How to Calibrate an NTSC Studio Monitor

Earlier today I helped a friend of mine set up an NTSC studio monitor by using color bars to set the brightness, hue, and saturation properly. It’s been a long time since I did this, so it took me a while to remember how, and I figured that I might as will write it down while I’m at it. The first step is to get color bars displaying on your monitor, and they should be color bars played out of your computer or edit deck.

So, first we set the brightness, or luminance. On the lower right, just under the red bar, you’ll see three grey stripes, each lighter than the other. On a computer monitor, the far left is black, and the center one is dark grey. However, that black is actually darker than video black on an NTSC monitor, so we should adjust the brightness to where those two tones just match. Then adjust the contrast so that the white square on the left is at its brightest without “blooming” into adjacent squares.

Now for color. All good studio monitors will have a number of extra display options, like underscan, pulse-cross, and blue gun. Selecting the blue gun will turn of the red and green electron guns, showing us only the blue signal. This will result in four blue bars separated by three black ones. First, use the chroma or saturation knob to match the outside two bars with each other and the short bars in the middle row. Then use the hue knob to match the middle bars together.

You should now have four blue bars that match each other, with no change in brightness between the top stripes and middle stripes visible. The color is now set. You can switch off blue mode and see the full color bars displayed correctly. Now luminance, chroma, and hue are correctly displayed according to the NTSC standard. Note, you’ll be calibrating the monitor to your video signal, so if it the signal is faulty, your monitor’s color will be faulty as well. To test the video signal, you need scopes.