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The View: Video Display Hardware and Software
Video Monitors and Media Players for field or studio use (all display technologies).

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Old January 24th, 2011, 07:16 PM   #1
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How do you keep your color judgment fresh?

My background is commercial (still) photography. We had our own in-house processing and printing lab for our work, and we printed photos that customers shot themselves. Obviously color was very important. We found that it was easy for our eyes to adapt to overall color casts. What looked good this afternoon might look off tomorrow after our eyes had readapted, so we kept a reference book of prints that we could use for comparison. Sort of like a visual palate cleanser. Sorbet for the eyes.

As I move into video editing, I keep running up against the same problem. After looking at the preview screen for a few hours, I am not always sure that I am judging the color accurately. I use the waveform monitor, vectorscope, and RGB parade. Unless Iím using them incorrectly, they donít help with expressive, as opposed to technical, decisions regarding subtle color tweaking. I use low levels of daylight-balanced room illumination, in a room with gray walls.

Am I just having newbie problems, or do people have ways to deal with hours at the monitor? What I have tried so far is keeping DVDs of films cued up to scenes that I like the looks of. I can compare those to what Iím seeing on the preview. (The video version of our reference print book.)

Any suggestions would be appreciated (including telling me that this is the price of being a novice).

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Old January 25th, 2011, 10:28 AM   #2
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This is one of the reasons for using scopes, just like mixers use audio meters. No matter how tired your eyes are, no matter how used they are to the color cast of the previous setup, the scopes will never lie.
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Old January 25th, 2011, 10:29 PM   #3
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What Arnie says is spot on.

Also, never forget that you're now working in a world that has another whole dimension. Movement. The human brain is wired to be attracted to movement since in nature, it's a good indicator of threat.

That means that while in a still photo, superb rendering of tonality and contrast is critical if the viewer is going to get the maximum photographic experience observing a static image, those elements are not as CRITICAL when it comes to pictures in motion.

It's a bit like sound.

I'm a HUGE supporter of quality sound since most of the information content in programs is carried by the sound track. BUT - it's also true that when the viewer is given extra clues such as expression, lip movement, and body language, they can understand spoken content even tho it's not always completely pristinely presented. (Newbies, this is NO argument to lower audio standards!) The BEST approach is always quality video AND audio. But few people attempt to create motion picture soundtracks to, for example, the standards of HIGH DEF audio - because the motion pictures sound track seldom stands entirely on it's own.

The overall goal is to build a pleasing COMPOSITE where everything is in balance.

Since you mention color - I'll give you a contemporary example. Tonight I was watching the President's speech on CNN. Prior to it's beginning Wolf Blitzer noted that the President's tie was PURPLE - and wondered if that, in itself, was a calculated message regarding bi-partisanship. On my screen, it looked BLUE. And so I wondered if my screen was wrong. For half a second. Then I realized that it didn't really matter if my TV rendered the color of that tie accurately as long as I was able to look and listen to the message without distraction. In fact, if Wolf hadn't mentioned it in the first place , I NEVER would have even noted the color.

That's what happens when the content creators work hard to get things mostly right. The small flaws are typically buried under the story. It's only when you allow the audience to get DISENGAGED, that they start noticing that the incidental stuff is a little off.

Keep it from being notably off - and you're typically good to go.
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Old January 25th, 2011, 11:32 PM   #4
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I like the audio analogy but will take the thought a bit further. Yes, as an audio engineer I used meters and scopes but more useful was having a set of monitors I knew like the back of my hand.
When I had apprentices, I used to tell them to spend as much time as possible listening to as varied a selection of music as they could tolerate to learn the monitors. The studio I worked for was lucky enough to have Genelecs which are pleasing to the ear, not fatiguing and very accurate. Made the job easy.
This theory is also why so many mixers rely on the Yamaha NS10's and Auratones (horrortones!). IMHO awful sounding speakers but a known sound, very consistent and cheap so every studio had a set. If I did mixing at a different studio, I'd either bring my own speakers or book an hour to myself to listen to my "reference CD's" and get a feel for the sound.

What I'm finding in my video work is that I tend to rely on my Dell 2405 as my "constant" for color. Is it calibrated accurately? Nope. (although I do keep it consistently checked with a Spyder) But I've been using it along with the scopes for enough years to know what it's telling me. It hasn't let me down when stuff gets to the web or DVD which is most of my deliverables. I've done a few TV shows recently and same thing...they look great on my TV broadcast over the cable networks.

Seems whenever I get to use another editor's system, I run into the same problem you are having. My eyes play tricks and if I strictly relied on the monitor, the vids look terrible once graded. On more than one occasion, I've even second-guessed myself, gone against the scopes to make it look pretty on the monitor at a couple of friend's houses. Got it back to mine and it was painfully bad.

Point is, I have "learned" my setup. Just like learning audio monitors, just takes time. Fatigue happens and as I take a break in my now 15 hour day of editing.ugh!..I've had to shift away from critical viewing to work on content and tidying up audio.

Being aware of the issue means you're on the right track. Remember to vary the workflow, take breaks and find your constant in the universe of monitors. It gets easier... promise!
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Old January 26th, 2011, 08:42 PM   #5
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When you have different monitors properly calibrated to show the same thing in a calibrated environment, you know there's nothing wrong with the system.

However, the more colors you see, the better you get at seeing colors. If psychological factors are what concerns you, then take a break and look at the world once in a while to make sure the things you are used to still look the same or not!
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