TV pictures way too dark

This is just a plain out and out rant.

I’m finding more and more that I have to wait until night to be able to even try and watch some series. They are shot so dark that unless the ambient light is lower that it would be in a grading suite the whole thing turns into a radio show.

I think that there are a couple of issues at play here, first people, and that’s DP’s as well as directors, not understanding that an image doesn’t actually have to be dark to convey a feeling of darkness. In fact judicious use of bright area makes other parts look darker.
The other issue is highlights that are too bright, or areas of a shot that are too bright and that not only make dark areas look darker but also draw your attention away from the main interest of the scene.

I think, and I’m stressing that this is a personal opinion, that there is a huge amount of outright incompetence out there at the moment. People who really don’t understand how to use images to tell a story. People who should not be in charge of a camera.

Yes I do have a home with white walls and light grey floors and white seating and lots of windows but even at night with curtains drawn the image is too dark to see WTF is happening on screen.
Once we get HDR I’m going to have to paint the walls black change the floor and the furnishings, black the windows out totally and wear a burka to make sure that no light kicks back off my white face!

Guys, use a domestic set to check your grading and turn the f’ing lights up when you do, go out and watch it on a TV not a monitor in reception.

Ah, that feels better!

Oh and finally, I do have all the kit to set my screens up properly but I find more and more that I can’t use the “correct” setting on my home TV, I have to use a mode like Vivid! to see anything.

Get a grip!

4 Replies to “TV pictures way too dark”

  1. Part of it is the contemporary style, which strives deliberately to confuse the audience. This is the primary reason I became a filmmaker – I couldn’t find anything I wanted to watch. But you are probably right about simple incompetence. I often wondered if I were the only person who choked on a big bright area in the background, distracting me from what the characters in the shot were doing.

  2. And I would add that there’s currently a trend – enabled by newer better cameras and small budhets (!) – to light as minimally as possible. Well, that’s fine if you’re really sure some practical light won’t appear massively over exposed, or the blocking won’t change, but too often it does. And, as a DP, once you’ve set your stall out on a fast turnaround scene (ie/ all scenes) with no big lights at your disposal, your knackered if your minimal plan goes to pot. And finally, the trend for a “washed out” feel works well (if you like that sort of thing) in high or normal contrast daytime scenarios .. but can look shite when it’s flat and dark for night scenes. What do tou choose then – flat and dark or flat and light – probably the former! I share your pain Geoff.

  3. It’s not just the night scenes that are dark, there are some shows where the day scenes are dark also…

    I think that maybe this has to do with grading on OLED monitors in a very dark room. These shows seem to look ok at home on my plasma when it’s very dark in the room. But, over time, these shows start to feel “heavy” to watch. The last season of “Bloodlines” comes to mind here. Some dark scenes are ok, but guys, break it up once in a while!

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