, we see that light, the display cannot be truly optimized until it is calibrated in the location where it will be viewed.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Every display is unique, even compared to other displays of the same model. Just like differences in color between batches of paint, there are definite variances between batches of color filters, phosphors, or even backlight bulbs and lamps. Different display technologies, such as LCD versus plasma, have different color performance. No two lamps, whether dealing with flat panel backlights, or projection bulbs, have the exact same brightness output. As display devices age, these variances become even more pronounced.

Benefits of Display Calibration

What do we gain from a properly calibrated display device? A fully calibrated display provides several benefits compared to an uncalibrated display, straight from the box:

  • Color Accuracy
  • Display Matching
  • Lower Total Cost of Ownership
  • Relationship Building and Additional Service Revenue

Color Accuracy

The first major benefit of screen optimization is a completely calibrated color output, corrected to show the content displayed with the utmost accuracy. This is critical for matching logo colors. When dealing with advertising, Coca Cola red needs to be EXACTLY Coca Cola red. This is a critical branding issue. A calibrated display will also always show content completely accurate to the creator’s original material and intent. A person building content for a number of calibrated displays doesn’t have to worry how the final images will look, since a calibrated display always shows it exactly as the source material is designed.

Calibration improves the ability of a message to be read and conveyed. Displays that provide a proper amount of brightness to deal with ambient light and glare are easy to read, and proper, “natural” colors make the displays more pleasant to watch. Also, colors can tie directly into brand recognition. As already referenced, viewers recognize Coca Cola red. Calibration allows a display to maintain its color output throughout its life. The faded print that traditional signage can show after time in the field doesn’t present the message the owner desires. Displays also change color as they age, but proper periodic calibration keeps them looking as good as the day they came out of the box.

Display Matching

Multi-Display-WallSince all displays are not equal, we can frequently be faced with an installation project where there may be more than one model, or more than one manufacturer of display present. Each manufacturer will have their own formulation for color filters, phosphors, and different backlight bulbs or projection lamps. This causes each display to have its own color “fingerprint” that will cause it to look noticeably different when showing the same content as its neighbors.

The solution to this is screen optimization through calibration. A properly calibrated screen is configured to a separate color standard, that will allow various displays, regardless of manufacturer, to match each other either perfectly, or closely enough to not be noticed. This is especially important when dealing with a multi-display videowall, which are becoming much more common in digital signage applications.

Lower Total Cost of Ownership

Everyone is becoming incredibly conscious about the deployment cost of a digital signage system, but an equally serious question is, what it will cost to operate. Running a TV in your home living room may not seem like a power drain to you, but imagine that increased to be constantly on during business hours, and then multiplied by possibly hundreds of displays across a single organization. Any power savings carries a massive dollar impact!

Calibrated displays offer up to 30% less power consumption, due to optimized screen light output. Calibrating a display sets it to the proper amount of brightness for its viewing environment. Since a calibrated display now outputs only the required light, the brightness reduction also improves panel life, by up to 20%! Replacing a display is definitely a major expense, and any increased lifespan definitely decreases TCO.

Relationship Building and Additional Revenue for Installation Professionals

Any digital signage integrator would be wise to make screen optimization services a part of every installation. This offers a clear set of benefits to the end user, but also provides you with a way to differentiate your services, present a stronger professional image, improve client satisfaction, and increase revenue. Providing screen optimization services clearly demonstrates your dedication to providing your client maximum benefit, and to having a comprehensive knowledge of their display devices.

This also provides an additional value-add service; yet another way to help differentiate you from your competition. Calibration is a service that can be charged for, either as an installation line item, or as a part of an ongoing management or maintenance service contract. Calibration should be performed periodically for best image quality, which renews your contact with your customer. This is a relationship builder that helps drive additional business.

Performing Display Calibration

Colorimeter-and-ScreenFirst, you need to commit to making digital calibration is a key part of your business, as part of every sale and installation.  Next, you will need specialized calibration instruments to accurately measure light and color. Gamma Scientific proudly supplies instruments, such as the SLS-9400 colorimeter, that are the standard of measurement in the scientific community.

The SLS-9400 colorimeter is the first portable, handheld colorimeter that provides laboratory grade precision at an affordable price, and is ideal for display calibration.

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