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Spyder2PRO Studio: Projector Setup

Calibration instrument is not just for CRTs and LCDs By Charlie White

We favorably reviewed Spyder2PRO Studio ($280) previously on these pages, and now its time to test a unique part of this package, its projector calibration capability. The Spyder is a color-sensitive instrument that you dangle in front of any LCD or CRT monitor, and it helps you precisely calibrate the color of your monitor. It then stores those parameters in a file that helps your graphics card deliver the perfect colors every time. Now you can have that same confidence with a projector.

Included in the Spyder2PRO package is a special mounting device that has a threaded interface for a tripod mount. Pop the small adapter on to the Spyder, and then you can easily mount it on a tripod which is then placed about a foot away from the screen. Then, its able to measure the various colors included in the calibration routine played back by a computer into the projector. Even though the Spyder is facing the screen and seems to be measuring its own shadow, that doesnt matter, because thats how it works?and it works well.

Even though it looks like the Spyder is measuring its own shadow, this is the correct way to use it when calibrating a projector.

After youve mounted the Spyder on a tripod, you load and launch the included software package that plays back a suite of colors. As these colors are displaying, the Spyder instrument is taking readings and sending them back to your computer via USB. Keep in mind that the way the Spyder2PRO works is its calibration software plays back a series of carefully selected colors via your computer into the projector, and then assesses the difference between the ideal colors and those that your projector is displaying. It then adjusts parameters in your graphics card and makes it so the colors that are being sent to your projector are the ones that will result in the perfect colors as theyre projected.  

The Spyder can either be mounted on a tripod hot shoe as it is here or at can be attached using the suction cup seen here on the bottom left.
Since its job is to referee that delicate interplay between computer and graphics card, you cant use the Spyder2PRO to calibrate your DVD player as it plays through the projector, for instance, or your cable TV box or PVR. Thats because the Spyder2PRO works by adjusting that interplay between a computers graphics card and its display by reading those parameters that are a result of a precise calibration routine. As you calibrate it the first time, the software creates a file that is later read by your graphics card as your computer boots, and as a result your graphics card has learned to deliver perfectly-calibrated colors every time. So, the Spyder2PRO has limited use in the home theater. But if youre playing back movies in your home theater using a projector and your computer as a source, youre in luck?those colors can be perfectly calibrated by Spyder2PRO. This system is particularly advantageous for those who do presentations, and want to make sure their colors are true.

Playing back the calibration routine, it appears as a sequence of colors, starting from the darkest red up to a very bright version of red, and then does the same for green and blue. At the end of the test, it sends a sequence of grayscale images. Each one of the shades of color is on screen for about five seconds, and it then cycles on to the next color in the sequence. After that test is done, it instructs the user to remove the Spyder from the display. The software then creates a display profile that will be stored on the computer and will be used by the graphics card as a reference when it boots. Another nice feature is the fact that it also gives you the option to create other profiles for times when your projector will be used with different ambient light levels.

After the calibration routine, the software shows how the display performs with and without the calibration. As you click the Switch button, it gives you before and after views of a test graphic with and without the results of your calibrations. On the first test I conducted using a notebook computer with the highest of high-end projectors, a $15,000 InFocus ScreenPlay 777, it appeared that the calibration routine did nothing. Apparently the ScreenPlay 777 was perfectly calibrated right out of the box, and there was no further adjustment needed. Perhaps there was a slight difference between the before and after graphics, but if it was there it was insignificant to these eyes.

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