AVIA Guide to Home Theater
Set-up DVD Review
Among the best calibration DVD discs
ever released for the home theater
The original AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD was first released in 1999. In 2008, it was replaced by AVIA II DVD (NTSC version) at a time when we saw numerous other set-up DVDs for both beginners and more advanced users. As expected, the AVIA II disc came with additional new test patterns and audio tones as well as new information on the latest HD technologies. But apart from the informative guide on HDTV technology, the new AVIA DVD was basically the original AVIA disc in a new package. This means that what we stated when we reviewed the original AVIA disc in July 2006 still applies to AVIA II.
Do not let the fact that the AVIA II comes as a DVD and not a Blu-ray disc put you off from getting hold of a copy of this highly informative and most comprehensive calibration disc. It is still worth having in your home theater library; rather it is a must 'all-inclusive' guide to home theater calibration with more than 200 video test patterns and nearly 100 audio tones for 5.1 and 6.1 channels, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus.
Off-course, you would not have any high definition test patterns but you would still be able to do more than just basic HDTV calibration, and when it comes to audio test tones, AVIA is still unsurpassed even by the latest Blu-ray set-up discs.
Disney WOW: World of Wonder is definitely the ideal HD set-up disc for the beginner but not only.
It delivers clear explanations of both HDTV concepts and also of the audio test signals and the video test patterns found on this Blu-ray calibration disc. It is the ideal disc to go for if you want to learn about your HDTV and how to set it up.
More details available in our review here.
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Update Dec. 2012: We are re-publishing here under our review of the original AVIA Guide to Home Theater disc we first published in July 2006; it still applies to the AVIA II disc, with the only few differences being those we have already highlighted above. In this updated review, we have included additional remarks to explain the differences between the original AVIA and AVIA II.
Introduction to AVIA Guide Set-up DVD
The AVIA Guide to Home Theater set-up DVD was released by Image Entertainment. It is true that a lot has changed since its release in 1999. The narrations on the AVIA disc are geared mostly towards CRT technology rather than plasma and LCD TVs. (This was upgraded on the Avia II with additional information on HDTVs, HDMI, and Blu-ray discs.) Yet the detailed calibration procedures and the wide array of video test patterns and audio test signals can still serve a valid reference in the calibration of AV equipment in the home theater, irrespective of technology.
AVIA Guide to Home Theater is designed for:
1] Home theater owners who want to get the ultimate in system performance
2] Home theater enthusiasts who are planning an upgrade or a whole new system installation
As with most calibration DVDs, the AVIA Guide to Home Theater is divided in two main sections. There is a general how-to guide that explains various home theater related topics like home theater wiring, speaker placement, etc., and the actual collection of video test patterns and audio test signals for system calibration purposes.
Navigating the AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD is easy and intuitive. The onscreen menus give the user total control over the depth of information presented. Furthermore, the user has complete flexibility in accessing both the informative tutorials and the detailed how-to procedures related to the audio and video calibration processes.
The how-to guide on the AVIA disc is an excellent 40-minute discussion. It covers major aspects of home-theater systems from the proper set up of a dedicated home theater room to ambient light management, speaker placement, room acoustics, etc. It is a step-by-step orientation tutorial to home theater components and system calibration.
It stretches over five chapters, starting with the very basics of home theater systems - video signal basics and video components, A/V receivers, aspect ratio management, and multichannel audio technology. The discussion also takes you through the different types of speakers and correct speaker placement in the home theater, background noise levels, room acoustics and acoustic treatments. It further discusses ambient light and the use of background lighting with direct-view video displays.
There is an extensive section that deals with home theater connections and speaker hook-up. Special emphasis is placed on how to connect your speakers for the best possible sound.
Equally important is the section that deals with the use of sound level meters. Like most set-up DVDs, the AVIA Guide to Home Theater recommends the use of a sound pressure level (SPL) meter to set the correct sound levels in multichannel audio systems. Sound meters are relatively cheap; a suitable meter like the digital Galaxy Audio CM130 SPL Meter would not cost more than $60 and can do a great job in any home theater environment.
The original 1999 AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD does not make any reference to DVI or HDMI - these digital interconnects were simply not available on consumer-level electronics in 1999. (However, this was all updated on the AVIA II 2008 set-up disc.)
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An extensive array of Audio Test Tones and Video Test Patterns
The real strength behind the AVIA Guide to Home Theater set-up DVD resides in the extensive array of video patterns and audio test tones. These are accompanied by well-detailed how-to calibration procedures that transform audio and video calibration into a simple easy-to-follow process.
The AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD provides highly accurate and innovative audio test signals. These cater for more than just the correct setting of channel balance in a multichannel audio system through the use of reference level adjustment tones and channel phasing procedures.
For example, there are several additional test tones related to subwoofer adjustment, and that are designed to assist you in getting as flat a response as possible from your subwoofer. There is also a separate section with tones to verify that your speakers are set up correctly. Detailed onscreen instructions lead you through the process; how much fine-tuning you do is up to you.
Advance and professional users can choose among additional test tones for more in-depth calibrations such as checking voice matching, frequency response, room resonance, and ambiance effects. These settings are normally accomplished in connection with the use of a spectrum analyzer or some other specialized test equipment.
Black Level Bars + Steps + Varying Grayscale pattern
This is one of the new test patterns found on AVIA II; it is a 'one-stop' pattern designed to help the user set the brightness and contrast, while providing gamma-tracking patches to the grayscale steps.
The AVIA Guide to Home Theater disc has an extensive selection of video test patterns; in total, there are over 180 video test patterns covering many different aspects of home theater calibration; (these were eventually increased to over 200 on the AVIA II.) There is no other set-up DVD we are aware of that has such an extensive array of test patterns.
Overall, the video test patterns developed for the AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD have been set specifically to increase accuracy while maintaining ease of use. In particular, some of the calibration procedures are made relatively simple thanks to the step-by-step process adopted by the AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD. The live video demonstrations show you exactly what to look for while making adjustments, while patterns come with explanatory text. Though as already indicated earlier on, the explanations refer more to CRT displays than digital projectors, yet the test patterns themselves apply to any display irrespective of the video technology in use.
The AVIA Guide to Home Theater first guides you through the basic five video level adjustments, namely brightness, contrast, hue (tint), saturation, and sharpness. More in-depth tests and adjustments aimed at the advance user include tests for power supply adequacy, geometry, convergence, resolution, gamma, color decoder accuracy, color temperature adjustment, grayscale tracking, and screen hot-spotting.
To assist you in the color setting, the AVIA Guide to Home Theater set-up DVD package includes a set of color filters, which together with the respective test patterns on the DVD will help you set the color and tint settings correctly.
Worth mentioning that while the use of the unaided eye may suffice for some tests under this section, yet a light meter is essential if you want accurate and consistent results when handling some of the more advanced calibration procedures; this applies irrespective of the set-up disc you use.
Note: AVIA comes in NTSC format. While the AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD is viewable on any multi-standard video system that can play an NTSC signal, the video test patterns found on the AVIA disc are correct only for true NTSC display mode.
3] Professionals who want to make use of the extensive array of test tones and patterns together with advanced test equipment such as spectrum analyzers and light meters in the calibration of AV gear
AVIA Guide to Home Theater - DVD Contents
Though this is not one of the latest in the series of set-up DVDs, the AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD is surely one of the most complete and well-designed set-up discs ever produced. It comes with a whole suite of thoroughly explained calibrations that takes the user step-by-step through video and audio system optimization.
This makes the AVIA Guide to Home Theater especially suitable for the newcomer who would like to learn and eventually perform more in-depth calibrations without the need for professional help. Yet, it is equally suitable for the advanced user who wants to make use of the extensive array of test tones and video test patterns in conjunction with more elaborated test equipment for in-depth system calibration.
Its only drawback with respect to more recent Blu-ray calibration discs is that the AVIA disc does not include any high definition test/calibration video patterns. (This applies both to the original AVIA home theater set-up disc and also to the updated AVIA II. The only difference is that AVIA II includes a new tutorial on high definition TV.)
Our recommendation: Irrespective of whether you are a home theater system owner or are thinking of building one, the AVIA set-up DVD will surely prove to be indispensable. It is a relatively inexpensive tool well worth the small investment, one that you will be glad to have on hand.
Update Dec 2012: As indicated in our introduction, the original AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD was replaced by Avia II (NTSC version) in 2008; main upgrades over the original disc is the addition of additional test tones and video test patterns and a new tutorial on HD technology. It is one of the best calibration discs suitable for both beginners and advanced users.