How to lighten up dark movies on your iMac or projector.


I noticed when watching movies on my 27 inch iMac that they are too dark especially in dark scenes. What I mean is that there are a lot of details in the blacks missing compared to watching on a normal DVD player.  I’ve also noticed the same thing when watching a movie on a projector  hooked up to my macbook air. Turning the contrast or brightness up doesn’t work as it just washes out the blacks. Here’s the cause of this frustrating problem and how to fix it!

Firstly, here’s how to fix it…

1. Open System Preferences Menu and go to ‘Displays’


2. In the Displays Panel for your Projector select the ‘Color’ tab.

Color tab

3. Unselect the ‘Show profiles for this display on this display only’ then select one of the new profiles that appear. Try sRGB IEC1966-2.1 or  Adobe RGB(1996). See if that brightens up the movie on the projector.



4. If that doesn’t work or if you want more improvement, press the ‘Calibrate’ Button.



5. Now check the box that says ‘Expert Mode’.

Expert Mode

(Note: new versions of OS X have hidden this checkbox. Click here to find how to access it.)


6. Now press ‘Continue’ 6 times till you get to this screen that adjusts the Gamma setting:

Move the Gamma setting to the left. Go towards 1 to get your video lighter.
Move the Gamma setting to the left. Go towards 1 to get your video lighter.


Now, what’s the cause?

I’m not completely sure how Gamma works, it’s related to the way we perceive light levels and the way that increments in light intensity are is spread out at different light levels. You can read about it here on wikipedia and Apple have an article here.

The short story is that changing the Gamma setting to the left seems to help with brightening up a movie on a projector. But it looks very washed out to use this Gamma setting for everything.

So I’d suggest saving two settings, then switching the display when you want to watch a movie or use a projector.




19 responses to “How to lighten up dark movies on your iMac or projector.”

  1. Jacki Powell

    First, thank you for posting so much useful info. about the Mac. I just found your site tonite searching through forums for an answer to this big problem I have.

    I have searched this site, but have not figured out how to post a question. So I am just doing a reply and I hope you read it. In your post above, you wrote, ” our macbook air that’s hooked up to a projector plays movies”. How did you get it to work becasue my problem is, my MacBook Air – I have it attached to my Epson projector. When I try to play a movie (using the DVD player), the movie will not project. The screen projects and where the movie should be is a white box. I have MacBook Air and projecter connected with the USB cable instead of the VGA cable. Any help you would give would be appreciated. I plan to show a movie tomorrow night at church to my youth class using this set-up and really need to get it to working.
    Thank you, God Bless,

    1. Try VLC.
      Try turning on mirroring.
      I’d try a VGA or DVI cable instead of USB.

      1. jacob perreault

        ty vlc works

  2. fintop

    Hi Guys,
    This worked perfectly on my roommates mac, is there a comparable setting for PC?

    1. fintop

      * a similar setting to the rgb1996?

  3. Taromuse

    Thanks so much. I’m going t try it and see if it works. Really appreciate the concise well-presented info.

  4. SRJ

    Cannot believe it’s taken me this long to track down this advice – this has made a huge difference to my TV display and I can now watch things from my Mac where I can actually see people’s faces! Thank you so very much, you’ve made my Christmas :-)

    1. I agree – this makes a huge difference, it’s something Apple should include as standard – a setting within iTunes perhaps…

  5. Liz

    Wow – after so long of being frustrated and googling different ways to lighten the movies on my MacBook screen, I am so glad I found this!! I found my perfect “target gamma” is about 1.4. This needs to be on the apple forums or even just an actual special setting on the OS X Displays menu that comes as a standard option. THANK YOU!!

  6. Anthony

    doesn’t work… makes it lighter, but still can’t see anything

  7. Anthony

    figured it out… try:


  8. cififit

    done everything that u all said but still getting to dark / grey screen s even tried on my tv still noting helps

  9. Adam Orth

    Super useful post. Thank you.

  10. TeacherInChina

    Thank you! I’ve been trying to play videos for my high school esl classes in China and sometimes they are frustratingly dark. Helpful and concise info, thanks!

  11. Maria

    Thanks for this post. At first I couldn’t get this to work. Then I read another post and realised I was calibrating my laptop screen not the projector (you can check this in the display and then the drop down menu ‘optimise for’). I turned everything off and on again and then actually found a colour profile specifically for my projector brand. Once I selected this, the colours on the projection lightened up.

  12. JFairweather

    This does not fix the problem with iTunes – that is something that only Apple can fix. Users should be aware that adjusting monitor brightness in the way suggested affects everything, so if people are doing any color corrections, this will affect their perception of color and brightness so that the photos will be overly bright when viewed on other systems.

    The best thing to do is to run two calibrations – the first will be an accurate one (as accurate as the perception-based calibrator can be, which is not perfect.). Save this, giving it a meaningful name. Now run a second calibration, adjusting the settings to make things overly bright. Save it with a name that reflects this – “iMovie Bright” or some such thing. When you want to watch a movie, switch the cailbration setting to “iMovie Brifght” (or whatever you named it). When you’re finished with the movie, switch back to the proper calibration.

    1. This is good advice – to run two calibrations. This is in fact what I do. Thanks.

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  14. Nigel Cox

    This is great, thank you! It’s been driving me crazy, and now it’s fixed! Also thanks for the link to the tip about the “expert” box. Now… do you have any ideas for calibrating a Samsung 32″ curved monitor…? haha

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