Stacey Spears and Don Munsil, acclaimed creators of the Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray Disc, are pleased to announce the release of the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark, 2nd Edition. The first edition of this disc was recommended by the New York Times, Widescreen Review, Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity®, and many other print and online publications. The second edition adds even more features and patterns and sets a new bar for the term “state of the art.” The Spears & Munsil disc is the first (and at this time only) disc to offer stereoscopic patterns for calibrating and testing 3D televisions. It has audio level and phase tests created using the latest noise-shaping algorithms. And for the professional or advanced enthusiast it contains a complete set of patterns suitable for precisely calibrating contrast, grayscale, gamut, and other settings using test equipment.
“We didn’t just want to add a few new features here and there,” said co-creator Stacey Spears, “we went back to the drawing board and re-thought every pattern.” There are more than twice as many patterns on this new disc as on the previous disc, covering every aspect of home theater testing and calibration.
Like the previous edition, the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark, 2nd Edition uses patterns created from scratch using Spears & Munsil’s own in-house software. “We still feel that there isn’t anything else out there that meets our quality standards across the board,” said co-creator Don Munsil. “So every pattern was created from scratch, using custom software, in the native color space that is most appropriate for that pattern. All of the scaling and color conversion was done using our own software as well.”
The disc includes new editions of some of the favorite patterns from the previous disc, plus many new ones that are exclusive to Spears & Munsil. “We’ve created what we think is the best pattern for setting color and tint ever made,” said Spears. “The problem with the classic color bars pattern is that it was designed for broadcast engineers and is confusing for the new user. We re-thought the entire pattern from scratch and made something anyone can use, with step-by-step instructions right on the pattern. We did the same re-thinking for essentially every pattern we made, though the classic patterns are on there as well for the purist.”
“The enthusiasts and power users took to our previous disc right away,” said Munsil, “but we got feedback that the disc was still too daunting for inexperienced users who’ve never tried to calibrate a television before. We tried to address that with even more comprehensive guides and help in this disc, and we think we have created a disc that allows someone with no home theater experience to jump right in and get a basic calibration in less than an hour.”
The power users have not been forgotten, however. The new edition also contains patterns suitable for the professional calibrator or serious amateur who wants a complete suite of test patterns usable with spectroradiometers and colorimeters. “The people who tested our professional patterns perform calibrations for Hollywood studios and famous movie directors. These people are the pickiest customers you could ask for,” said Spears.
The Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark, 2nd Edition is the first test disc to contain tests and demo material in 3D, for users with a 3D Blu-ray Disc player and 3D display. In addition to patterns for testing the 3D features of the display, the disc contains a full set of 2D calibration patterns that are encoded in 3D mode so the user can do a calibration of the 3D modes on the display. “Most televisions have completely different settings for 2D and 3D modes,” said Spears. “Calibrating one doesn’t affect the other. Without these patterns, you can’t really ensure your 3D movies look as good as the rest of your video.”
Stacey Spears and Don Munsil, acclaimed creators of the DVD Player Benchmark™ and Progressive Scan Shootout at Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity®*, announce the release of the Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark, Blu-ray Edition. This disc is filled with test material and calibration patterns to help home theater enthusiasts evaluate displays and players and adjust their home theater systems to get the best possible picture.
The High Definition Benchmark uses all-new patterns created from scratch. “We developed our own pattern software so we could make patterns for ourselves for evaluation and calibration. We didn’t make our disc by encoding patterns from an off-the-shelf pattern generator,” said co-creator Stacey Spears. “Everything was created and encoded entirely by us, with no compromises on quality.”
The disc includes patterns not seen on other discs, and new twists on old favorites. A clipping pattern makes it easy to see whether the display is reproducing the highlights or shadows properly. The cropping pattern instantly shows how much of the 1080p image is being cropped by the player and/or display. A whole suite of chroma-channel evaluation patterns make it easy to evaluate chroma reproduction separately from luma.
“Our proprietary software generates the patterns in the native color space of Blu-ray, without any unnecessary color space conversions or rounding. That’s the only way to minimize artifacts and preserve all of the detail and bandwidth,” said co-creator Don Munsil. “Chroma patterns are especially tricky, because you can’t create them properly with full dynamic range in the RGB space that most image-processing software uses.”
“We’re especially proud of our Chroma Alignment pattern,” he added. “It allows you to quickly tell if the chroma channel is aligned properly with the luma channel. It’s easy to see an offset of as little as a quarter-pixel, which we think is a first. And it allows you to check both vertical and horizontal alignment. In the old days of analog, vertical chroma alignment was never a problem. But we’ve seen modern players that misalign the chroma channels up or down. Only our pattern can show you that kind of alignment issue, and show you whether it’s a convergence problem or a decoding problem.”
Even a classic pattern like the ubiquitous Color Bars gets the Spears and Munsil touch. “We noticed that lots of color bar patterns have small artifacts at the borders between the bars,” said Spears. “We shifted the borders between bars slightly so every one of them is on an AVC or VC-1 macroblock boundary. This ensures that there is no bleed or artifacting caused by compression.”
Spears and Munsil are best known for their analysis and testing of deinterlacing chipsets, so it’s no surprise that the disc includes a full suite of deinterlacing evaluation material. “When we started this project,” said Spears, “we found that no existing software could create the special video-to-film pulldown patterns we wanted to generate. So we built our own pulldown generator. We built our own video editor and text overlay generator as well. This disc really fits the Spears & Munsil motto: Hand-Forged Video.”
“Bottom line,” he said, “this is the disc Don and I wished we’d had when we started creating the DVD Player Benchmark™ and Progressive Scan Shootout.”
*Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity is at http://www.hometheaterhifi.com. Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity is not the creator or sponsor of the Spears & Munsil High-Definition Benchmark, Blu-ray Edition.