Product Review: Spyder3 Digital Projector Calibration and Profiling

By Stan Sholik

This article provides additional information on the digital projector calibration and profiling function of Spyder3Elite and supplements the Spyder3Studio review in the May issue of Professional Photographer magazine. 

A color-managed workflow is important at all times to professional photographers, but especially when we are presenting work to our clients. The Datacolor Spyder3Studio includes tools to ensure that they will see accurate color on your monitor, on proof prints and also on a projection screen. The same Spyder3Elite colorimeter used for monitor profiling can also profile a digital projector for photographers who use front projection in their sales room.

Projector calibration is very straightforward since some of the adjustments necessary in monitor calibration are unnecessary or unavailable with projectors. For example, the human eye automatically adapts to brightness and whitepoint in a darkened room, making these hardware adjustments superfluous if they are even available for the projector. 

So it is simply a matter of connecting the Spyder3, following the on-screen directions, and running the software process. The result is a profile for that projector and screen. At the end of the profiling process there is an option for creating two other profiles. These include adjustments for use in less desirable situations with more ambient light in case your sales room cannot be darkened totally during the day.

After selecting the option to calibrate a digital projector, you must set the Target Gamma and Whitepoint from the default 2.2-6500 to 2.2-Native. (Click image for larger view)

After selecting the option of profiling a projector in the Spyder3Elite software, you must change the Target Gamma and White Point from the default 2.2-6500 to 2.2-Native, the recommended values for projectors.

You then attach the Spyder3 colorimeter stand to a tripod using the ¼-20 adapter in its base and slide the colorimeter into the stand. The Spyder3 must be positioned directly in front of the projector, pointed at the middle of the screen, about 12 inches from it and perpendicular to it. It will cast a shadow, but this doesn’t effect the calibration. Each of these steps is carefully explained as you move through the software screens.

The Spyder3Elite software walks you through each step in aligning the sensor for the calibration process. The first step is to attach the Spyder3 base to a tripod and securely attach the Spyder3 to the base. (Click image for larger view)

The Spyder3 and tripod must be positioned 12 inches from the screen and perpendicular to it. (Click image for larger view)

The projector is placed directly behind the Spyder3. The cast shadow has no effect on the calibration. (Click image for larger view)

Once the Spyder3 is in position, you begin the calibration. When it is complete, the software asks you to name and save the profile. It also gives you the option of saving two additional profiles for times when the ambient room light is brighter than it was during the profiling session. The entire process takes about the same amount of time as profiling your monitor.

When the projector calibration is complete, you name the profile and decide if you want to save two additional profiles for brighter ambient room lighting conditions. A final screen allows you to project a test image of photographs to see how they looked before calibration and with the new profile. (Click image for larger view) 

Since your computer sees the projector as a monitor, the projector profile is handled in the same way as a monitor profile. You must load the projector profile as the display profile before beginning your presentation, and the software you use must support color management. Apple’s Keynote 3 software, part of iView 2008, does; PowerPoint does not. Be sure to check the program you are using.

With a color managed sales room, your clients will see your work in the best possible light, and you will never need to assure them that you can “fix the colors in the final print.”

Stan Sholik is a contributing writer for NewsWatch Feature Service. He is also a commercial photographer with more than 30 years of large-format studio and location experience.

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