Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Monitor Calibration – Spyder 3 Express

I notice that the exercises leading up to Assignment 3 call for a colour calibrated monitor. Until now I have relied on a ‘by eye’ calibration. This has been relatively satisfactory as I have done little print work and generally view my images on a single monitor.
However I have noticed that images look considerably bluer on my netbook than on my desktop. As I am using this more for the course – to make better use of the time I spend in hotels on business – it seemed sensible to calibrate my monitors so that I could be reasonably sure that a change to an image on one system would have the same effect on the other.
Datavision Spyder 3 Express arriving for my birthday. My first impression was that it looked quite ‘neat’. It was well presented, appears reasonably robust and came with a microfibre screen cloth. Installation of the software is simple, then it is just a matter of starting it up, plugging the calibrator into a USB slot, placing over a nicely outlined patch on the screen and setting it to run. (You need to warm up the monitor for at least 30 minutes before starting)
First time around it runs through several different colours at gradually increasing levels of brightness in a process that takes about 5 minutes. It then calculates a monitor profile and gives you a chance to see the before and after effects before implementing the new profile.
It also reminds you to recalibrate every couple of weeks – and that’s all there is to it at this level.
The results were not dramatic, but were certainly noticeable. On my desktop it made the images ‘cooler’, and considerably increased the depth of the blacks. On my netbook it had similar effects on the contrast and removed the blue cast which I mentioned. All a bit of an anti-climax really, but it was nice to see that images now appear very similar on both monitors.
Of course, proper colour management is more complex than this – for example the piece of kit I bought does not allow me to calibrate my printer. Maybe an Xmas present in waiting.
A few notes on colour management
As my experience with monitors shows, different bits of kit display colours differently. This is particularly true of monitors and printers because they produce colours in different ways, and although the ranges of colours they produce overlap, they are not the same. I’m sure most of us have printed pictures or received them back from the processor and felt a little disappointed with the output when compared with a monitor. The purpose of colour management is to ensure that as you move from one device to another the colours you see are kept as close as possible.
In round terms a colour profile is a set of information that allows a device to make a reasonable attempt at mapping the colour information in the image file to the colours that it is capable of outputting.
For a moderately technical description I found this Wiki article quite useful, and there is also a long but helpful article on the Datavision website (obviously biased to their products but none the worse for that). Cambridge in Colour also has an excellent set of articles on the same issue,as well as several other helpful tutorials.

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