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Undercooking the wings, running out of ice, not being properly hammered for the halftime show—there are plenty of ways to botch your Super Bowl party. Don't let mediocre TV picture quality be one of them. If you have a modern high definition set, a few quick adjustments could turn what you're currently watching—enormous blobs in matching shirts chasing smaller ovoid blob—into a football game. Fiddle with your settings before the game starts to avoid irritating your guests, or, better yet, for specific hacks, plus an unbeatable nacho recipe from Hill Country Barbecue Market pitmaster Ash Fulk.
1. Choose Sports Mode. Duh.
Unless you're some sort of electronics wizard, chances are your TV knows more about picture quality than you do, so let it do the work. Under picture settings, choose "Sports Mode." It might be called something else like "Vivid" or "Dynamic." This will automatically adjust how the screen handles colors, contrast, brightness, and frame refresh rate. Colors will pop and motion will look smoother, so you'll catch the details of every catch.
2. Get Rid of Glare, but Don't Watch in the Dark
Light from windows and lamps can reflect off the screen, diminishing dark colors and detail, but trying to watch a bright game in a dark room is not the solution. Darkness will dilate your pupils, tiring your eyes when they're focused on bright, quick-moving pixel-people. Positioning your lamps behind the TV will solve both problems.
3. Lean In
Most people sit too far from their TV to distinguish between 1080p and 720p. You don't need to be so close that your breath fogs up the screen, but in general the closer you are, the more immersed you'll be. This can be tricky if you're hosting a crowd, so do some planning and furniture arranging beforehand. There is a science to finding the perfect distance from your screen that has to do with something called "angular resolution," your eye's ability to recognize small details of an object. There's that can crunch the numbers for you. Also remember that you want your TV to be about level with your eyes when you're sitting, even though this means it will look a little too low when you're standing.
4. Ride the Dials
After you set your picture mode, you might still want to adjust settings until you're completely satisfied. To set contrast, put on something with images that are bright but have detail, like shots of clouds in the sky. Turn the contrast up until the bright images are washed out, then turn it back down until you can see details clearly.
If your sharpness isn't already turned off, for the sake of everyone in your living room, turn it off or set it really low. This is a somewhat outdated setting, and cranking it up too high will create jagged outlines on dark images and destroy fine details.
Brightness can be hard to get right, but since you'll likely have the lights turned on when watching the game, you'll want to set your brightness closer to the high end, so that the screen can compete with ambient light.
5. Don't Be a Sucker for Overpriced HDMI Cables
If you haven't already heard, pretty much every high-speed HDMI cable performs at about the same quality. Don't pay a hundred dollars for a gold-plated, diamond-encrusted connecter when you can get the same image quality for five bucks.