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Colorvision - Spyder2 - CRT and LCD calibration
Have you ever edited a digital picture on your home computer, possibly with a discount LCD display, sent it off for printing just to realize all the colors were somehow differnt then they were on your screen? While most people may blame the results on the photo processing lab, here is a surprise for you. It may actually be your wrong doing that made the image look all wrong.
I have found that most commercially available LCD screens have a greenish or blueish cast and pictures usually look somewhat "cooler" than they should. Most of us are not used to the idea that what we see may not be a good representation of our picture. We tend to trust our LCD screens. Some of us may have spent a lot of money on expensive equipment and we have bought a software like photoshop to "get the most out of our pictures". Adjusting a picture with such a screen "to look better" may actually lead to a deterioration of image quality as we unknowingly make things worse. Welcome to the wonderful world of color calibration and color profiles.
There are some better colorimeters available than the Spyder 2. Generally the more you are willing to spend the better the result. However I found the Spyder 2 to be more than adequate for my needs. I have had mine for over a year and I am more than happy with the results. The images I sent off for printing correlate to what I see on the screen.
The first colorimeter I bought was a Spyder. I was very disappointed and after a week of sending emails back and forth with Pantone (the makers of the Spyder), I finally got them to acknowledge that the sensors in the Spyder were inadequate for LCD calibration (even though it was advertised for LCD and CRT). At that time the Spyder 2 just hit the market and I was determined to try that one, since the Sensors were supposed to be completely re-done. I have to say the Spyder 2 completely convinced me and I kept the unit.
The morale of that story: Don't buy anything less than the Spyder 2. Don't buy any of the Spyder 2 or Spyder Express Packages either, since they lack some basic RGB setting controls.
Before showing the basic usage of the device, here is one more word of caution. Even after you calibrated your monitor, you still need to use an application such as Photoshop that can use the color profile. Many shareware picture editing programs (including the widely popular Gimp) do not use color profiles. The calibration data consists of two different pieces. One is for the Grapics card and is loaded during startup and one is for the application (an ICM file). If you just calibrate your monitor and look at the picture with the Windows Image Viewer, you will not have a calibrated view! Make sure your application supports color profiles. Before printing, you can actually soft-proof your picture. I generally try to find a photo lab that offers a color profile of their printers. Photoshop can then show you a preview of the print (assuming your screen is calibrated) and it can calculate if you have any "out of gamut" colors. More about that in the Workflow tutorial.
Using the Spyder is actually quite easy. On screen guides will assist you in the process. For usage with an LCD, you need to attach the LCD Baffle, since the suction caps can destroy the LCD screen. Just follow the instructions to the letter and you will be fine.
After you have told the software what controls your monitor has (RGB Sliders, RGB color temperature selectors, Contrast, Brightness ...) the calibration process can begin. The software will show you where to put the colorimeter on your screeen. There is a weight that counter balances the device, so you can hang it from the top of your screen. I don't know if that is the best solution possible, but it seems to work rather well. Make sure the sreen stands at an almost 90% angle. Almost, so that the spyder will sit tight on the screen, but not too much so that no pressure is put on the display (this tends to screw up the colors).
If you didn't go cheap and didn't buy the Express packages, you will have many options to pre-calibrate your screen.
In the picture above you can see the spyder dangling from my LCD screen. There are 3 RGB bars shown on the right and with the RGB settings of the monitor I am trying to manually bring them close to target. You will have to do the same with Brightness levels.
The Spyder 2 works just fine, even if your monitor doesn't have these controls, however it is better to start closer to target.
After you have done all manual adjustments, the acutal calibration process will run. This will take approx. 20 minutes, where the monitor puts out a color and the spyder 2 measures it. With the feedback information the actual color profile is being calculated and stored.
Thats pretty much a rundown how the Spyder 2 works. Its really simple and the results are astonishing.