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Join Date: Dec 2006
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A good reference level test disc for skin tones is Tree of Life, it has very natural looking skin tones, especially the baby after the 40 minute mark, because there is very little makeup involved and many shots are using 100% natural lighting (those 2 factors combined make it exceptional in skin tone accuracy). Even watching the DVE or S&M discs, you can see they are wearing makeup which kind of defeats the purpose of evaluating the skin tones by eye. Also Tree of Life uses fairly neutral lighting in many of the shots.
One thing you will be shocked by is how natural some of the skin tones look in TOL and then you throw in a different movie and the skin tones suddenly look like horse manure. It's mostly because of what people mentioned earlier, but the biggest reason is actually just the lighting in the scene of a movie.
For people wanting to calibrate their cable signal, sometimes you can still find an inactive channel (late at night) with some of the color patterns on there, especially if you have the local TV stuff on there. Also, I saw a calibration thing for free once on one of the On Demand channels, but don't remember where it was.
Typically, a television network, TV station, or other originator of video programming transmits SMPTE color bars together with a continuous 1000 Hz audio tone before sending program material, in order to assert ownership of the transmission line or medium, and so that receiving stations and intermediary telecommunications providers may adjust their equipment. You can do some parts of your calibration from those color bars, MAYBE, but they might be sending them in the old SD rec 601 format, no clue.