Hidden treasure: How to use THX Optimizer

Movie directors have been pushing the limits of technology with an aggressive surround sound mix and rich, vibrant computer-generated visual effects. These are meticulously transferred onto media like DVD for distribution. Unknown to most users, many of our home A/V setups are not tuned to bring out these effects intended by the studio.

THX Optimizer main menu

To remedy the situation, THX Digital Works has produced the THX Optimizer to assist users on the calibration problem. The software is a set of audio and video test signals embedded free on all THX-certified DVD titles released from 2000. These signals allow users to fine-tune their A/V setup for optimal presentation of the movie title. It offers an alternative to the costly but more comprehensive calibration software like AVIA and Digital Video Essentials.

The test signals are grouped under two separate audio and video test categories in the THX Optimizer main menu. In order for the test to be intuitive, THX engineers created a set of step-by-step procedures accompanied by simple layman instructions. AVIA and DVE have an advantage here with the included audio commentary on top of the onscreen instructions.

Sound test submenu

Speaker Assignment test is the only audio test signal included in the software. Test tones are played back on each surround channel allowing users to identify potential hook-up error. This can prevent grave mistakes such as connecting the centre speaker to an HTIB's subwoofer output which will undeniably damage the speaker.

The video test signals are further categorised for display parameter tuning and aspect ratio verification. They include Contrast/Picture Set-up, Brightness Set-up, Color and Tint Set-up, Monitor Performance, 4:3 Aspect Ratio Check and 16:9 Aspect Ratio Check tests. Lighting conditions which are similar or identical to the actual viewing environment is a pre-requisite for the video tests.

Video test submenu

The initial tests cover adjustments for white, black and sharpness levels and colour saturation. Properly set up, these critical parameters guarantee natural, smooth and colour-balanced images. The last two tests are useful for verifying a video display's ability to convert and present materials in different aspect ratios. Parts of the images are either cut off or distorted if the device is not properly configured or technically flawed.

Once the tests are completed, users can be confident that any apparent anomalies are integral to the movie and not an artifact of the A/V system.

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Dan posted a comment   

Thanks for the tip,
But how do I run the optimizer?

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