@ I982 The Anstendig Institute

The low technical quality of television in our country has been deplorable for so long, and the public has become so used to it, that practically no one feels that anything can be done about it. While the technical system used in America, compared to that of Europe, is inferior and limited in the quality of picture it can achieve, it is capable of far better results than most people put up with. Those people would want better results if they realized that bad quality TV has an adverse effect on them. It is well known that any type of eyestrain can cause many physical problems, such as headaches and exhaustion, that can be quite disabling. But other less obviously noticeable effects of eyestrain can cause a large array of unpleasant conditions that can degrade one's sense of well-being, or even make one ill. Irregularities of rhythm, which can be mechanical (flicker, for example) or in the program itself (rhythmically badly played music, erratic speech patterns of a nervous actor or announcer, for example), also affect us by imposing themselves on, and determining, our mental rhythms and the rhythms of our body.

TV viewing consists of three basic aspects, each of which can be improved:

  1. The Picture Quality

    Since the brightness and contrast of the TV picture interact with the light in the room, the first problem in improving picture quality is to adjust the room lighting. It should be on the soft side and the room should be as evenly lit as possible. Reduce the contrast between the TV and the room lighting by keeping the room lighting just a bit darker than the TV picture. TV viewing in a very dark or very bright room should be avoided for any appreciable length of time or eyestrain will result. Care should be taken that the light source is well out of one's line of vision and that it is not reflected in any way on the screen. Indirect light is generally the most satisfactory type of lighting.

    After the room lighting has been adjusted, the quality of the TV picture and reception should be very critically evaluated. If it is not first-rate, adjust the contrast and brightness controls carefully to the point where the picture has solid blacks, but is not harsh contrast. Do not go beyond that point. Some back-and-forth adjusting of the controls will be necessary. Once the contrast seems right, it is important to adjust the brightness only to the point where the blacks are solid and no longer gray. If you cannot get this to your liking (and you should be very critical), check your antenna. In most cases, having an expert who is familiar with the problems in your area adjust your system is well worth the expense, and usually results in significant improvement, particularly with antenna reception. In cities, especially those with tall buildings, and in distant locations, there are many potential reception problems such as ghost (double) images, overloading, etc., that can be easily eliminated by a trained technician.

    It is a fiction that cable TV quality is better than antenna reception. There are currently just as many technical problems with cable reception, many of them more difficult to solve. After proper adjustment, our institute's antenna reception is better than much cable reception that we have seen.

    Beware of Automatic-Fine-Tuning devices. There are numerous TV sets and video-cassette recorders with malfunctioning AFT devices. After one tunes the set manually, these devices are supposed either to lock into the already adjusted settings and keep them from wandering or to correct the settings if they were not precise. The defective devices do not lock into the most precise setting and actually degrade the image quality if it was well adjusted manually. This is particularly bad in an area with reception problems (ghosts, flicker, etc.). If you have an Automatic-Fine-Tuning switch, first tune the set precisely by hand. Then, while watching closely, have someone else press the AFT button, allowing you to concentrate totally on the screen. Because any auto-readjustment usually happens quite slowly, repeat the procedure to be certain of what is happening. If the colors become more diffused and softer, the fine-tuning is probably malfunctioning. If you have picture noise or other reception problems, you may prefer this more diffused setting, but the proper solution is to have your set adjusted to eliminate the interference. Most of these problems can be easily eliminated. For those with good reception, it would be best to tune the set completely by hand. Most sets with a malfunctioning control, Sony's for instance, can be readjusted to tune precisely for most stations, and owners should ask to have that done. For technical reasons, it is sometimes impossible to adjust the control to handle the first few channels when the AFT functions correctly on the channels from channel 4 on up. But channel 2 is usually so strong that it does not need the Automatic-Fine-Tuning.

  2. The Sound Quality

    In order to realize how powerful a physical effect sound has on us, one need only remember that, without the aid of words or pictures, music can make us laugh or cry, lull us to sleep, make us amorous, shock or calm us, or make it difficult for us to remain still. The sound quality of TV sets is notoriously low, with very little that can be done about it. Recently, TV sets have been brought out with better sound quality and anyone buying a TV should look for one of them. One important way to help oneself, short of buying a new set, is judicious adjustment of the volume: our ears hear the balance of the frequency range differently at different volume levels. At loud volume levels, we are more sensitive to some frequencies, and at low volume levels, we are more sensitive to others. The ideal solution is to have a machine called an equalizer that can alter the balance of the frequencies to each other--a sort of elaborate tone control with which we can adjust the sound in relation to the desired volume level. But few have such a machine and it is seldom possible to hook one to a TV set's own sound system (the audio output on most TV sets could be connected to a hi-fi, in which case one could listen to the sound through the hi-fi system with an equalizer). Most TV sets have some equalization to compensate somewhat for the peculiarities of our hearing, but this obviously cannot compensate for a wide range of volume levels and is chosen for what the manufacturer considers to sound best at the most usual volume levels in an averagely furnished room. There will usually be a particular volume level at which a set will sound best and one should take pains to find out where it is.

    If you like your TV sound loud, you will probably be disappointed: because most people have to keep the volume down, especially in apartments, the sound will probably have been adjusted to seem best at moderate levels. In such a case, one would probably do well to listen at lower levels because, whether one notices it or not, the irritation of unequalized sound causes physical tension and prevents the body from relaxing into the flow of the program. Fine emotional nuances are lost and what is left is coarsened and degraded. It is always safer to keep the volume a little less loud than one might immediately prefer because our hearing is more forgiving at lower volume levels, and we also hear louder as we relax and settle down.

  3. The Quality of the Material Being Broadcast

    The last consideration is the programs themselves. Actors, newscasters, musicians, etc., are, like all the rest of us, essentially machines functioning in various rhythms and projecting various emotional qualities with their attendant rhythms and bodily tensions, which do not necessarily have to be beneficial to us. As an example, if the actors in a show are ill at ease, nervous, or generally uptight, they will put the viewer in the same state. Prime examples of recordings that key one up and make one nervous are some of the late Toscanini recordings: the old man evidently had his moments when he so tyrannized the orchestra that everyone was nervous and afraid of making mistakes. Experiments with playing tapes of such recordings for long periods of time have invariably put the listeners in a very unpleasantly edgy, physically keyed-up state that lasted for quite a while afterwards, and the best way to calm them down was by playing other fine music of a suitable character. There is nothing one can do about this problem except to change channels, but recognizing the problem is difficult because the effects come on slowly. The best way to deal with this is to turn off anything one is not totally comfortable with. We tend to be too forgiving on this score and will leave programs on, even though we are uncomfortable with them, because we don't realize that they have an effect on us. And don't make the mistake of believing that so-called "fine" or high-class programs are any better: Toscanini's performances were considered the finest.

If the public had not been so trusting to begin with and had been less willing to put up with bad quality, we would not be saddled with a second-rate color television system. Perhaps, when the people learn that their whole sense of well-being can be adversely affected by poor quality TV, they will make the necessary effort to get the best out of what they have, and possibly even insist on a better system.*




* An attempt at introducing a new, better TV system is presently being made by Sony Corporation, but it may already be too late, since a better system demands a greater part of the available wavelengths than the old system. Most wavelengths have already been assigned and the remaining usable portion is hotly contested by other potential users. A better system will also show up technical flaws and sloppiness in most presently available film material, much of which is the result of the universal problem that no focusing device currently on the market is accurate. This problem is handled in depth, along with full description of the only focusing device capable of focusing with focal-point-exact accuracy, in other papers of The Anstendig Institute which are available free of charge upon request.






The Anstendig Institute is a non-profit, tax-exempt, research institute that was founded to investigate the vibrational influences in our lives and to pursue research in the fields of sight and sound; to provide material designed to help the public become aware of and understand vibrational influences; to instruct the public in how to improve the quality of those influences in their lives; and to provide the research and explanations that are necessary for an understanding of how we see and hear.