We always recommend a good Blu-ray setup and test disc to get your HD display properly adjusted, and good choices include Digital Video Essentials HD Basics from video guru Joe Kane and the High Definition Benchmark from Spears & Munsil. Those discs have the necessary test patterns that will allow you to properly adjust your HD display, as well as helping with adjustments that may be found in your Blu-ray player or even in your A/V receiver or controller, as more and more AVR and A/V controllers these days include video processing and HD upconversion features along with basic picture adjustment controls.
Once everything is properly adjusted, you’ll want to verify the display’s picture quality with actual HD program material, and here are a few Blu-ray titles that I’ve found to be particularly useful for critiquing a display after adjustment.
While both of the above-named test discs feature HD clips, the better choice of the two is Digital Video Essentials HD Basics, as it features test clips that come from both film and HD video sources—the Spears & Munsil disc only features a high resolution video-originated clip, which is itself marred by the production team unnecessarily speeding up motion in some shots. On the Joe Kane disc, there are two highly useful clips, one film-originated, and the other video-originated.
The film-originated clip is a brief scene in a restaurant, with a man and woman enjoying dessert (Joe Kane himself can be seen pouring wine at a nearby table). The clip is provided in different resolutions, with the highest resolution version transferred from film to HD video at 4K resolution (roughly 4000 pixels by 2000 pixels, double the pixel rate of 1080p) and then mastered at 1080p for the Blu-ray release. The woman is wearing a lightly colored outfit and a colored blouse that is very close in color to her skin tone. The clip is useful for gauging color intensity, color accuracy and realism of flesh tones, and it opens with a horizontal pan over some dishes of food, served on white plates, which are useful as a check for color temperature. As it is a film-originated clip, captured at the usual 24 frames per second, the clip has some noticeable judder at the beginning, and can also be used to gauge the effectiveness of judder reduction features that have begun to appear in some upper-end displays and projectors.
The other useful clip on the disc is of a space shuttle launch, and is video-originated (and was captured at 720p). It is stunningly detailed, with numerous close-ups of the shuttle vehicle itself as well as the launch tower, and finishes with shots captured as the shuttle orbits the earth. The close-ups of the white shuttle vehicle at the beginning of the clip, as well as brief shots of its dark underbelly are highly useful at gauging a display’s peak white detail as well as black and dark gray reproduction.
For gauging color quality, nothing beats the spectacular documentary film Baraka, which was originally filmed in large format 70mm Todd-AO, and recently underwent a full restoration for release on Blu-ray, with the film-to-video transfer via a super high resolution 8K telecine scan (roughly 8000 by 4000 pixels, about four times that of 1080p HD). The filmmakers went all over the world to make this movie, and there are some jaw-dropping scenes (the oil fires in Kuwait are spectacular to behold), and there are images of African villagers wearing super-colorful clothes that leap off the screen. The whole disc is a visual delight.