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Spears & Munsil NEW Ultra HD Calibration Disc Has Pop Up Help

by June 12, 2023
Contributors: Jacob Green
Spears & Munsil

Spears & Munsil

Although Audioholics typically deals with audio gear, audio technology and audio calibration tools, we also focus on all aspects of home theater, including UHD display and projector calibration. We often get asked, "why does my new TV not look as good as when I saw it in the store?" More often than not, it's the content you're streaming, but it ALSO could be the factory settings of the display and improper black levels or the dreaded motion adaption features enabled.

S&M HD edition

One of the easiest ways to calibrate your UHD display is to use a calibration Blu-ray disk to help determine what your display is showing and how to fix it. Stacey Spears and Don Munsil, creators of the Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark series of AV display calibration tools, have released a new three-disc Ultra HD Blu-ray set boasting more unique patterns than any previous calibration tool. Performing the basic calibration should take 30 minutes or less, according to Spears & Munsil, and is not difficult, though it is important to understand what to look for in each test. If this is your first video calibration rodeo, check out the detailed background articles on the Spears & Munsil website.


S&M frontS&M Back

The new 2023 edition of Spears & Munsil Ultra HD Benchmark  is an enhanced and greatly expanded version of the 2019 release, which was highly recommended by Audioholics and other leading audio/video industry publications. According to Spears & Munsil, the new set gives AV professionals and enthusiasts “access to a wealth of test and demonstration materials to tell them what their displays are doing, identify weak links in their hardware and software, and dial in the optimal settings not only for their equipment, but for future equipment that hasn’t even been designed yet."

Every pattern has been rethought with High Dynamic Range and Ultra HD in mind. We believe this disc completely changes the game for test and evaluation discs, by making use of all of the features and range that HDR and wide-gamut standards can offer.

Almost every pattern is encoded in multiple versions, with metadata and peak levels adjusted for a wide variety of HDR display technologies.

The previous disc had 1000 separate encoded files, which was a high water mark for evaluation discs at the time,” Spears added. “We blew past that record with this new set, which includes over 5000 separate video and audio clips!

-Stacey Spears – Co-Creator, Spears & Munsil

Like the previous discs, the Spears & Munsil Ultra HD Benchmark uses patterns created from scratch using Spears & Munsil’s own in-house software.

There really isn’t any other way to make patterns that we can stand behind. We build every pattern using our own tools, written from scratch in C++. If a pattern needs to be generated directly in a very specific color space and data format, we generate it in that color space and format; we’re not limited to what you can do with off-the-shelf graphics software. In a few cases we’ve had to create our own format, because no existing file format could represent the pattern we needed to create.

-Don Munsil – Co-Creator, Spears & Munsil  

The disc includes new editions of some favorite patterns from the earlier editions, plus many new patterns exclusive to Spears & Munsil. It also expands the range of formats and encodings supported,

In this set, we’ve included video in HD and UHD resolution, in SDR (encoded in both BT.2020 and BT.709 color spaces), HDR10 (with multiple target peak luminance options), HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. On the audio side, we include test material in both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, which is completely compatible with earlier iterations of Dolby Digital and DTS.

-Stacey Spears – Co-Creator, Spears & Munsil

S&M Test Pattern 1

As with the previous editions, the S&M Ultra HD Benchmark contains patterns suitable for the professional calibrator or serious enthusiast who wants a complete suite of test patterns usable with spectroradiometers and colorimeters.

These patterns are tested by real industry professionals, multiple times over multiple iterations, before we put them on the disc. These are the same patterns used regularly by the same people who produce your displays, players, and movie content.

-Stacey Spears – Co-Creator, Spears & Munsil

High Dynamic Range (HDR) was designed with the future in mind. Instead of creating a standard based solely on the capabilities of existing displays, the video-standards bodies designed HDR to meet the capabilities of future displays as well. Properly implemented, HDR content remains backwards compatible with today’s technology while making available metadata and picture information that will produce brighter, more dynamic, more colorful images on the displays of tomorrow. For years, content has had to be mastered for the lowest-common-denominator displays, not the newest and most capable consumer displays, which have long been capable of producing a brighter image with wider gamut. The new standards mean that content can be smartly scaled to use the color depth and dynamic range of the display, which means the content you use today will actually look better on tomorrow’s display technologies.

HDR represents a new way of thinking about video. With a completely different approach to transfer functions, or what we used to call ‘gamma,’ and that meant that a bunch of old patterns just plain didn’t work anymore. Video is now encoded for very-high-brightness devices, and then has to be remapped by the display to fit that display’s actual capabilities. Needless to say, every display does it a little differently—now, with the Ultra HD Benchmark, enthusiasts and professionals will be able to get insight into exactly what the display does when it makes those important remapping decisions.

-Don Munsil – Co-Creator, Spears & Munsil  

The Spears & Munsil Ultra HD Benchmark available now from authorized dealers for $59.94.  At the time of writing, the set is being offered at an introductory price of $47.95 from the publisher, MediaLight.

Previous disc NEW 2023 disc

# Files 1,200 files 5,000 files
HDR HDR10 only HDR10, HDR10+
Dolby vision No Yes
Dolby Atmos No Yes
DTS:X No Yes
# discs 1 disk (100 GB) 3-discs (2x100 GB, 1x66GB
Pop-up help No Yes
59.94p test patterns No Yes


About the author:
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Tony is our resident expert for lifestyle and wireless products including soundbars. He does most of the reviews for wireless and streaming loudspeakers and often compares soundbars in round ups and helps us cover the trade shows.

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