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Old April 29th, 2003, 01:30 PM   #1
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I have rather an ambiguous question but here goes.

I watch tv, some people do, and i watch a lot of footage from the UK and so on that i know originated from video. But there is a difference in footage i always notice on television from my footage. Now i understand the differences in quality from the professional equipment to consumer equipment, but that is not quite it.

All the footage i watch almost seems to have a vale of black over it. This is not my tv, or tv specific, it is the way the footage looks, and no i am not talking about soap operas.
Let me take a step back for a second.

The footage i shoot looks very good, i am not refuting that, i use a pd150 PAL, but it also seems to almost jump out at me, this is not a framerate or interlace or film look thing at all i am referring too. It is almost like somebody has lifted something off the tv.

The televsion i watch almost always seems to have this great look where a low level of almost darkness (but not reducing brightness) is passed over it, and the entire image smooths itself out and gains a far more catchy quality. This is all shows from a game show, current affairs, and down to a drama.

Is there something they are doing down there during productions i don't know about, is this a look that is a standard thing all tv stations do, do they pass it through some kind of filter?

Or is there like this standard lens filter almost all pro's use for everything that i don't know about. Or am i just dreaming and it really is just their more expensive equipment does give that more smoothed off dreamy quality, and distances itself out.

This look as i say again is not from the tv i am using, or the signal i am getting, i have seen it on every tv, from a direct digital feed down.

I can say when i watch public television like i used to work on, that look is no where near as apparent, and really attributes to that feeling i am watching public televsion. So i am suspicious it really is just the nicer equipment.

Anyways i have rambled on a bit, if anyone could tell me how they achieve this, or if there is a way to achieve this look, and i don't mean like softer soap opera look, just this vale they seem to have that makes the image so much more appealing please chime in.

Zac
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Old April 29th, 2003, 05:29 PM   #2
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I don't quite know if this is what you are refering to but at lot of UK TV seems to be given a 'film effect'.

Everything from soaps to drama, documentary to comedy are treated in this way (usually some kind of de-interlace and film effect spark/plugin). BBC seem to do a lot of this at Framestore (http://www.framestore-cfc.com). If you look at the one of the BBC League of Gentleman DVDs (cult bbc comedy series) there is an example of the 'before and after'.

Incidentially, I remember BBC drama doing their first tests with mini DV a few years ago. This was to establish if the format was a going to be viable. BBC Birmingham sent a crew off to north wales to shoot a test drama - it looked ok....but never got screened. This was well before the days of attempting to make it look like film, I think it was more a case of cost saving.

hope this helps


simon
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Old May 1st, 2003, 12:31 PM   #3
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Don't forgot that the signal travels to a lot (you woulnd' believe
how much sometimes!) of points before it arrives at your TV. I've
seen transmissions that had been MPEG2 compressed 3 times
before it reached my set. All these things can create a lot of
trouble with the images. Also you might check out your connection
(it might be faulty) if this happens with all the TV channels (it
doesn't even have to be because some channels are on different
frequences that might have more trouble from electronic
influences than others)...

Just some thoughts..
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Old May 1st, 2003, 02:54 PM   #4
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Rob,

Rather than suggesting there was some kind of fault, I was under the impression that Zac preferred the broadcast image and was asking (in a round about kind of way) how to achieve this. . . . . .but I might be wrong.


si
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Old May 1st, 2003, 03:07 PM   #5
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Well if he liked the image than it might be even more interesting
to try and find this "fault" now wouldn't it?
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Old May 1st, 2003, 04:09 PM   #6
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No.

It would be more interesting to wait to see if Zac has any further comments.

simon
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Old May 1st, 2003, 04:48 PM   #7
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This is a really interesting topic that I didn't really pay a lot of attention to until Zack pointed it out.

It's true that network tv broadcast seem to have a higher black level (or some other type of tweaking) that gives them more of a blackened image.

I know that for broadcast the signals get manipulated and tweaked through a whole lot of different computers before they hit air.

Broadcast cameras and full size cameras have a lot more control over their picture than consumer gear but I really think that the 'look' is achieved by the signal being processed and manipulated from the broadcast station.

I'm totally shooting off the hip on this but it is something that I'd like to add to my own video productions so if anyone tools with getting this look and finds they have the answer that would be great to know.

Ben Lynn
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Old May 1st, 2003, 09:26 PM   #8
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NTSC video has a black level of 7.5 IRE. This level is adjusted and maintained by all major broadcasters and points of origination. Small cable companies etc. probably do not have quite as precise a control as major broadcasters. This same requirement is not true for material intended for web, DVD, VHS etc. Many times they use a black level of 0 IRE (sometimes referred to as super black). Super black is not legal for broadcast.

Many modern TV sets have a black level compensation or auto color controls that manipulates the image. Go to the menu and turn off all the auto controls etc. The image may look much different with the auto levels turned off. Adjusting the contrast or black level (depending on the set) will have much the same effect.
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Old May 1st, 2003, 10:29 PM   #9
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There's an interesting website at http://members.accessus.net/~090/awh/how2adj.html that digs deep into the whole topic of tweaking your TV. Especially interesting are the "secret codes" you enter through the remote to put a TV in service mode (yes, it really did work on my Sony's)...

The PD-150 and PDX-10 have a menu item for the setup (black) level which allows you to choose 0 or 7.5 IRE. Actually the default is 0 on this camera. and I gather this is true on all DV cameras. Adam Wilt did an article on this whole topic in DV Magazine awhile ago "We've been Set Up!" http://dv.com/features/features_item...equestid=38495. He explains:

-------------------------------
"When NTSC was devised, TVs weren't very sophisticated. DC clamping (black level control) was poor, and there was no retrace suppression to turn off the scanning electron beam while it swept back up the screen between fields. If the TV's black level crept up due to maladjustment or fluctuation in average picture level, the 0 IRE retrace became visible as a series of diagonal lines across the image. The 7.5 IRE pedestal provided padding between the blackest black and the level of the retracing electron beam, making it less likely that the retrace would be visible."
----------------------------------

The article goes on to say that NTSC is the only system using a non zero value for setup. He further says that setup is something which would normally be added during playback/dubbing on a VCR and in fact DV recording doesn't even retain a value for the black level. When you choose 7.5 from the PD-150's menu you're turning your blacks into gray, possibly creating various problems. Interesting article. He concludes:

---------------------------------------------
"But if you want your digital data to conform to the same standards everyone else is using, intercut properly with other digital images, and convert properly for DVD or Web output, it's best to run the camera at 0 percent setup."
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Old May 1st, 2003, 11:22 PM   #10
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Yes I prefer the way the broadcast image looks.

I am trying to work out how to achieve such a smooth a pleasing image. I don't know about NTSC i live in PAL country here.

My pd150 is set to 0 level black, as i believe that is safe for pal.

There is no fault with my TV nor the other 40 million in my country, it is just the way they transmit it that i like so much.
This does not just apply to video, it can be anything from animation, to comercials basically anything i see transmitted seems to have a darkened sheen that is more appealing to the eyes. When i view stuff i have made on my computer, or shot, it looks as if it is going to pop off the tv screen, and loses the entire easiness of watching it.

It is most likely my fault, but tips and ideas of apperatus would be cool.

Thanks anyways,
Zac
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Old May 2nd, 2003, 03:27 AM   #11
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Zac,

Am I correct in assuming that when your footage is broadcast that it doesn't have this same quality ? If so we can discount anything that the broadcaster is doing to the signal (mpeg compression - weird A-D convertor - whatever). This also means it is not a PAL-NTSC issue - BBC stuff will almost certainly be PAL, but much of what you see on TV will have originated on NTSC also.

If the issue is with your footage only then I suppose the obvious answer is that the 'broadcast' images are well lit, well shot - in general on a format better than DV (this is where I duck and run for cover). In addtion any 'film look' I mentioned previously, which would tend to crush the blacks a little.

In post-production most footage would have been colour-corrected to some degree. I suppose the answer is to view your footage on a decent broadcast monitor (not your TV). You would be suprised how different your footage looks compared to a domestic TV. Only then can you get a true feeling for how the footage looks. Then try using the colour correction tools in whatever software you are using to get the a similar effect. You might also try capturing a bit of the TV signal and importing it to your editing sofware, then you can do a comparison on your system.

That doesn't mean you can't get great results without a broadcast monitor - but you are leaving it to pretty much to luck.

Sorry if I am either being a bit vague - or worse still patronizing !

BTW Boyd

http://ukpetsearch.freeuk.com/kv32tweak/

has a similar setup guide specifically for the widescreen sonys - but whatever you do you will never make any TV look like a broadcast monitor ! (although I know you knew that Boyd, I thought it best to point it out as some people won't !)

si
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Old May 2nd, 2003, 04:22 AM   #12
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Absence of artificial sharpening and applied refined transfert characteristics (black stretch, soft knee, dynamic range) of pro cams, result often in the "broadcast" look you refer too.
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Old May 2nd, 2003, 06:39 AM   #13
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Keep in mind that BBC is PAL (source might have been NTSC
once ofcourse). PAL has a black level of 0 IRE.
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Old May 2nd, 2003, 07:38 AM   #14
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DV is 0 IRE, but is broadcast at 7.5 IRE if the origination is NTSC. Adam Wilt's site is an excellent resource on this topic.

Zac, the look that you're seeing is more along the lines of what Andre suggests is the source of the it. I would only add to Andre's list a much higher S/N ratio from high end cameras.
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Old May 2nd, 2003, 10:31 AM   #15
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I think that Boyd is closest to the mark in talking about the IRE level and that it's closely monitored from the broadcast source.

If truth be known the "pros" use some of the same equipment that your using but the monitored signal helps it look a lot cleaner.

Reality tv shows use small 3ccd cams like the PD-150, TRV950, and others and a lot of PBS content is generated on XL1's and DV cams. So the format isn't any better than what your using. DV is fine for broadcast and when the signal is monitored correctly and you have good source video then it works just fine.

The signal for a network broadcast goes through a lot of processing and close monitoring so it really gets that nice soft, easy to watch, look to it. Local news is the next closest and the signal gets monitored but is a step down from the network signal. Then local access comes in totally unmonitored most of the time and looks like your getting a straight feed off the camera.

So considering that a good poriton of todays tv content is produced on dv I tend to believe that the extra processing done by the production crew and the networks is how the better image feel is achieved.

Ben Lynn
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