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Home Theater Hacks by Brett McLaughlin

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Hack #18. Paint Your Theater a Neutral Color

Although your walls are certainly not a video component, they can make a dramatic difference in how your display devices are perceived. Neutral colors might not be as impressive with the lights on, but they sure make a difference with the lights off.

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) has recommended the use of neutral—or at least nearly neutral—colors in viewing environments for electronic displays. This specification is to preserve accurate color perception for the viewer. The way our brain processes optical information results in surrounding colors having an effect upon our perception of other colors in the same field of view. A photo of a person wearing a cyan shirt, placed in a frame with a blue matte surrounding the image, will cause the shirt to appear greener. Place the same photo against a green matte, though, and the shirt will appear bluer. It's only with a neutral gray matte that you get a true perception; the shirt will appear cyan.

The same principals apply to your perceptions of electronic images. SMPTE's research had critical applications for engineers, editors, cinematographers, and producers needing absolute accuracy of perception in the studio. SMPTE used the Munsell System of color standards to specify precisely what constitutes neutral, and nearly neutral, for professional viewing environments. Instead of ignoring these standards, you should take them into account in your own home theater. ...

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