Want to really soak up all those synthy 80s vibes? Tweak your TV settings
By clicking one of our links you're supporting our labs and our independence, as we may earn a small share of revenue. Recommendations are separate from any business incentives.
Recently, twin TV dynamos the Duffer Brothers—creators of the Netflix smash-hit Stranger Things—triggered the victoriously pumping fist of "that one AV guy" everyone knows by speaking out against the state of most people's favorite living room screen. It's a sad truth—your TV more than likely looks real bad.
According to Josiah Hughes at exclaim, the brothers have spent oodles of effort perfecting the homage-to-80s retro look of their spectacularly synthful TV show, and they really want you to be able to appreciate it all. Like them, I tweak my family's TV whenever I visit, only to find it back in hot mess mode whenever I leave the room for 30 seconds. (I also compose synth music—be my friends, Duffer Brothers?)
While the Super Duff Bros. rightfully suggest "turning off anything that says motion," that's just the tip of the iceberg. Promoting your TV from court jester to crown prince is actually pretty easy to do: here's a step-by-step guide even a Demogorgon could follow, so push your glasses up your nose and get to work.
No matter which TV you have, and no matter how archaic the menu system is, there's always going to be a place to tweak the picture settings. Using your remote, just hit the button that says "menu," "settings," or maybe it looks like a little gear, we're not judging. Find the TV picture settings menu(s), where you'll be able to tweak things like picture mode, brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness.
Changing your TV's picture mode is the quickest, easiest way to get things ship-shape and Duffer-approved. Most TVs only have a handful of picture modes:
• Standard/Natural/Energy Saver
Basically, TVs come with three flavors of picture modes. The "vivid" modes are meant to make them look good in stores. The "natural" modes are meant to help them pass EnergyStar power draw requirements. The "movie" modes are meant to look the most accurate in a home environment. Can you guess which one you should go with?
The best thing about Movie mode is it does a lot of the legwork for you. It'll turn off the "motion" stuff usually, but also remove a lot of the excess processing junk. However, you might not like that it's dimmer/warmer/less colorful than whatever mode your TV is in now (don't lie, I know you're using Vivid mode). If that's the case, use the mode you like best, just make sure you still do the following steps.
Most of the time Movie mode will set the "sharpness" control to zero. However, if it doesn't (or if you're using a different mode) you'll have to go do it yourself. This is super simple. Just bring sharpness to "0." Note that some TVs have "0" in the middle and go into the negatives. In this case, just leave it at 0, don't go into the negatives.
Most modern and even some not-so-modern TVs have a lot of "automatic" settings. Things like "dynamic contrast" or "automatic brightness" sound good on paper, but in practice they often obscure picture details or adjust too coarsely during viewing and become distracting. Good rule of thumb here: if you aren't sure what an "extra" picture enhancement option is doing, just turn it off.
While different types of content may require different levels of motion process or frame interpolation (the thing the Duffer Bros. are miffed about), nothing you watch on Netflix (including Stranger Things) is going to need any kind of motion smoothing, film mode, or any other similar-sounding junk. Like the brothers have advised, just turn it all off (though you can leave "film mode" on auto if you so desire).
While you're turning all this stuff off inside your TV, you can also help the overall picture quality by moving or turning down bright ambient lights that reflect in the screen. Shut the blinds, draw the shades, flip a lightswitch—your living room doesn't have to be a cave, but no matter what you're watching, it's going to look better if it isn't competing with other sources of light. TVs are just fancy lamps, after all.