Makes Opti-mizing Your Home Theater Easy
Setup Tweaks Your System
By Jim Bray
George Lucas empire has a new way of helping consumers get the
best possible enjoyment from their home theater dollars.
His THX Optimode system of tests is a value added DVD feature that can
help you configure your system properly. This is especially important
for your TV monitor, because most TVs are adjusted to be looked
at in the store, not in your living room or home theater.
Thereve long been standalone discs, like Joe Kanes The
Video Essentials, but Lucas THX divisions Optimode do-it-yourself
tweaker doesnt require you to look any farther than some of
the mainstream DVDs your rent or buy.
THX Optimode premiered as a bonus feature on the June DVD
release of 20th Century Foxs Fight Club,
and its also supposed to be showing up some new release DVDs
including Terminator 2, Repoman, Hell Raiser
and Hell Raiser II, all of which are due to appear within
the next few months.
The Optimode tests are a series of standardized checks that help you
adjust a range of your home theaters audio and video settings, using
test patterns and test tones in much the same way as the standalone test
THX says their test signals are unique, though, because theyre
equal to the final reference levels set during the individual DVDs
mastering. This supposedly means you can tailor your systems performance
to each specific DVD title that has the Optimode stuff encoded onto it.
Anyone with a Dolby Pro-Logic or Dolby Digital processor or receiver
already has a built in, if rudimentary, set of audio test tones thatll
help them set their speakers balance, but THX Optimode includes
several more audio tests than the simple test tones the average home theater
Besides speaker level, you can check for the proper phasing of your speakers
and the Low Frequency Effects (LFE) channels crossover. The latter
is a test for the point at which your processor hands audio control from
your main speakers to your subwoofer assuming you have one, and
is designed to give you the most oomph possible.
Video tests include ones for contrast, brightness, color, hue, monitor
performance and even your TV/DVD players aspect ratio settings (whether
youre using a conventional 4:3 TV or a new 16x9 widescreen one).
You access THX Optimode from the menus of the DVD, though in Fight
Club, it was stuck behind a THX logo you mightve missed if
you werent careful. Hopefully subsequent releases will be more straightforward.
Performing the tests is easy. Youre walked right through each one,
using your remote controls chapter forward button to
move from test to test. Each analysis is explained in fairly plain English,
which also turns the admittedly tiresome tweaking into a legitimate learning
The THX Optimode tests are actually far easier to perform than those
on the aforementioned Video Essentials DVD, which has a much
clumsier and more confusing interface than did its earlier laserdisc incarnation.
This is really nice to see, because if the tests are hard to use, most
people will undoubtedly ignore them, and that would be a shame.
The bottom line is that once youve THXd your
system, youll supposedly see the movie as closely to how the director
intended as is possible, given the quality of your TV and the differences
between film and video.
The THX people suggest that you adjust your TV with their Optimode stuff
every time you have a disc that includes it, but in the real world that
may be a bit excessive for anyone but purists.
I had set up my TV, using the Video Essentials DVD, a couple
of months before trying the new Optimode tests, and found that it was
already in line with where Optimode said it should be for Fight
Which means that for most viewing, setting up your TV monitor with a
THX Optimode-equipped disc once or even periodically should
serve you well.
Optimode is the latest weapon in George Lucas THX quality control
standards arsenal. His THX mastering process means you can expect the
best possible audio and visual quality from the videos you buy or rent,
while the THX-certified home theater products standard allows you
to faithfully replicate the theater experience at home.
Now, if only hed deign to release The Phantom Menace
on a THX-tweaked DVD
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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