Set up your HDTV for watching sports

We have three tips for optimising your big screen

You have your pizza, your beer, and your brand-new, beautiful HDTV. But is that HDTV giving your favorite sport everything it's capable of giving?

Even if your set is already perfectly calibrated, three extra adjustments can help your new plasma or LCD present sports in their best light.

Here's why--and here's how.

Fix Your HDTV for Daytime Viewing

Sports events often happen during the day, and if you prefer watching them live, that means viewing them with the sun shining through your windows. Even if you've placed your HDTV where sunlight won't hit the screen directly (and you should), you must compensate for the presence of any window in the room by making the picture brighter.

Simply turning up the brightness won't help. The Brightness setting on most HDTVs doesn't actually control brightness, but black level; turning it up makes the image brighter, but more washed out. To fix that, you have to increase the Contrast (called Picture on some sets), which controls the white level. You'll probably have to fiddle with both controls, going back and forth between them, until you're pleased with the result. Then fiddle with them again the next time you watch TV at night.

You have other options. If you own an LCD set, for instance, the Backlight control changes the picture's brightness without throwing any other settings out of whack--so if sunlight is making the game hard to see, just turn up the backlight. (If you have a rear-projection set, the Iris setting will do the same thing.)

Plasma sets offer no such convenience, so your best bet in this case is to set up separately calibrated modes for day and night viewing. Most HDTVs offer various modes, some preset and some user-configurable. In some HDTVs, even the presets are configurable. If your set has two or more configurable modes, calibrate one at night and one during the day. (How do you know if a preset mode is configurable? Select it and start trying to configure the TV. If the mode name changes to something like 'User', that's the only configurable mode.)

If your plasma HDTV doesn't allow you to configure more than one mode, or if the above steps sound like too much trouble, experiment with the preset modes and hope that you find a good one. The Sports mode, if your TV has one, is an obvious choice, although it might not actually be appropriate for your situation. Vivid mode may also work well during daylight hours.

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