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tacticalcity
11-02-2010, 2:42 PM
I've had expensive video cards do a terrible job of displaying the various shades of black (dark scense in movies become impossible to see) and others do a great job at showing the minor differences between the various shades of black.

So my question is, how can I tell by looking at the specs on a car whether or not it will do a decent job?

I'm not looking for model recommedations. I'm looking for things to look for when comparing cards. I want to be able to make an educated choice between my various options that goes beyond brand loyalty or on board memory capacity to figure out which card will be more enjoyable for watching all the dark and scary movies in my collection (lots of dark scenes in them).

smird
11-02-2010, 3:16 PM
You could check the reviews at CNET, newegg etc. I would imagine though displaying dark images would be more dependent on your monitor.

tacticalcity
11-02-2010, 3:41 PM
Well the monitor is an Maxent LCD TV with DVI inputs. I've had several different computers hooked up to it in the past. Some did great in this area, others not so much - and both were expensive as hell. So I know there is significant room for improvement but also a big risk of spending a lot of money only to get the same crappy results.

Tried looking at reviews. None that I found cover the spefic criteria I am looking for. Most are about how well certain games play on them and refresh rates. They are not geared towards how well they work in "media center" movie watching enviorment.

Plus I'd like to find something a little older. Hoping to find a great deal on ebay or something along those lines. I'd just like an expert to educate me on what specific things to look for in the specs or features list to help me find the right card. It doesn't have to be the latest and greatist. This machine is not used for gaming. It just needs to be able to sperate out all the various shades of black. Something my current cheapy on board card cannot do and some of the expensive cards I've owned in the past could not do either.

jarhead995
11-02-2010, 5:29 PM
need screenies.

tacticalcity
11-02-2010, 5:36 PM
To clarify what I am talking about?

Movie scenes at night where the guys are lit up by ambient light and there are all kinds of subtle shades of dark grays that allow you to see what is going on in detail. Except the video card displays several of the shades as solid black, so you loose all the detail and can't really see what is happening. So for example if a couple of guys are fighting in the dark, all you see are two black blobs moving around the screen admits a see of dark gray. When you are meant to see lots of detailed shades so you tell exactly how the victor subdued the vanquished.

Only screen shot I could come up with would be the crappy example, not a good example. And that computer is at home, not here at the office.

AlliedArmory
11-02-2010, 6:00 PM
I don't know a whole lot about it, but I would assume it has to do with the monitor, but in your case a tv.

With every video card I have ever run the blacks looked great on a monitor.

Scratch705
11-02-2010, 6:10 PM
look for cards with HDMI output, usually those cards are designed for media center use in mind.

smird
11-02-2010, 6:23 PM
You might ask here, these guys are all about the HTPC
http://www.avforums.com/home/computers.html

Oshiat
11-02-2010, 6:59 PM
www.tomshardware.com is another excellent source of information.

tacticalcity
11-03-2010, 9:12 AM
I don't know a whole lot about it, but I would assume it has to do with the monitor, but in your case a tv.

With every video card I have ever run the blacks looked great on a monitor.

Definately plays a role. But I've had other computers hooked up to it. Some of them did an excellent job, some not so much. So I know a better video card will do wonders. Just have to figure out how to determine without a lot of trial and error which will do the best job.

It is not a huge deal. It's just a watch a lot of guy movies. Which means lots of dark scenes. Want to make those as enjoyable to watch as I can.

If you're a movie buff, my home entertainment setup is pretty great. I have a main server with 1362 movies on it as well as the complete series of my favorite TV shows from past and present. The TVs in both bedrooms and the living room have a PC hooked upto them. They are all networked together via CAT5 and a router. So they can all access those movies and run them without any stuttering or loss of quality. The interface for all of them is Media Center, which is running Media Browser to easily sort through movie categories and find the right movie for your mood. HuluDesktop, Netflix, and a built in DVR recording my favorite TV shows help you find something to watch when those 1362 movies or TV shows don't catch your fancy. A bunch of Call of Duty, Hitman and other video games are installed on the living room and spare bedroom/office computers as well in case you want to do some gaming. And of course my music collection with over 2000 songs (not sure of the exact number) is available on all the computers as well. Watch a movie, listen to music, watch TV, play a video game, on any room on demand, whatever you want whenever you want.

It is big time overkill...but Geek/Movie Buff heaven.

Those who have not run Media Browser (a plugin for Windows Media Center), it is pretty damn cool. Makes organizing and scrolling through your media collection much easier. Has movie posters, detailed descriptions of the film, actor bios, and even a find similar movie feature that really comes in handy. For those who have never run Windows Media Center, and are into movies, you don't know what you are missing!

http://www.mediabrowser.tv/

These are not the SKINs I am using (you can change the look and feel of the graphics using a bunch of different user created skins), but it gives you an idea of the organization and easy of use it brings...especially to a huge collection like mine.

View once you have already selected a main category...
http://www.mediabrowser.tv/images/i06.jpg

View one you have selected a particular film before clicking "play"...(different skin than above)
http://www.mediabrowser.tv/images/i04.jpg

View if you choose to look up actor information, allows you to select an actor and see all films in your collection staring that actor...(different skin than above)
http://www.mediabrowser.tv/images/i03.jpg

Merc1138
11-03-2010, 10:22 AM
Your problem isn't the monitor or videocard itself, it's the videocard drivers. ATI and Nvidia based cards have separate brightness/gamma control options for video playback that you need to adjust. It doesn't matter what card you buy, if you don't properly adjust the video playback brightness/gamma, it's still going to look like poop.

tacticalcity
11-03-2010, 12:39 PM
Well, I can double check to see that the driver is up to date and correct and see if the manufacturer has an app to adjust it and do so before buying anything new. However, I do know some cards are better at video playback than others. Some cards simply are not up to the task.

Still I have no problem exploring your idea further and seeing if it won't help. Better to burn some time than to throw more money at the problem.

Merc1138
11-03-2010, 1:14 PM
Unless you bought an absolute piece of garbage(like something onboard using an intel graphics chipset), it's not going to matter much with digital output. Years ago with VGA connections it mattered due to the components in the DAC(digital to analog converter), but if you're using displayport, hdmi, or DVI, you aren't using a DAC(and in these days the matrox g400 and g450 blew everything else away for vga output quality on a CRT).

Exactly what videocard do you currently have?

Recession
11-03-2010, 2:15 PM
Black levels are purely dependent on the monitor itself. The reason why you get different levels of blacks with different computers on the same monitor is because those computers had different gamma settings.

IPS and VA panel based LCD monitors produce the best level of blacks but come at a premium price.

Many of the mainstream LCD monitors you find at electronic stores and online use a TFT based LCD panel which are great for gaming due to their fast response times but sacrifice color/black quality.

*EDIT*

Just realized you were talking about an LCD TV. What is the contrast ratio on it?

Merc1138
11-03-2010, 2:23 PM
Black levels are purely dependent on the monitor itself. The reason why you get different levels of blacks with different computers on the same monitor is because those computers had different gamma settings.

IPS and VA panel based LCD monitors produce the best level of blacks but come at a premium price.

Many of the mainstream LCD monitors you find at electronic stores and online use a TFT based LCD panel which are great for gaming due to their fast response times but sacrifice color/black quality.

Or you can just adjust the gamma settings. There's a difference between having poor definition with bad black levels on the monitor, and simply not adjusting the videocard's output at all(which he obviously hasn't done based on his statements above).

Seriously, the solution for this won't cost anymore than a few minutes of time.

Brianguy
11-03-2010, 2:45 PM
now that youve read all the previous posts on what to look for its time to save a buck!
bensbargains.net
slickdeals.net
check those two sites daily for video card deals
price check against froogle.com

smird
11-03-2010, 3:12 PM
Also what about using one of those "calibration dvd's"

http://www.videoessentials.com/

a snippit from one - warning WALL OF TEXT

Avical's DVE user-level video calibration tutorial

The first two items adjusted on a display are the brightness and contrast. While these two controls are interactive, brightness primarily impacts the lower end of the grayscale (blacks) and contrast the top end (whites). It is also important to note that they will influence the grayscale somewhat and therefore any color information placed over it.

Navigate to Title 12, Chapter 2, “DVE PLUGE w/Gray Scale”



This pattern’s function is to assess/adjust the brightness level on all types of displays and the contrast on a CRT. It consists of a background at video black and symmetrical PLUGE on both the left and right side of the log gray scale (four vertically aligned rectangles in the middle of the screen).

The log gray scale can be used to inspect the neutrality or lack thereof of the grayscale. A bluish tint is usually indicative of a grayscale that is higher (cooler) than D6500. A reddish tint is usually indicative of a grayscale that is lower (warmer) than D6500. A greenish tint, on the other hand, can be warmer or cooler than D6500 and is usually the least desirable as most people are more sensitive to its inaccuracies than a grayscale that leans towards blue or red.

This section of the PLUGE pattern can be used as a guide in selecting a color temperature preset that is closest to D6500.

The background of this pattern represents "black" while the three vertical strips at either side represent 4% below black, 4% above black, and 2% above black. Ideally, one should only be able to see the 4% and 2% above black strips.

Navigate to Title 12, Chapter 3, “DVE PLUGE w/White”



The previous PLUGE pattern represented a low average picture level (APL) whereas this one represents a high APL. Toggle between these two patterns to arrive at the most accurate brightness setting.

We have found that on many CRT displays, one will have to compromise by adjusting the brightness so that only the 4% above black is visible within this pattern. Otherwise, the blacks may look too washed out.

Those with CRT displays should adjust the brightness control and set it to where the 4% below black strip has disappeared while the 4% above strips are still viewable using T.12/CH2 & CH3.

On an LCD, D-ILA, and DLP display, this process is slightly different in that many of these do not have gamma curves similar to a CRT which cause the below/above black strips to appear/disappear. For these displays, it is necessary to look for where black is being "crushed" or lost. If one stands close to the screen and raises the brightness, they will notice that there is some "noise" in the black background. Conversely, as the brightness is brought back down, the noise eventually goes away.

Those with digital displays should adjust the brightness control until they can clearly see the noise in the background, and then lower it again until the noise disappears but where the 2% above black strips are still visible.

Step 2: Contrast

On a CRT, you may use the PLUGE pattern to set contrast.

Those with CRT displays should raise the contrast control while carefully viewing the top box (peak white) until it starts to bloom (become larger than the other boxes), or when it starts to turn yellow in comparison to the boxes below it. When this occurs, back off the contrast so that it is no longer clipping.

Contrast and brightness are interactive so make sure to recheck the brightness once you have adjusted contrast and vice versa.

If one is using a digital display, setting contrast is slightly different. For these, we recommend a different pattern.

Navigate to Title 12, Chapter 14, "Reverse Gray Ramps & Steps"



This pattern may be used to assess/adjust brightness, contrast, bit depth, and gamma. Here we will describe its use in setting contrast properly on a digital display.

Notice the top and bottom portions of this pattern which consists of a gray ramp. The twenty-two steps extend from 5% below black to 5% above white with the ramps extending to the limits of the digital video system. Markers, which appear as three vertical dots, are placed at video black, 50% and 100%.

Unlike an analog CRT, digital displays do not go into blooming. Hence the reason why a PLUGE pattern cannot be used to adjust contrast on an LCD, D-ILA, and DLP. On these displays, any video information must be below the clip point level. If the contrast is turned too high, chances are that part of the video signal will be pushed into clipping and whatever detail is in that portion will be lost. The contrast control must be turned down so that the bars towards the brighter sections of the ramp (top left or bottom right) are clearly delineated from one another.

Those with digital displays should run the contrast control up to see if the steps start to blend together. The proper position for contrast is below the point of clipping, i.e. when each bar is distinguishable and/or uniform in color.

On some displays, turning the contrast down will not pull the video out of the clip. This is often an indication that the DVD player is running into its own digital clip. If so, go back to the player's setup menu and turn down its contrast by one click. This will usually eliminate the clip. If not, lower the contrast by another click and so on until every bar is clearly visible. In some cases, the two lightest bars will remain blended together no matter how much the contrast is lowered. In such cases, revert the player to its factory contrast setting.

TonyM
11-04-2010, 7:42 AM
Try adjusting the Dynamic Range in the video card settings. Some (most) TVs respond from 16-255 for color values, but PC monitors respond from 0-255. If you have it set incorrectly for your display you will get black crush.

Here's an image from my notebook with the current NV control panel for the Quadro card:

http://www.picturesbytony.com/DynamicRange.jpg

JDay
11-04-2010, 10:01 PM
Well the monitor is an Maxent LCD TV with DVI inputs. I've had several different computers hooked up to it in the past. Some did great in this area, others not so much - and both were expensive as hell. So I know there is significant room for improvement but also a big risk of spending a lot of money only to get the same crappy results.

The difference is simply due to the video settings not being calibrated in Windows. nVidia and ATI each have a control panel you can adjust color, contrast, brightness, etc from.

tacticalcity
11-05-2010, 8:13 AM
Lots of great tips. This weekend I will go through them all and see if we can't get the settings adjusted to where it works better.