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Blacks going to red?


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#1 michael veit

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Posted 26 March 2009 - 10:02 AM

Here's a question from a non-cinematography guy:

I've noticed it a few times when older color movies are televised that deep shadows will sometimes flash to red and always figured it was some kind of old film-stock issue or other. But recently I've been watching the Discovery channel's re-airing of the Planet Earth series and the Shallow Seas episode is littered with instances of the same thing happening. Within the first couple minutes you see a humpback swimming across the screen and what was once a normal shadow on its body turns to red as the shadow gets into "featureless" territory.

Honestly, the effect isn't all that annoying until you become conscious of it and start watching for it, but still, what causes this? Anybody know?

Thanks,

Michael
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#2 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 26 March 2009 - 10:26 AM

Here's a question from a non-cinematography guy:
I've noticed it a few times when older color movies are televised that deep shadows will sometimes flash to red ... Honestly, the effect isn't all that annoying until you become conscious of it and start watching for it, but still, what causes this? Anybody know?

You see this on more than one TV set?

Some of the older print stocks will shift to red after many years (the actual effect is that the Cyan layer fades and loses contrast) and presumably the TV engineer may try to correct that effect when showing the movie, which in turn might give "off colour" in the shadow areas. The TV might also be a bit non-linear in the red channel. if the red gun is a bit weak for example, the red gain may have been cranked up to compensate.
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#3 michael veit

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Posted 26 March 2009 - 02:14 PM

Thanks for the reply, Charles.

So far, I've only ever seen this effect on my (one) tv. It's hard to imagine the effect is due to some compensating adjustment by a broadcast tech, since the red isn't "redish," but a definite and very strong red.

Weird.
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#4 Dominic Case

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Posted 26 March 2009 - 05:48 PM

I think Charles' first explanation is probably the best one, if what you are seeing is restricted to older movies. Print stocks up to early 1980s were prone to dye fading over the years, and the cyan dye goes off fastest, giving the red cast in shadows that you mention. It should be easily correctible on transfer, but I suspect that often times they don't bother, or won't give it the time.

However, it's also true that most neg stocks since then have tended to produce more cyan neutrals - especially dark greys - compared with the earlier negatives. Maybe your eye has become used to that balance, so that older material (ECN1 process - 5254 negative mainly) would look warm in the greys by comparison - even without the print fade.
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#5 Chris Keth

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Posted 27 March 2009 - 11:27 PM

This is pretty remote but when I worked at the college TV station in school, the engineer showed me this thing he could do where it turned any blocked up shadows or blown out areas bright red. I suppose it's purpose was to check for broadcast standards compliance or something. I can't imagine that being sent to program but it's almost exactly what you're describing.
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#6 michael veit

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Posted 28 March 2009 - 07:09 AM

Thanks, Chris.

That sounds exactly like what I'm seeing. The strange thing is that I saw parts of the same Planet Earth episode on two different nights and the effect was there both times. It must be some kind of standard broadcast setting that's just incompatible with a peculiar combination of colors/contrasts.
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