Monday, January 31, 2005

HD Sets and Burn-In

DQ reader Garth Pricer, responding to the "High Definition and Next-Gen Console Specs" post last week, suggested that I mention burn-in when talking about HD screens. Most HD display technologies have at least some possibility of burn-in (including LCD T.V.'s, believe it or not--they are far less susceptible than other technologies, but they're not invulnerable).

Here's a definition for burn-in (from the AVS forums):
Typically, "burn-in" is defined as an uneven wear of a phosphor based display unit (Plasma and CRT for example). It is the phenomena of being able to "see" the remnants of something that was being "displayed" even though you are watching totally different content.

Contrary to what you might have heard, burn-in is not something that happens easily. It's actually quite rare and only happens when a fixed image is displayed for extended periods of time. You can usually see this effect on airport display screens and ATM's, where the same image has been displayed over weeks or months for 90% of the time.

However, even if it's rare, certain kinds of precautions need to be taken. One important precaution is to calibrate your new set properly. Most new HD sets are pre-set at what's disparagingly called "torch" mode, with both brightness and contrast set far beyond optimal levels. There are two excellent, simple-to-use calibration DVD's widely available: Digital Video Essentials and Avia. Either one will help you adjust contrast and brightness to the proper levels, and it only takes a few minutes.

I play games on the plasma all the time, sometimes for 1-2 hours straight, and here's the second precaution--when I'm done, I'll switch the input to regular television and let it display for 5-10 minutes. That's all. I've never had a problem with burn-in, and I have one of the older generation plasmas. The new models are far less susceptible to burn-in.

Oh, and if you see what looks like an afterimage, don't freak out. Afterimage is not the same thing as burn-in. Just run some other programming on the set for 15-20 minutes and it will probably go away.

What you don't want to do is display the CNBC ticker for twelve hours straight, or pause a game and leave it displaying on the screen overnight. Even those things might not cause burn-in, but they're significantly increasing the risk.

And if you're interested in a very long forum thread about burn-in on plasmas and LCD's, go here: There's also a link at the top of that thread to a similar thread about RPTV's.

This was probably a snoozer for those of you who already have HD sets, but I thought it might be helpful to new owners or tire kickers.

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