Video sharpness is one of those settings that has been present on televisions dating back to the early analog days. While it may be one of the most useful settings for fine-tuning the image to your liking, it is often overlooked and ignored by many users. So, what is video sharpness on a television? How does this setting help (or hurt) the video’s image quality?
In short, the level of video sharpness is directly linked to the perceived focus of the video itself. A higher sharpness setting will create what appears to be a black line around various objects, making the distinction between one element and another more defined. If you’re watching something that appears slightly out of focus when it shouldn’t be, and this seems consistent across several different channels, you could have your sharpness settings tuned a bit too low.
If you’re watching noisy video, or video that has some signal distortion, increasing the sharpness can accent that distortion and make it more obvious. Sharpness consists of resolution and acutance, and if the signal you’re trying to sharpen doesn’t have the right amount of resolution, the results can be limited.
Some movies and/or videos intentionally overdo the sharpness, along with contrast, in order to set a visual mood for the view. Artistic pieces, war films, and various other projects routinely scale up sharpness levels in order to give the video an offsetting look. A quick sharpness increase can give a cheap visual representation of someone being electrocuted, demonically possessed, or add a sense of deep drama to a dark moment in the protagonist’s life.
An increase in sharpness can also aid you during video game playing, making various elements of the gaming environment easier to pick out. In first-person shooter games especially, high sharpness levels can make it easier to pick out an enemy hiding in tall grass or a window.
Over all, the sharpness setting has to be well balanced to give the viewer the visual experience intended by the director. If something doesn’t look right on more than one channel on your television, and adjusting the contrast and/or brightness doesn’t resolve it, you may want to take a look at sharpness as a possible culprit.