What Is Burn-In?

Burn-in, sometimes also referred as permanent image retention, is an effect of an after-image appearing on your plasma or other phosphor-based screen after a still picture is displayed for an extended period of time. The most common type of burn-in is the result of watching 4:3 video with black bars on both sides on a 16:9 screen. Other examples of burn-in may include 2.35:1 movies watched on a 16:9 screen (black bars on top and bottom), non-transparent channel logos, fixed parts of the screen used, for example, for teletext or weather display, video and computer games, logos and menus, or even a paused DVD or DVD title menu.

The burn-in is usually not covered by your TV warranty. Plasma TVs are simply not designed to display fixed images for extended periods of time.

How Does Plasma Burn-In Look Like?

A brand-new plasma TV has its phosphors shining at their brightest:

 

When time passes, your TV phosphors age, and the overall lightness of your display is gradually reduced. This is normal wear. In fact, plasma manufacturers put numbers, such as 50,000 hours, to indicate the panel's "half life", meaning that after that number of hours your panel will emit 50% of its initial brightness. A used, but not affected with an after-image display is shown here:

 

Now, what happens if the TV is used to watch 4:3 standard definition broadcasts with black bars on sides most of the time? Those black bars will cause uneven aging of your TV's phosphors, with less lighted pixels aging less than those that were lighted.

4:3 broadcast may cause the following type of burn-in (notice how the black side bars are retained as brighter spots on the display). This is one of the common types of burn-in:

On the contrary, if you only watch 2.35:1 movies on your TV, and almost never fill the entire screen, this type of burn-in may occur, though this is quite rare:

 

Just imagine a possible combination of the two:

 

In many cases, watching a single broadcast with a non-transparent channel logo or pausing a DVD screen for a long time may cause an after-image that looks like this:

 

This is a bit of an extreme, but not quite unusual for some plasma users who do not follow a set of rules that help preventing plasma burn-in.

Why Do Plasma Displays Experience Burn-In?

Not only plasmas are susceptible to burn-in effect. Just about any phosphor-based screen, whether plasma, tube rear-projection (but not the modern LCD, LCoS or DLP based rear-projection screens), and even CRT TVs may be affected. Burn-in occurs because of uneven wear of phosphors in your display. The least lighted parts of your screen will emit more light than those parts that were displaying a bright image, thus leaving a visible after-image.

How Many Plasma Users Experience Burn-In?

In fact, not many. Recent technologies make modern plasma displays much more resistant to permanent image retention. A research sponsored by Pioneer Electronics demonstrates that leaving a static image for 48 hours did cause a clearly visible image retention on all three of their test plasmas, but running a movie loop for 24 hours removed all signs of the after-image.

However, it is still possible to burn a plasma if it is used to display static images, such as black side bars, for extended periods of time without varying viewing material. Channel or computer game logos are also likely lo leave an after-image.

PlasmaSaver DVD helps to prevent permanent image retention by running your plasma in full-screen mode in an infinite loop. It can be also used to wash out any signs of temporary image retention caused by the prolonged display of static images.

 

How Do I Prevent Burn-In?

It is rather simple to prevent the burn-in effect from occurring to your plasma.

  1. Calibrate your display. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this step. Most TVs come from the store with their brightness and contrast set way too high in order to show good in the display room. Get yourself AVIA or DVE (Digital Video Essentials) DVD, and you'll have a nicely calibrated set in less than 15 minutes.
  2. Do not watch any 4:3 or 2.35:1 content during the first 100 hours of use. Most damage is done to the brand-new plasmas by inexperienced users. Plasmas are most susceptible to burn-in during the first 100 hours, and much more burn-in resistant after 1000 hours of use.
  3. Restrict non-full-screen programming to 20% until 1000 hours. Plasma manufacturers also recommend limiting viewing of 4:3 or 2.35:1 programming to about 20% of overall viewing time after the first 100 hours and until 1000 hours. After that, your plasma is much less likely to take burn-in. Try watching 4:3 content in "stretched" or "fair" ("just") mode that fills the entire screen.
  4. While your plasma is new, turn down the contrast (sometimes called "picture", which refers to white level, or the brightness of light areas of the picture). A new plasma TV is much more likely to take damage from displaying static elements such as logos or teletext. Reducing overall contrast (this controls white levels, and is called "picture" on some displays) helps reducing the possibility of those static elements to burn in.
  5. Switch channels to avoid logo burn-in. Avoid extended viewing of broadcasts with non-transparent logos or where the screen is divided into fixed parts (such as teletext or weather reports) all the time. These logos or teletext lines may imprint into your plasma, causing burn-in.
  6. Use grey bars instead of black. Some plasma displays allow using color bars instead of black for 4:3 programming. This may greatly reduce the burn-in effect.
  7. Enable pixel shifting. Many plasmas offer pixel shifting, otherwise referred as "wobulation" technique, in order to reduce the effect of burn-in. Enabling this feature may decrease the effect of burn-in by "smoothing" the borders between bright and dark parts of the image. This feature alone will not prevent your display from burning in, however, because larger dark and bright parts of the screen will mostly remain where they are, thus causing an after-image with slightly blurred borders.
  8. If your DVD player has a screen saver and auto-shutdown feature, turn it on. This helps a great deal saving you from burn-in resulting from paused movies (screen saver) or disk menus (auto-off).
  9. If seeing early signs of image retention, run a screen saver on your plasma. New plasmas are likely to display non-permanent image retention after displaying a still image or a still element, such as a logo. Chances are great that this effect will disappear by itself after you watch a different channel (remember using full-screen "stretch" mode) for some time, or if you engage a special burn-in reduction screen saver, if your plasma has it. Please refer to your plasma documentation to find if your TV has a screen saver. Many plasmas don't have it.

Seems complicated? It is not! Here's the list once again:

While your plasma is new:

  1. Reduce contrast
  2. Avoid content that does not fill entire screen (leaves black bars) for the first 1000 hours
  3. Switch channels from time to time
  4. If seeing any signs of image retention, run a screen saver on your plasma

Always:

  1. Use grey bars instead of black
  2. On your plasma, keep pixel shifting enabled
  3. On your DVD player, keep screen saver and auto-shutdown enabled
  4. Calibrate your display to avoid unnecessary high brightness and contrast levels

What If I Already Have Burn-In? Is There Any Way To Remove It?

The answer is: it depends. In most cases, it is possible to at least reduce visibility of an after-image by either using the PlasmaSaver DVD, running your plasma built-in screen saver, or by simply displaying some full screen programming on your TV for an extended period of time. (Make sure that this programming does not have any logos, black bars, or other static elements that could imprint into your display instead of "fixing" an after-image).

What exactly is an "extended" period? It is hard to answer due to great differences between the phosphors used in various plasma panels. I would assume this to be at least 4 times the period an image or programming that caused burn-in was displayed. So, for example, if you watched a news channel with a non-transparent logo for a month, two hours a day, and this logo left an after-image on your display, I would recommend running the screen saver for at least 30x2x4=240 hours.

If, however, your after-image is a typical result of neglecting the right handling of 4:3 or 2.35:1 content, the after-image may be greatly reduced by displaying the inverse (negative) pattern. My PlasmaSaver DVD has a set of inverse patterns combined with "white noise", or "video snow" effect in the proportion of 10 (inverse pattern) : 50 (snow) : 5 (blank white screen to check for burn-in visibility), repeated automatically.

These two types of burn-in may be reduced or even removed completely by using specially designed inverse patterns of the PlasmaSaver DVD:

By using the generic white noise ("snow") pattern, PlasmaSaver DVD may also reduce all other types of burn-in:

PlasmaSaver DVD may also reduce all other types of burn-in by applying the regular white noise ("snow") screen saver continuously. If your plasma TV has a built-in screen saver, and your after-image is not of a type shown on the above two pictures, you don't need this DVD. If, however, your plasma does not have an internal screen saver, I highly recommend using the pre-recorded "snow" from PlasmaSaver DVD.

Can You Guarantee That PlasmaSaver DVD Will Remove Burn-In From My Plasma?

Unfortunately, it is impossible to guarantee that your particular case of burn-in can be "cured" completely or even partially. It depends on too many parameters beyond my control, such as how many hours your plasma was used before an after-image appeared; what phosphors are used in your plasma (newer models are much less susceptible to the problem); how long the static image was displayed on your plasma, and so on.

Is PlasmaSaver DVD Safe To Use?

Patterns on PlasmaSaver DVD were engineered with the idea of "no further harm". Its basic pattern is "white noise", or "video snow", which distributes light evenly on the entire screen of your display, and, thus, helps its phosphors age evenly. Advanced patterns (inverse 4:3 and inverse 2.35:1) have several key elements that are designed to protect your display from further problems.

First, there is no sharp border between the white and black parts of the image; therefore, even in the worst case scenario, there will be no sharp imprint.

Second, and most important, is the fact that the inverse image patterns are only displayed for about 15% of the time, making it less likely to imprint the inverse pattern on the screen, and form a negative after-image.

Third, the time you can display the inverse pattern is limited. After that, the "white noise" pattern will be displayed infinitely, thus preventing inverse pattern imprinting, or the PlasmaSaver DVD menu forming an after-image on your display.

However, you are using the PlasmaSaver DVD on your own risk. I take no responsibility whatsoever for the negative impact it may have on your display. Use PlasmaSaver DVD only if you completely understand the process, and take full responsibility of what could happen to your display. If used improperly, PlasmaSaver DVD may cause irreparable harm to your plasma TV, which will not be covered by your warranty.

If you understand and agree to the above terms, you may proceed to the order page to obtain your copy.