I’m among the huge (and growing) number of people who really like to take things apart or to further investigate hidden options just to know how things work. (One might call this characteristic “intellectual curiosity” aka the “break shit open and put it back together again” syndrome).

The other day, I discovered the service menu on my one year old Samsung LCD television. It was glorious: gone are the terms “color”, “brightness”, and “tint” for controlling how the picture looks. In are the terms “LVDS_TX_Bit”, “Nor_Roffset”, and “SVP-PX”, which clearly are more powerful simply because they are unintelligible. “I will attract sexy women with a better picture using advanced settings!”, I exclaimed! 1

Among the new menu items is “Calibration”. I figured, “Sure! Calibration is a good thing! I want my TV to be calibrated!” and clicked it. Over the next few minutes, my television scanned various hues in an attempt to find the right color palate for my viewing pleasure.

But then everything was tinted way red. I mean, even grays were showing up reddish. It was bad. So bad that using the normal “tint” and “color” parameters couldn’t fix it. The default factory reset yielded no ground to my new tint overlords. The service menu factory reset did not do any justice either. It was bad.

Then I read on the Samsung TV FAQ on the Service Menu the following:

Calibration: STAY OUT. DO NOT TOUCH. You have been warned, this is designed to be run in the factory or onsite with specialized hardware outputting specific images. You can ruin your set if you use this.

Damn. Truer words may never have been written.

Various people around the internet say that getting a professional calibrator is the only real way out of that, which can cost around $300, about half or more of the value of the equipment. Then I read that all Samsung does is feed a pattern from a signal generator (which both makes sense and can’t actually be accurate since we’re talking about a digital HDMI input), which means that a layperson should be able reproduce the calibration image.

But what is the image? Color tones? Grayscale? Boxes? A random internet meme?

I tried color tones first for no reason other than they seem common enough for television calibration. Colors returned closer to normal, but still wrong.

Some other guy on the internet2 says that a Samsung support guy told him that they use a checkerboard pattern. So, I used [a checkerboard pattern][pattern] and restarted calibration: colors are (more or less) back to normal. There is some ambiguity because I can’t really compare the before and after, and I feel like blacks were blacker before.

But, at least Jessica Alba looks human-like now.

My advice? Don’t mess with the service menu unless you actually know what you’re doing, regardless of level of intellectual curiosity.3

  1. Well, I didn’t actually say or think that. In reality, I knew that watching old episodes of Battlestar Galactica alone might look better. ↩︎

  2. who should obviously be trusted [pattern]: /uploads/2008/11/checker.jpg ↩︎

  3. That said, you can get to it on Samsung TVs by pressing “Mute”, 1, 8, 2, “Power”, one after the other. Caveat emptor. ↩︎