By Phillip Swann

The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, I am frustrated because my TV picture does not look like it should. It’s a 4K TV but it’s not as clear and colorful as you would think it would be. Any thoughts? Any tips? — Carl, Kansas City.
Carl, your lament is not uncommon. Many people are not satisfied with the picture on their 4K TV or even a high-def one. You pay thousands of dollars for a new set only to come home to find it less than sensational. But there are some things you can do to improve the picture instantly. And here they are:

Choose the right viewing environment

The lighting in your viewing environment can affect how your TV looks. For instance, have you positioned your TV in a bright room? That alone could be the problem. You should try to avoid direct sunlight on the screen or any other bright light source, as this can cause glare and affect the colors and contrast of the image. Ideally, you want a room with minimal ambient light and a controlled lighting environment.

Set your TV’s picture mode to “Movie” or “Cinema”

Many modern TVs come with pre-set picture modes, such as “Sports,” “Game,” or “Vivid.” However, these modes tend to exaggerate certain features of the image, such as brightness and saturation, to make them stand out more. To get a more accurate picture, choose the “Movie” or “Cinema” mode, which is typically designed to provide a more natural-looking picture.

Adjust the contrast

The contrast setting on your TV determines the difference between the brightest and darkest parts of the image. To set the contrast, you should adjust the “Backlight” or “Brightness” settings on your TV until the black levels appear deep and the whites appear bright. A good rule of thumb is to adjust the contrast until you can distinguish between all the shades of gray in the test pattern.

Set the color temperature

The color temperature setting on your TV determines how warm or cool the colors appear on the screen. Most TVs come with pre-set color temperatures, such as “Warm,” “Neutral,” or “Cool.” You should choose the color temperature that looks the most natural to you. For most people, a neutral or warm setting will be the most accurate.

Adjust the sharpness

The sharpness setting on your TV determines how much detail is visible in the image. While it may be tempting to turn the sharpness up to the maximum, doing so can actually make the image look less natural. You should adjust the sharpness until the image looks crisp and detailed, but not overly sharp or artificial.

Use a calibration disc

If you want to get the most accurate picture possible, you may want to consider using a calibration disc. These discs typically come with a series of test patterns that you can use to adjust your TV’s settings. Many calibration discs also include instructions on how to use the test patterns to calibrate your TV. You might also do some research for TV settings at web sites such as CNET.com. They often will offer recommendations for settings when they review a new TV.

Finally, if you try all six ways to improve the picture, and it doesn’t help, you might consider hiring a professional to calibrate the TV. Best Buy’s Geek Squad offers in-house visits for less than $200 and they do a great job. They can also offer another opinion on whether your set’s picture is as good as it can be. Sometimes we video enthusiasts sweat the details a bit too much. You know what I mean?

Carl, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than three decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.