The infamous “Last Ten Feet” problem in a nutshell is that no matter how much effort we put into lovingly capturing high quality HD video, gingerly compressing it and then shoving it down newly obese fiber pipes – the TV screen in most homes is as maladjusted as Britney Spears in a Taoist monastery. We want serene hues that coexist in harmony and balance but instead we get garish, neon-saturated colors that practically bleed through the screen. It’s all the more painful because this is an unnecessary tragedy. Unlike the old days of analog-driven CRT tubes, today’s digital screens are more capable than ever of staying accurately calibrated. Sadly, this video crime is premeditated.
The manufacturers realize that their TVs are sold in one of two ways; either drop-shipped sight unseen in the carton or lined up at a big box retailer alongside all the competition in a beauty contest. Unfortunately, this isn’t a respectable beauty contest like the Miss America pageant of 1949. Nope, there are no points for congeniality and customers don’t get the benefit of a talent show, essay contest or evening gown competition to help them select the partner they’ll be spending 4-5 hours a day with for the next five years. Riding my already tired analogy farther than I should, the TV line-up at a big box store is more like a no-holds-barred, 90 second wet t-shirt contest at a biker bar, t-shirts optional. In such a, shall we say, “shallow” environment old-fashioned things that used to matter like grace, poise, refinement and character aren’t at the top of the “must-have” list (or so I’ve been told). TV manufacturers have learned the hard way that victory goes to the biggest, brightest and brassiest, so that’s how they calibrate every screen as it leaves the factory. Oh, and it’s not just the default settings, on some models ALL the presets are getting the same over-the-top, photon-blasting treatment. If this continues, some of these Chernobyl-vision TVs should seriously be bundled with radiation-proof eye protection, and while you might consider CopperTone UV-blocking sunscreen with 50 SPF, there’s also my new signature line of Bars’nTone YUV-blocking TV lotion with -50 IRE.
Most regular humans, you know, the ones who don’t get that the difference between 59.94 and 60 is a lot more than six hundredths, leave their TV sets on the defaults exactly as they came out of the box. Even more frightening, I’ve seen first-hand evidence in my relative’s homes that the big box “professional installers” who deliver these TVs are stricken with debilitating color blindness! Or perhaps they just hang out in all the wrong kind of bars. I’m not saying I expect an ISF certified technician on every home installation but is a quickie 3 minute ‘eyeball-only’ screen calibration too much to ask from a $200 drive-by “installation”?
Personally speaking, I’ve earned my way onto the spousal do-not-fly list for my answer to the in-law question “How do ya like our brand spankin’ new $4,000 All-Digital HD TeeVee featuring Deeluxe TurboBright and Ultra MegaBass Plus?” Exercising more honesty than intelligence, I woefully under-achieved in the art of dad-in-law diplomacy with my reply, “Um, why does it look like Walt Disney threw up all over your screen?”
Well my phosphorus friends, I have seen the solution – and it is us. Tune in to my spine-tingling wrap-up where you’ll learn that it’s easier than you might think. And there’s a better than snowball’s chance I’ll finally, somehow find a way to work in an actual reference (no matter how vague or tenuous) to a real… hmmm, what was it again? Oh yeah, an Adobe product – thereby reducing the systolic distress of the nice Adobe marketing folk who are already regretting inviting me to join this group blog.