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We probably all have the experience of walking into an appliance store looking up seeing a row of TVs all showing the same channel, they may even be the same model of TV and the color looks very different. That's the essence of monitor calibration and it's why it makes people nervous. People think, can I trust my monitor? How do I know that the colors that I'm seeing are the true colors that are in the image? Well, I'd say, don't sweat it too much. These days monitors are quite stable and you probably can trust your monitor, but you do need to calibrate it on a regular basis.
What is regular basis mean? That's a very subjective term. Maybe it's every day if you're really exacting about color, maybe it's every week or every month, maybe it's every once in a while. You got two choices for how you do this. You can use the system's software or you can use a third-party device which will be measure the qualities of your monitor, your specific monitor and create a profile based upon that. So let's look at the first option. I'm going to go to my System Preferences and click on Displays, then click on Color and this is the current profile that I'm working with.
I'll now click on Calibrate and I have two choices, do I want to work in Expert Mode that gives me more choices or in Easy Mode. Let's take a look at Expert Mode even though I'm not going to change anything. We have several of these diagnostics where you can move these sliders one way or the other and you have to squint in order to get the best result. The problem with these is it's a bit like the experience of going and having your eyes tested and the optometrist says to you which do you think is best, A or B, A or B, A or B and after a while you stop caring and you lose all sense of judgment about which is best.
So if you're making changes here, unless there is something terribly wrong with your monitor the changes you make should be small ones. So you choose your target gamma, your target white point, and for the most part you are just clicking through accepting the values that it gives you. There is no compelling reason to change them. At the end of the process, you'll write a profile, you might want to append the date at the end of that, so you've got an instant visual reminder of when the profile was created and that profile now describes the qualities of your monitor.
If you want to be more exacting about it and if you have a couple of hundred bucks to spend, you can use a device like this one which is a photospectrometer and that's not an easy word to say, which will measure of the qualities of your monitor. It's a bit like a hockey puck that you attach to the front of your monitor and it measures the light values and the white point of your monitor and it builds a profile specific to your monitor. If you're considering using a third- party product to calibrate your monitor, I'd suggest you check out the ColorMunki website and you can also go to the Color Knowledge tab where you can go to training video where there is a short movie explaining exactly how that device works and the benefits of using it.
But in conclusion, the biggest point I would like to make about Color Calibration is don't get over anxious about it. I've taught color calibration in a classroom situation on several occasions and watch my students mess around with those options you saw me working with earlier, only to end up with a far worse result then they started with. So I would say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Monitors today are relatively stable, but it's something that you do need to consider on a regular basis, you get to define how regular that basis is.
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