Calibrate A Professional Video Monitor

Calibrating your monitor ensures your video color stays true during broadcast.

To get an accurate color calibration on a professional video monitor — or any monitor, for that matter — you need to run an SMPTE test pattern. SMPTE stands for the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, which developed the standard to take into account recording and transmission signal variances. Calibration test patterns are included in all major editing software packages like Avid and Final Cut Pro; you can also download them online. Make sure you use a test pattern made for your editing setup.


1. Turn on the monitor and let it run for at least 30 minutes before you run the calibration test pattern. All the monitor components need to be at the same temperature to get an accurate calibration.

2. Display the test pattern. Either use the preset color bars in your editing system to display the pattern or hook up a color bars generator to your monitor; the result will be the same.

3. Look in the lower right corner of the monitor. You’ll see three gray bars of varying shades. Your goal is to make the two on either side pitch black and the middle bar just slightly lighter than the other two so you can barely make out a distinction between the bars.

4. Adjust the Chroma or Hue control first. Video monitors are labeled differently, so the control could also be labeled Phase, Color or Saturation. If your monitor has separate controls for blue, red and green, then disable red and green and only use the blue control. Turn this chroma/hue/phase/saturation control all the way down to off. You’re left with black and white bars.

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5. Locate the Brightness control and turn it down until the middle gray bar disappears. Slowly turn it back up until it’s just barely visible.

6. Turn the contrast control all the way up, then lower it until the white square to the left of the black squares stops “spilling” into the adjoining squares. You want a crisp line between the white box and the boxes to either side while keeping the box as bright as possible. This sets the proper contrast.

7. Turn the chroma control from step one back up to the middle position. Most chroma control knobs have a preset mid-range stop and you’ll feel the knob stop slightly when you reach the optimal setting. This sets the optimal hue, making your monitor ready to display broadcast quality video.