I just spoke with a few of the people from THX involved in the development of the specification for the firm's new Display Certification, featured on the Panasonic TH-PZ800U and LG PG60 series plasma TVs, and when I asked them whether they'd be letting some of their test material and methods trickle down into disc form, they said "yes." According to THX's reps, the Blu-ray disc would be an expanded version of the THX Optimizer found on select DVDs, and would feature test material aimed at a less-technical audience than the only other full-fledged Blu-ray test disc available now, Joe Kane's Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics, which is used extensively in CNET's own HDTV testing. THX didn't say when its disc would be available or for how much.
The THX Display Certification featured on the Panasonic and LG HDTVs is similar to the company's audio certification in that it consists of a series of minimum specifications that each display must meet to earn the certification, claim it in in-store displays, and bear the requisite logos. THX's engineers said that those specs cover contrast ratio, color gamut based on the HDTV standard, uniformity, viewing angle, gamma, and still picture resolution (as of this year, motion resolution is not part of the spec, although the company is considering adding it for the next product cycle). When I asked exactly what spec the displays must meet, say a certain ANSI contrast ratio for example, the engineers would not elaborate, claiming that the exact spec was their "secret sauce" and that publishing it might encourage some manufacturers to claim compliance without actually going through the testing (and, presumably, paying THX for the privilege). I was also curious why the Panasonic 800U series received the certification while the more expensive, flagship 850U series did not, but the company again wouldn't elaborate.
We have a TH-50PZ800U in-house (review posting next week), and indeed it bears that magic three letter abbreviation as one of its picture presets. Part of the certification specifies that the display must have a mode that engages THX-approved picture settings, although in the case of the Panasonic a user can tweak the THX preset (which can naturally be reset afterward back to its default position). As part of our review, we'll be sure to let you know how that mode looks compared with our standard calibration.
LG, for its part, will offer the THX Movie Mode as part of its Cinema preset, according to the press release. Aside from these two series of plasma TVs, the only other displays to receive THX certification were high-end plasmas and projectors from Runco and Vidikron, as well as a 65-inch Sharp LCD available only in Japan. No other mainstream THX certified displays have been confirmed yet, although we wouldn't rule out more appearing before the end of the year, particularly higher-end models that are typically announced mid- to late-summer in time for the holiday buying season.