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Lavish praise has been heaped on the masterful employment of 3D and CG imaging in the record-busting film Avatar, but few accolades have been showered on an equally impressive aspect of the movie – its magnificent use of colour.

Watching the DVD release of the James Cameron masterpiece on my desktop PC the other day really underscored the importance of colour rendering. My initial experience on the PC was rather underwhelming. The fluorescent flora and fauna of Pandora just didn’t convey the same mystique and wonder that gripped my full attention upon glimpsing those scenes for the first time at the cinema. I hesitate to describe the colours as drab, but they definitely looked a little flat and lifeless.

So I ended up having to tweak the brightness, contrast, gamma and saturation settings – both through my software video player and my monitor’s on-screen display – to inject a dose of vitality into the images. I managed to achieve a reasonably good picture, but boy, was it a hassle. Especially given that I had to revert to the previous monitor settings after I was done with the movie.

I relayed my experience casually to an ASUS rep (who has, incidentally, bashfully declined to have his name mentioned in this article), and was told that ASUS LCD monitor users would’ve had a better time of it, thanks to an in-built colour engine that ASUS calls Splendid video intelligence technology. Despite having been in existence for a couple of years, the uses of Splendid’s five modes are still relatively little known among consumers – myself included. So I sought further elaboration from Mr. Bashful. This is what I’ve learnt.

Standard Mode is the setting that ASUS recommends for generic document editing and viewing, as well as web surfing and graphics design. Visual comfort is the primary objective of the colour and contrast optimization it performs.

Scenery Mode, as the name suggests, is tailored for films that feature lots of scenery. Scenery Mode enhances the colour, contrast and sharpness of images; as a result, lawns look greener, skies bluer and ripples in lakes crisper and more detailed. If you have access to TV programmes on your computer, this setting would likely do wonders for nature documentaries (think channels such as Discovery and Animal Planet). I imagine this setting would’ve worked well for Avatar too, with its portrayal of Pandora’s lush greenery and spectacular ‘skyscapes’.

Theatre Mode is designed for generic movies, with its focus placed on delivering livelier and vivid visuals. Apart from colour, contrast and sharpness adjustments, particular attention is paid to human skin tones. With Theatre Mode activated, skin tones are rendered with more accuracy, thus leading to – I quote – “healthier-looking” human subjects.

Night View Mode is recommended for movies and games which spend a lot of the time steeped in darkness (Pitch Black comes to mind). What it does is adaptively bring up dark areas without over-compensating for well-lit ones, allowing you to discern details that would otherwise have been cloaked in darkness.

Game Mode is similar to Night View Mode in that it improves visibility in dark scenes, but stronger colour enhancement is applied to give the games more visual ‘pop’.

ASUS' depiction of the effects that Scenery Mode (left) and Game Mode (right) have on movies and games.

I’ll post pictures of Splendid in action once I have the opportunity to witness it for myself. Stay tuned!

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