Friday, June 16, 2006

ISF C3 Calibration and the Pioneer Elite PRO-1130HD

In My Bedroom: Crying Out for HDTV? and More on Pioneer's Elite PRO-1130HD I said I hanker after a Pioneer Elite PRO-1130HD 50" plasma HDTV for my bedroom. One reason is that it has this supposedly extra-special "ISF C3" calibration capability. Pioneer documents it here. From the page at Pioneer's web site, I can see that I was wrong about a couple of things.

First, "C3" stands for "Custom Calibration Configuration," not "Colors: 3" — such as the three red, green, and blue color primaries used in television images. ("ISF" stands for Imaging Science Foundation, trainers of technicians who can come to your home with color meters and other instruments and professionally calibrate your TV.)

Second, this ISF C3 capability is separate from the user's ability to adjust the Pioneer's color temperature manually as discussed here ... where Al Griffin, who reviewed the set for Sound & Vision magazine, wrote:

"The Pioneer PRO-1130HD's Mid-Low color-temperature mode measured close to the 6,500-K standard, but the set displayed a mild shift toward green at both ends of its grayscale. I was able to correct this, however, using the high and low red, green, and blue adjustments in the Manual color temperature mode submenu without having to enter any special service menus."

I thought, wrongly, that this was the vaunted ISF C3 calibration capability in action. But, no. ISF C3 calibration is not even discussed in the Pioneer user manual for the PRO-1130HD, which I downloaded from here. It's not something the user can do by himself at all.

Rather, says Pioneer's web site, "
When you buy a Pioneer Elite PureVision plasma television, you can arrange with the Elite dealer to have a trained ISF professional come to your home to adjust the lightness-to-darkness (contrast), tint, sharpness, various color levels and other settings to make the image as bright, sharp and accurate as it can be for your TV room."

Among the "other settings" is "a detailed gamma selection with eight steps for a high level of display accuracy." (Gamma is in effect a mathematical function, a curve on a pair of graphical axes which can make the image more or less dramatic, in terms of its contrast.)

And, with ISF C3 calibration, the Pioneer Elite is "set for nighttime and daytime viewing so the television adjusts depending on how much light is shining into the room." There are apparently even "Day" and "Night" buttons on the remote which are enabled only when ISF C3 calibration is done.

The ISF C3 calibration capability makes the Pioneer Elite plasmas easier and faster to calibrate than ordinary TVs, seemingly. It permits the calibration of such things as gamma that often are not accessible to the professional calibrator at all. It can lock in certain user preferences, such as that for sharpness, that ordinarily might not be able to be locked in. And it offers (at least) two locked-in ambient lighting presets, one for day and one for night.

As a result, Pioneer claims, "It takes about 20 minutes per source to calibrate the set, so if you have a cable box, DVD player and videogame machine, you can plan on those three sources taking about 60 minutes to complete." That's a lot quicker than your average calibration, I imagine, which can take (so I've heard) an hour or more per source device.

"The cost for this service," accordingly, says Pioneer, "can range quite a bit depending on the experience level of your calibrator, but expect to spend about $350-$400 for a thorough calibration." From what I know about the subject, that is slightly less than you might pay to calibrate three sources on any other plasma TV. For example, the calibration FAQ here says the price to calibrate a run-of-the-mill plasma for one source/scan rate is $325. Add $75 for each additional source. That makes a three-source plamsa calibration cost $475.

So you can't really expect to save a lot of money. And forget doing the whole ISF C3 calibration business yourself. For one thing, you'd need the secret code for getting into the calibration menu in the first place — much as you'd need a secret code to get into the service menu on an ordinary plasma. You'd need professional instrumentation. You'd need to know exactly what you're doing, from a conceptual standpoint. You'd need a service manual or some other source of specific information as to how to calibrate this set.

I personally am not sure I really even care, all that much, that ISF C3 calibration is not a thing users can do on their own on the Pioneer Elites. Apparently, the user-accessible Picture: PRO Adjust: Color Detail: Color Temp: Manual submenu (I'm perusing page 60 in the manual now) is all one actually needs to get an excellent grayscale. Meanwhile, setting the Pure mode for AV sources (p. 58) is apparently the key to getting the three primary-color chromaticities just right (which the manual is mum about, but which various reviewers have commented on). With both of these in force, who needs calibration?


ControlCAL said...

Do you own ISF C3 Calibrations on the 8G Pioneers now...

More info here:

eric said...


No, I opted for a 40" Sony KDL-40XBR2 LCD HDTV instead of a Pioneer plasma. Thanks anyway for the link to the discussion thread!


ControlCAL said...


Calibration said...

Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again.