Hardware Spotlight ? Sencore
Sencore CP5000 All-Display Color Analyzer
By Grant Clauser
Aside from creating new opportunities for selling home entertainment gear, the growth of direct pixel-addressed display technologies such as plasma, DLP and LCD has opened up another issue to the public consciousness — display calibration. The problem, however, is that most of the video calibration equipment on the market, specifically, the tristimulus device color analyzers, are not compatible with new technologies.
Analyzers like the Sencore 288/290 (and similar devices from Philips and others) were, and still are, great for CRT calibrations. But these days, many more home theater consumers are opting for DLP and plasma. Spectraradiometers work in those instances, but can cost well over $10,000. Optical comparitors are excellent for calibrations, but don't give you any readouts to record and may produce more subjective results. Sencore has just introduced its CP5000 All-Display Color Analyzer to fill in the gap.
The CP5000 is similar to the CP288 in that it's a Windows PC-based system used with a laptop. The product includes two pods with USB connections (serial also available), one for DLP, CRT, LCD projection and plasma, and the other for flat-panel LCD. There's the Windows-based software, a pod cable extender, a pod mount and an internally padded, secret-agent man-type metal carrying case. The list price is $4,995, but Sencore offers $1,000 off if you trade in your old CP288 or CP290.
Installing and setting up the software on my Windows XP machine was simple, and took about two minutes. Immediately after installation you're prompted to do a dark calibration of the software by placing one of the pods receptor-face down. After that, the system is ready to go.
The CP5000's setup utility allows you to customize designated default settings used each time you run the software. The three most important settings are White Reference, Offset Factors and Refresh Rate. White Reference sets the target coordinates to which you want to calibrate your display. The coordinates you enter here will correspond to the CIE chromaticity chart on the measurement window. Users of the CP288 will be familiar with this interface.
Most CR readers will want to set the White Reference to D65. The Offset Factors setting lets you apply fixed offsets to the luminance and chrominance measurements. The Refresh Rate setting lets you change the rate, depending on the display technology you're calibrating. For CRT-based systems, select the Initial Sample option, which takes a sample of the rate of the display, then locks onto it. For non-CRT displays, use the 60 Hz option; the 50 Hz option is for PAL displays only. The settings are easy to access in case you need to change something on the fly.
Once you've got the parameters set up, using the unit is very straightforward. The main measurement window displays CIE coordinates (x, y, Y and K) numerically on a Delta RGB scale, and graphically in a chromaticity chart. You can select the luminance units (Y) in nits (cd/m2 ) or foot-lamberts.
For in-home calibrations, most users will probably prefer to use the chromaticity graph. The graph is large enough that you don't need to be right on top of it to read, and the numeric display is also easy to read, if you choose to use that as a guide. The graph can be expanded by mouse-clicking on the CIE icon. Calibrating to D65 (or whatever you use as a white reference) is simply a matter of adjusting the red, blue and green controls in your display until the cursor hits the target. To help you out a bit, the cursor changes from blue to green when you've hit the mark. It's as easy as playing a video game — easier, actually. Before using the CP5000, I'd relied on a CP290, which is a nice handheld unit, but only gives the user numeric coordinate feedback. The graphical feedback is so much more pleasing to use.
I used the CP5000 on three kinds of displays, a CRT direct view TV, a DLP front projector and an LCD front projector. For all three I used the ColorPro III sensor pod. The ColorPro IV sensor is exclusively for LCD flat panel displays. On all the displays I tested it on, I found the unit very effective and accurate. For the front projectors I used the supplied tripod stand to aim the sensor pod at the projector, but if you suspect the screen is affecting the light output, you can check it by holding the sensor at an angle to the screen and measure the light reflected off it. Any variation can be entered into the offset factors in the program's setup menu.
The software allows you to record and save the readings and generate reports which can be saved for your own files and for the customers. All the customer information, including the display product, pre- and post-calibration data, can be recorded and printed. An ISF Extended Report expands on the standard report by showing data in 10 IRE steps from 10 to 100 IRE.
True, $5,000 is no small investment, particularly for small C-tailers, for whom each dollar spent must be carefully justified. But the display market is changing fast. DLP and plasma displays are quickly outpacing the beloved CRT in high-end markets, yet those digital customers demand the same service and support that was available to CRT customers. The dealers who can offer the right services will be the ones who get the referrals and repeat business. Any home theater installation should include full video calibration, which is also a great opportunity for added revenue. The CP5000 is an accurate, easy-to-use tool for this purpose.
Sencore CP5000 Color Analyzer
$1,000 discount with trade-in