One of the most important things you need to do when playing Rock Band is calibrate the game to your home theater system. Most flat screen TV's and some audio systems introduce latency between when a signal is received vs when it is displayed. If you don't account for this behavior by calibrating the game, your timing will be thrown off in subtle ways. If you are playing with an electronic drum kit, I have to assume you're taking everything seriously and want to play the game right.
The key to this calibration vs other methods (and hence why I call it "reliable") is that it involves the use of a webcam to properly set the first calibration step, which completely eliminates human error from the equation. No more guessing involved.
Adjust Audio/Video Sync
1. From the Rock Band main menu, pick Options/Calibrate System.
2. Select the "Manually Set" option.
3. You should be on the "Adjust Audio/Video Sync" screen. Take your best shot at lining up the target with the click per the instructions on the screen, but don't leave the screen once you finish.
4. Now, point your webcam at the screen and record the screen + the audio for a few seconds. I used the QuickCam application bundled with my Logitech QuickCam.
5. Open Windows Movie Maker (I'm using the Vista version).
6. Drag the recording into Windows Movie Maker.
7. Now drag the clip to the video timeline at the bottom
8. Expand the video track by clicking the plus box on the left of the track so you can "see" the associated audio track.
9. Zoom in as far as you can using the Page Down key so that you can see the blips of sound generated by the calibration process.
10. Use the frame step buttons ("J" and "L") to move the position indicator just after one of the calibration sound blips.
11. Next, use the frame step buttons ("J" and "L") to move the position indicator to the first frame where the target turns white that is closest to the calibration sound blip you are working with.
12. The goal is for you to adjust the A/V offset such that the first frame where the indicator fills with white is also the first frame displayed after the "blip" plays. Based on the differences you see between steps 10 and 11, adjust the A/V offset by moving the target and repeat steps 4-11 until you achieve synchronization, then press OK to go to the Lag Compensation screen.
Voila! You have correctly calibrated this step without any guessing involved.
Oddly, the description on this screen which says "Some TV's introduce a delay that makes playing difficult" appears to have nothing to do with this step whatsoever. What you're trying to do here, as far as I can tell, involves compensating for the lag between your controller and the console.
The step does involve some human error, but it's fairly easy to check the results of this step now since the previous calibration step we executed using the webcam is guaranteed to be accurate.
1. At the Lag Compensation screen, select the Calibrate option.
2. Follow the calibration screen instructions and strum or hit your drum pad to the clicks of the notes. Two things here are important. First of all, close your eyes and do not look at the screen while you perform this step. Harmonix should never have put the moving note and target into the calibration screen here as it misleads people into looking at the screen and not playing to the calibration blips. Second, be sure to use the same method of playing that you are using to calibrate. For example, don't calibrate this step by using the buttons on the drum controller if you're going to be playing by hitting the drum pads.
3. You will receive a result which should be positive…something like 30 ms, in my case, with my drum kit. If you have a negative number, you really screwed up as that would mean your inputs are arriving at the console before you enter them.
4. Feel free to repeat step 2 a few times to double check your results or to get a better average setting. You may want to manually set your offset after checking your calibration a few times.
5. Go ahead and select continue to save your calibration settings.
6. Now, we're going to test your settings. Go to practice mode and select a song like "I Think I'm Paranoid" or "Dead on Arrival". Choose to repeat the first couple of intro sections and play them at full speed.
7. The goal is to ensure the timing window for each hit is centered around the targets at the bottom of the screen. Let's use the drums as an example. Calibrating with the red drum, first try hitting the red notes exactly with the sound of the drum in the game and verify that the hit happens when the note is completely centered on the target. Next, try hitting the note earlier and earlier relative to when the note arrives at the target. The hits should start to "fail" when you strike barely before the note gem touches the target. Now, try to hit the note later and later. Again, the hits should start failing when you strike and the note gem has barely left the target. If the hit window is not centered as I've described, then go back and adjust the Lag Compensation settings manually to shift the hit window in the proper direction (leave the A/V offset as is).
That's basically it. Right now I consider this method to be foolproof. It may feel a little weird at first as I had trained myself to play the game and was unconsciously compensating for the game's improper calibration. But now I'm able to hit notes on target with the music and it "feels" right. Better yet, the hits line up with the chart on the screen.
Hope this helps everyone! Happy plastic rocking!