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How to Calibrate Your Gaming Projector for the Best Picture?

BenQ
2022/05/20

Almost all gaming projectors and projectors in general arrive with pre-calibrated picture modes. This applies most in high end models that go through an extensive image calibration at the factory for major use cases, such as cinema and gaming. The result is that movie mode puts an emphasis on color accuracy, while game mode places low latency above all else.

But sometimes you want to do your own calibration. Sure, you can hire a professional calibrator to come in and set up your projector using all sorts of scientific tools, but that kind of service doesn’t come cheap. Also, even the most meticulous manual calibration may become quite useless if you have too much ambient light where your gaming projector is set up.

In this article we’ll try to help you do your own easy calibration on your gaming projector, while providing tips on how to make sure your settings don’t go to waste due to factors not directly related to the projector. 

Projector Image Setup Guidelines and Tips

Before you get started with the calibration proper, here are some things to do:

    1. Reduce ambient lighting or room lighting as much as possible, as a bright enough room makes even the most accurate calibration nearly irrelevant.
    2. Pause a game on a scene that has dark and bright segments, ideally a game character you’re familiar with, and preferably some text as well. This will serve as a reference for before and after calibration. You can also use black and white level test patterns found online, or pause a movie. But since the focus of this article is gaming, we recommend using game visuals.
    3. Start in game mode, as for gaming that’s obviously where you want to be for the lowest latency. Good gaming projectors still allow for extensive calibration even in gaming mode, and do not gray out essential image settings.

    projector settings for gaming

     

    Now come the main steps.



    1. Black level
    2. - you can use a black level test pattern, but the paused game image will give you a better indication. You then want to lower or raise brightness and observe the dark areas of the image. If details begin to appear in dark segments that you didn’t see before adjusting brightness, that’s good. If those details become too apparent, that’s not good. You need to keep them just visible enough.
    3. White level
    4. - again, you can use a white level test pattern, but the paused game works better. Now adjust projector contrast. If elements in bright areas of the screen like clouds or the sun fade and become washed out, then you’ve gone too far. Just like dark area detail, they should look as natural to you as possible. Adjust contrast until bright area details appear correctly, neither washed out or too bold.
    5. Skin tone
    6. - color temperature is the setting that often proves most useful when adjusting displays for skin tone calibration. In either the paused game or movie, change color temperature until the character in the paused frame looks right to you. Anything too bluish or gray is obviously not correct.
    7. Clarity
    8. - here’s where sharpness enters the picture, which is why it’s good to have text in your paused reference image. Adjust the projector’s sharpening effect up and down until the text and the edges of image elements like rocks or walls look most appealing to you. Too low makes the image become blurry, while in most cases even the max sharpness setting is fine. However, many people find a really sharp image to be unnatural, so adjust according to your preference.

     

    Once done and satisfied, save the settings you adjusted as User Mode, which means you can always switch to them with a few presses on the remote. And while all of these steps were written with gaming in mind, to be honest games and movies have more and more in common, especially with HDR becoming so important. And so, a well-calibrated gaming mode is just as good at making movie and TV content look great. 

    Additional Projector Settings for Gaming

    The steps we detailed above are for manual calibration using the projector’s settings. But you can start with the calibration tools offered by gaming consoles, and then if the results are still not to your liking, do the projector calibration. Xbox consoles have a Calibrate TV tool under Settings, General, Video & Display Options. The process in this tool works for projectors, as well. On PS5, go to Settings, Screen and Video, then Adjust HDR. There’s no overall calibration tool, only HDR adjustment.

    On both Xbox and PlayStation devices, if you find the adjustment tools sufficient and feel the image quality is to your liking, then there’s no need to do further manual calibration on the projector side.

     

    There are a few more things to consider.

     

    HDMI ports set up for max bandwidth: of high importance is the connection between your gaming projector and consoles. Of course, good projectors operate in HDMI 2.0 and detect your consoles automatically for the maximum bandwidth possible. If you encounter any issues such as flicker, no 4K, or no HDR, make sure to check your projector settings. Many projectors have something like “Enhanced” or “Input Signal Plus” in the HDMI settings portion of their menu, and that needs to be active for ports connected to consoles. If not toggled on, your console will be limited to HDMI 1.4b standards, which max out at 1080p 60Hz or 4K 30Hz, with no HDR support. While HDMI 2.0 should be on automatically when connected to a PS5 or Xbox Series X, it doesn’t hurt to check.

     

    Select a specific game mode if available: really good gaming projectors like the BenQ X3000i don’t just have one overall game mode, but several. These are tailored to genres like first person shooters, sports, and role playing. You can switch between them as needed for the best results, so if you’re someone who plays a lot of COD: Warzone and Elden Ring, for example, you have optimized game modes that cater to both.

     

    Choose the right HDMI port: to get the most bandwidth available when connecting to a PS5 or Xbox Series console, remember to connect directly to your projector via a non-ARC/eARC HDMI port. Those ports are supposed to be connected to external sound systems and may compromise video capabilities by limiting bandwidth and preventing HDR, VRR, or 4K 60Hz from working properly. By the same token, avoid connecting consoles to receivers or other intermediary devices as passthroughs to the projector. PS5 and Xbox Series consoles should be connected directly to your projector. And if your projector has several HDMI ports, connect your console to the ones not labeled ARC/eARC. We have more info on connecting projectors to sound systems if you’re interested. 

    An Improving Picture

    As games continue to catch up to movies in terms of photorealistic visuals, the importance of image accuracy likewise grows as players want to enjoy the fruits of this progress. And if you have a gaming projector then you’ve already taken the most important step, because nothing does justice to better game graphics like the biggest and most immersive screen format. If you’re thinking of getting a gaming projector, make sure to choose one that has excellent out of the box image fidelity, which saves you a lot of second guessing down the line. Also, do not compromise and give in to the temptation to purchase a cheaper model, as you’ll likely end up with a lower-bandwidth HDMI connection that will bottleneck your consoles and even streaming content. Happy entertainment! 

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