Tips to understand & set up the new TV Technology for perfect picture

How higher contrast ratio enhances picture quality (in televisions)

Did you know that people spend close to 2 hours 47 minutes a day watching television? Thanks to smart TVs, users can browse and consume content provided not just by content distribution platforms, but web streaming entertainment services and social media channels as well. It may come as a surprise to many that almost 70% of all Netflix streams and over 250 million hours of YouTube content now ends up being consumed not on laptops, tablets or smartphones, but on the good old (‘smart’, actually) television screen each day. And according to a popular forecast report, television is and will remain the world’s most favourite medium, constituting 33% of the media consumption pie in 2021.

So, upgrading your television set definitely makes sense if it helps bring a whole new world of entertainment on a large screen. Yet, for those seeking a truly immersive and magnificent experience, there’s more – the sound and vision aspect of the content relayed. A little attention to this detail can significantly elevate your viewing experience. This is precisely what we will discuss here – to begin with, the TV contrast ratio.     

How higher contrast ratio enhances picture quality (in televisions)
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Understanding TV Contrast Ratio: When it matters most

The contrast ratio happens to be one amongst the very important and most visible aspects of a television’s picture quality as it concerns the subtle details seen in the picture. Very simply put, it is the ratio of the brightest white to the darkest black a television set can display. So if the contrast ratio is 500:1, it means that the screen can manage a white which is 500 times brighter than its darkest black. 

The contrast ratio can enhance picture quality and matters most when the eye actively seeks onscreen details within the dark and black colours of a picture. TVs with the best contrast ratios generally tend to get the best reviews, and OLED TVs generally rank the best in the hunt for TVs with high contrast ratios. However, the television manufacturing industry doesn’t follow a uniform standard of measurement when it comes to contrast ratios, and since different players report it differently, this can become quite tricky or misleading at face value. This is why, it is better to go to a dealer outlet and visibly observe the difference before finalizing a model. More often than not, manufacturers will either talk about static or dynamic contrast ratios.     

Understanding TV Contrast Ratio: When it matters most
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Understanding Static and Dynamic contrast ratios

Static, or native contrast ratio is a luminosity ratio between the brightest and darkest colour that a screen can produce simultaneously at the given time – assuming one freezes the picture frame. On the other hand, dynamic contrast ratio is the luminosity ratio between the brightest and darkest colour that a screen can produce over time, while the picture is moving. Both static and dynamic contrast ratios differ in meaning, with dynamic contrast ratios bearing significantly higher values. Industry experts believe static to be the more realistic and accurate specification of a good contrast ratio.     

Understanding Static and Dynamic contrast ratios
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What is a good contrast ratio for a TV: Is ‘higher always better’?

Although a high contrast ratio is desirable, it’s not a straightforward and standalone indicator of picture superiority, as there are other aspects as well that come into play. With respect to contrast ratios, we need to bear two things in mind. The first is that comparison between television sets needs to be between like parameters – eg static to static, or dynamic to dynamic contrast ratios (never static to dynamic). Secondly, depending upon individuals and the viewing conditions, the human eye cannot distinguish brightness or the depth of blacks beyond a certain threshold, say for example a 1000:1 static contrast ratio. Anything more than this and the difference will hardly be perceptible. It’s best to personally look at the picture quality in the showroom.    

What is a good contrast ratio for a TV: Is ‘higher always better’?
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Understanding what's 4K resolution in TVs

The television product industry could easily overwhelm a layperson with technical terms, and 'resolution' happens to be just one of them. What is HD resolution? What's 4K resolution? What's the difference between 4K and UHD (Ultra HD)? 

Knowing it can make all the difference in your viewing experience when you’re evaluating different television models.

 Understanding what's 4K resolution in TVs
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What does TV resolution mean?

The images you see on your TV screen are a collection of pixels, arranged horizontally and vertically. Resolution is expressed as the number of pixels in a horizontal x vertical format, for example, 1280 x 720 pixels. The more and dense the pixels, the more detailed is the image. Simply put, higher number of pixels lead to clearer visuals, giving you life-like picture quality. Resolution tells you how many pixels a screen possesses. 

 

What does TV resolution mean?
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The evolution of screen resolution

The earliest variant in screen resolutions was the Standard Definition (SD) technology, which portrayed images in 640 x 480 pixels. Also, the SD images had no defined aspect ratio, leading to pictures appearing pixelated or 'broken', especially when seen at close quarters.

For a long time, SD ruled the roost. However, after programmers started offering High Definition (HD) services, there has been a steady upgrade in technology, and SD is almost becoming obsolete.

The evolution of screen resolution
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What is HD resolution?

When people saw HD programming for the first time, they were blown away by the picture quality. It was a big difference from SD, with pictures seemingly coming to life.  The market then warmed up to the pixel game, and HD-ready (1366 x 768 pixels) models were followed by Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) and the 4K ones, which is the latest attraction.

What is HD resolution?
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What is 4K resolution?

4K resolution is called thus because it has nearly 4,000 pixels horizontally. To be more precise, a 4K resolution TV screen has 3840 pixels horizontally x 2160 pixels vertically, totalling to almost 8.3 million pixels — four times that of Full HD, leading to far superior quality. With a 4K resolution, it would seem as though you were watching something happening just outside your window, and not somewhere distant. 

The 4K advantage is that since pixels are smaller and evenly dispersed, even a larger-sized TV in a smaller-sized room doesn't distort the details. A 55 or a 65-inch screen can give you a jaw-dropping experience even with a short viewing distance of five to seven feet. Uniform pictures throughout the screen, being alike at the corners as well as the edges, provide the same immersive viewing experience from anywhere in the room, making it suitable for a large family.

What is 4K resolution?
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4K vs UHD

While the former wins the 4K vs Full HD battle, what about the 4K vs UHD one? For starters, both practically mean the same. Technically, true 4K means a resolution of 4096 x 2160, and this is used in digital cinemas, where it was first introduced. UHD, with 3840 x 2160, has the ideal resolution for the indoor experience. However, the term 4K has got universal acceptance and hence is frequently used interchangeably with UHD.

Whatever term you prefer, the technology's objective is to give you a cinema-like viewing experience at home, and this can only happen when you pair your 4K TV set with source programming of the finest quality.

4K vs UHD
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TV settings you can tweak (to get the best picture quality)

As far as televisions go, it’s quite likely that there may be a gap in the visual quality – between what you see in showrooms or learn from reviews, and what you actually experience at home after installation. If you feel let down, don’t panic – there’s a good chance that the default or factory settings may not be up to your liking. Which means, there’s a lot you can tweak before the television gladdens you with its performance.  

It turns out that the settings in most TVs are calibrated for a showroom ambience -- they are designed to grab your attention and foster awe under ultra-bright downlights. Often, the backlight and sharpness are dialled up, with motion set at an ultra-smooth level. As a result, the images seem to simply 'pop' in your face.

These settings may not be ideal for home-viewing. The saturated colour and increased brightness can strain the eyes, especially when watching programmes in low light.

So how do you tweak TV settings for best picture? Simply reach out for your remote and go to the TV settings menu. Different brands use different terminologies, and we've included the commonly-known ones here.

TV settings you can tweak (to get the best picture quality)
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Dynamic contrast ratio

The dynamic contrast ratio makes the images stand out by deepening the dark colours and lightening the light ones. It’s ideal for showroom viewing, but when you’re at home, you may notice that it erases away the picture's finer details. Try turning it off and see if it makes a difference. 

 

Dynamic contrast ratio
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Picture mode

Usually, televisions offer four picture modes — standard, dynamic, movie and sports. Try each one to suit your taste. There’s a chance that the standard mode may be most soothing to your eyes. You may also choose to change this as and when required – depending upon what you are watching.

Picture mode
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Noise reduction

This feature claims to remove distortions in picture quality. Try turning it on when watching content in standard definition, and turning it off when the programming content is in high definition. Remember, this is largely dependent on your set top box.

Motion smoothing/Motion interpolation

This apparent ‘hack’ of a feature promises to iron out motion blur, often caused by a difference in frame rates of your television set and the content being aired. Try disabling it when watching most movies (considering they are shot in 24 frames per second and your TV will probably run on higher ones). On the other hand, if you are watching a live sports event or a racy, action-packed movie, enabling this feature will result in ultra-realistic but buttery smooth and fluid action – helping you appreciate the finer details in picture movement, in turn, spiralling your enjoyment. 

Motion smoothing/Motion interpolation
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Brightness

This is actually a no-brainer. There isn't a universal rule for TV brightness, and you’ll like to change it depending upon how your room is lit, your personal preference, etc. For starters, keep it mid-way and then decide which way you want to change it. 

 

Brightness
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Edge enhancement

This is actually a no-brainer. There isn't a universal rule for TV brightness, and you’ll like to change it depending upon how your room is lit, your personal preference, etc. For starters, keep it mid-way and then decide which way you want to change it. 

Edge enhancement
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Tint

Also referred to as 'hue', this feature controls how green or red or blue the images appear. Thumb it down or up depending upon your preference. Too high or too low could make the visuals look like they’ve suffered a colour loss.

tint
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Conquering display motion blur in TVs (choosing the refresh rate)

Imagine you are watching your favourite action hero movie on television. While the zippy action-packed sequences and acts of heroism may leave you enthralled, the streaking and choppy visual effects of all the fast-moving scenes and camera pans may soon leave you dizzy with an eye-strain. 

In short, apart from your hero, it’s now you who’s left battling against the odds – the undesirable aspect of a viewing experience called ‘motion blur’. But before we get down to telling you more about it, at the outset, you may be glad to know that thankfully, it can be addressed.

Conquering display motion blur in TVs (choosing the refresh rate)
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So, what is motion blur?

Display motion blur, or the TV blur effect, results when any rapidly moving object appears blurry on a screen, especially in action movies or sports. A very simple example of a bouncing ball –with and without motion blur can be viewed here. Depending upon what the viewer is watching, this can either become inconvenient, or, on the other hand, contribute to a more realistic appearance. Let’s illustrate this with an example. Let’s take a martial arts fight scene for instance – the apparently lightning-fast strokes of the fists may appear to be jarring and hazy to the eyes, with little or no details registered by the eye. Also, in a live sports match, while an epic goal is being scored or when the ball is deftly being passed by a footballer, the eye may miss the subtle nuances in the ball-handling altogether, in turn compromising on the rich details. In some cases, the eye may even see a trail, or sudden jerky movements – all of which adversely impact the viewing experience.  

 

So, what is motion blur?
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What causes motion blur?

There can be several causes of motion blur, beginning with the TV panel itself (example LCD motion blur) – which can give a slow response between changes in pixel colours, resulting in a blur. Sometimes, the TV’s inbuilt scaler struggles in resizing the video that is incompatible with the 16:9 aspect ratio, or in playing content that is not at least in 720p resolution. Very often, movies are shot in 24 frames per second (fps) and when they are viewed on a TV set that plays video at faster rates such as 60 fps, the TV’s firmware, while processing the film to video conversion, generates extra frames to fill in the gaps, resulting in motion blur.        

What causes motion blur?
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How can we overcome motion blur?

As mentioned, if you are watching a live sports event, you may want to reduce the motion blur and treat your eyes with finer details. This largely boils down to choosing your television set and the content distribution platform (which means, your set top box). Television sets with higher refresh rates (of say 60Hz or higher) can help overcome this to some extent. 

There is a feature in television sets called ‘motion smoothing’ (technically called motion interpolation), termed differently by several television brands.

How can we overcome motion blur?
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What is motion smoothing?

It is a feature, which, if turned on, results in a smooth motion effect -- making the movements in fast scenes appear buttery smooth and fluid. You would prefer enabling this feature mostly when watching live sports or action-packed movies for capturing the finer details, but for most other movies, television programmes and video games, you may want to disable motion smoothing to enjoy a more realistic experience. 

Additionally, a set top box that supports higher frame rates with ultra HD, 4K content in 16:9 aspect ratio, can vastly improve your viewing experience. Take a look here to understand how the viewing experience improves with higher frame rates.        

What is motion smoothing?
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Why does motion smoothing lead to a disappointing cinematic experience?

Several critics of motion smoothing, including celebrity actor Tom Cruise, will tell you that motion smoothing renders an ultra-realistic (or unrealistic), unnatural, manufactured and fake imagery, as it introduces artificial frames of video between the actual frames provided by the source. According to them, it alters the very ‘texture’ of what a viewer watches, and by and large, is a compromised way of watching movies – certainly not the way the makers intended it. They call this the 'Soap Opera' effect. 

So, should motion smoothing and motion blur be done away with completely? Well the answer is actually ‘no’ – which is why we are using the term ‘conquer’, not ‘eliminate’ for motion blur. So depending upon what you are watching, you can ‘address’ the issues you are facing by either turning motion smoothing on or off, considering you are using the best set top box.     

'Soap Opera' effect
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The Plasma vs OLED vs QLED debate: Which one’s the best?

Smart televisions are the trend now, garnering 70% of the share of TV sets sold in 2018. In 2018, 29%  of the worldwide population owned a smart TV, and this number is only steadily rising. With people spending close to 2 hours 47 minutes a day with their smart TV sets, who wouldn’t want the best in terms of picture and sound quality? However, to get the most out of your smart TV, you need to choose the right technology.

At the moment, the market is still trying to figure out the winner in the QLED vs OLED battle. What are these two technologies and which one’s the best for you? Let’s look at the differences between OLED and QLED and find out which one’s more suitable. 

To understand these two technologies, we need to see how the television has evolved from the turn of the century.

 The Plasma vs OLED vs QLED debate: Which one’s the best?
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What is plasma TV?

Plasma TVs were introduced in the late 90s and started dominating the market in the early 2000s. They displaced their LCD (liquid crystal display) predecessors which were around since time immemorial. The vivid colours and deeper blacks of plasma screens clearly scored over the erstwhile LCD counterparts. Plasma technology in bigger screens won hands down. Moreover, with a slimmer back, they could be mounted onto walls, which became fashionable.  

No sooner, TV technology evolved and plasma gave way to the LED (light-emitting diode) technology. 

What is plasma TV?
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What is OLED?

Plasma technology used plasma or ionized gases to illuminate the pixels on the screen. In contrast, LED technology lights up screens by passing a current through semiconductors. OLED (organic light-emitting diode) is an improvement over the earlier LED technology. OLED TVs have panels which house millions of sub-pixels, each displaying their own colours, through a filter. These colours are much more intense. To generate black colours on the screen, the pixels there are switched off individually, giving more realistic blacks and details even in shadows. Since the advent of OLED TVs, plasma sets became obsolete and large TV manufacturers discontinued their production

What is OLED?
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What is QLED?

While OLED became a popular technology, innovation along the sideline led to the creation of QLED. QLED, short for ‘Quantum-dot Light-Emitting Diode’, is similar to OLED, except that it uses a backlight to light up pixels.  A quantum dot filter in front of the LCD backlight colours the pixels. It’s not next-gen, but a rehash of old LCD technology. In the meantime, the UHD (ultra-high-definition) TVs were rebranded as QLEDs. Nevertheless, they produced incredibly bright, colourful and amazing visuals. The bright colours are arguably more vibrant than OLED TVs.

What is QLED?
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QLED vs OLED

OLED’s smooth and responsive display makes it a better choice for gamers and home cinema lovers. The superior contrast accentuates the experience of watching horror movies or ones with a lot of dark scenes. 

QLED’s brighter and punchier visuals make it a better bet for brightly-lit rooms. So, you can watch your favourite action movie during the day without bothering about drawing the curtains. You’ll still be able to see life-like visuals during day-time. 

However, the QLED or OLED discussion is worthless if the source content is of poor quality.

QLED vs OLED
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The defining role of the set top box

Whatever technology you opt for, your TV viewing experience will be sub-optimal without a high-quality set top box (STB). For a truly immersive experience, you’ll want your STB to beam shows that are shot with high definition cameras and 7.1 surround sound. With Tata Sky, you get this and much more – 4K breathtaking resolutions of 3840 x 2160 pixels – corresponding to four times the resolution and sharpness of full HD content, 10-bit True colour, 16:9 aspect ratio, HDMI 2.0 for supporting higher frame rates, and Dolby DigitalPlus sound to deliver premium-quality surround sound. 

The defining role of the set top box
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