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Dramatic color differences between Leno & Letterman

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
Is it just me or does the color on Letterman never look quite right. Leno's HD color balance seems very neutral and very natural. When you switch to Letterman, it seems the color is skewed to the red/pink. I'd like to say it's 'subtle', but I really think it's more than subtle. In fact, I'd have to say for a live or taped HD studio telecast, it's probably the worst color I've seen.

What's odd is that it's the newest setup and I assume has some of the best equipment. Very weird.
post #2 of 50
Just as movie transfers utilize a "colorist" to determine the look, live or taped video has a similar position. Here the cameras are kept in balance and the overall look can be changed from warm to cool.

It's a subjective call. If it really looks bad, that person may be replaced by the director.

Go to www.videopark.com. He is one of the top freelence guys around for live and taped productions.
post #3 of 50
Thread Starter 
I'm sure that's the case Glimmie, but when you change channels from Leno to Letterman, it really doesn't look good IMO. The color just doesn't seem natural. I've never seen a live HD broadcast that's so obviously skewed....regardless of network. All the other CBS live HD material I've seen has been very color-neutral. That's what strkes me as so odd. It's just hard to believe they were stiving for a pink/red look. It's not flattering.
post #4 of 50
I see the difference being Letterman's going for a New York City at night vibe with the cooler shading and non-amped up color, Leno's doing the SoCal neon, over-the-top L.A. look. At 11:35 at night, I'll take Letterman's easier on the eyes look.

(Don't even get me started on the content....)
post #5 of 50
Thread Starter 
I guess what I'm trying to say is that rarely do I see HD studio broadcasts look 'colorized' or anything other than natural. Leno fits in the 'natural' category to my eyes and Letterman doesn't. I've just never seen studio HD look so 'off' as compared to accurate color.

If you look at ABC's Good Morning America, you can quibble about the sharpness (or lack thereof), but the color usually looks spot-on.
post #6 of 50
Letterman uses Ikegami cameras, while Leno uses Sony. I know the video operator (VO) makes a huge difference, but I think the Sony cameras look better. Conan O'Brien & American Idol also use Sonys.
post #7 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

Letterman uses Ikegami cameras, while Leno uses Sony. I know the video operator (VO) makes a huge difference, but I think the Sony cameras look better. Conan O'Brien & American Idol also use Sonys.

But any state of the art HD (or SD for that matter) camera can produce a neutral picture even though there may be subtle differences. What Ken is describing sounds deliberate or just plain sloppy work.
post #8 of 50
I think the lighting in the Letterman studio isn't as bright.

To me, Leno's show looks overly-bright/neon because of the bright lights and all the pink and bright colors, but Conan O'brien's show looks the best of the 3. (I'll take Letterman over Leno for content, unless there's a particular guest I want to see on Leno - Leno's show is so obviously scripted and rehearsed it's almost painful to watch the interviews)
post #9 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by cyberbri View Post

I think the lighting in the Letterman studio isn't as bright.

To me, Leno's show looks overly-bright/neon because of the bright lights and all the pink and bright colors, but Conan O'brien's show looks the best of the 3. (I'll take Letterman over Leno for content, unless there's a particular guest I want to see on Leno - Leno's show is so obviously scripted and rehearsed it's almost painful to watch the interviews)

Well if the lights are dimmed, they go orange. Perhaps there is next to no blue left in the scene. The camera ultimatly can't make what isn't there.
post #10 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Glimmie View Post

But any state of the art HD (or SD for that matter) camera can produce a neutral picture even though there may be subtle differences. What Ken is describing sounds deliberate or just plain sloppy work.

I don't think it's as much color balance as it is colorimetry. But, as you say, the VO makes a big difference too. Masking and matrix settings can hurt as well as help. I also think the enhancement looks a bit harsh on Letterman.

A fairly well known telecine engineer in LA originally from Australia once told me a several years back that the proper way of using traditional 6 vector secondaries was to turn down the telecine saturation and maximize the saturation on the secondaries. To my eyes this produced some very unusual colorimetry. The vectorscope looked like a star.
post #11 of 50
to my non-technical eyes, Leno's colors look a little too punched up, Conan's are a bit cool, and Letterman's fall in the middle.
post #12 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Ross View Post

I guess what I'm trying to say is that rarely do I see HD studio broadcasts look 'colorized' or anything other than natural. Leno fits in the 'natural' category to my eyes and Letterman doesn't. I've just never seen studio HD look so 'off' as compared to accurate color.

If you look at ABC's Good Morning America, you can quibble about the sharpness (or lack thereof), but the color usually looks spot-on.

It must be a matter of taste, I like the look on Letterman and GMA looks way too orange to me.
post #13 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by spwace View Post

It must be a matter of taste, I like the look on Letterman and GMA looks way too orange to me.


I think that's just a question of the sets. They do tend to use quite a bit of yellows and oranges, but the flesh tones are perfectly normal to my eyes. All the flesh tones seem to be within a relatively narrow range on all most of the shows, but Letterman's just always seem very pink to me. I've watched him on all my TVs (both HD and non-HD) and he and the guests are just too pink. Conan's colors are cooler, but again fleshtones seem fairly accurate.
post #14 of 50
Saturday Night Live's colors look most natural to me of the studio-based video that I've seen. A bit better than Leno which is better than Letterman.
post #15 of 50
SNL also uses Sony cameras. OTH, so does GMA.
post #16 of 50
Interesting enough if you search the archives, you will find George commenting that to him Letterman looks better with the older equipment Leno uses beginning to show its age.

Guess its grass is always greener effect.
post #17 of 50
I watch Letterman every night and can't say that I ever thought it looked bad (except perhaps during the early NBC days when they were using TK-44s ...). With this thread in mind, tonight I flipped back and forth between Letterman and Leno -- I'll agree they look different, but I wouldn't say that either one is "right" or "wrong." It looks more like a difference in the colorimetry of the cameras than a conscious decision to skew the balance in any direction. They both look good to me.
post #18 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post


A fairly well known telecine engineer in LA originally from Australia once told me a several years back that the proper way of using traditional 6 vector secondaries was to turn down the telecine saturation and maximize the saturation on the secondaries. To my eyes this produced some very unusual colorimetry. The vectorscope looked like a star.

Eek! That is so absolutely wrong. Aside from inducing chroma noise, it will (as you point out) create a very uneven color gamut.

Those old six-vector color secondaries are now antiquated. Modern colorists use "power vectors" that can target a particular color no matter where it falls on the vectorscope. We can now qualify any color we wish to modify by hue, saturation, and luminance. But I would suspect on a regular TV program such as Letterman or Leno that secondary color correction is not utilized. The color differences between the shows are a function of camera setup, set lighting, and the taste of the producers and technical directors.

This is a facinating topic for me. I'm glad that AVS forum members are keen observers of the technical nuances of the video signal. I remember some time ago there was a discussion on this forum about the look of NCIS. Apparently the producers of that show used secondary color correction to make flesh tones look very red, and there was quite a howl about it here.

You guys are true videophiles, and I salute you.
post #19 of 50
To properly evaluate these colorimetry issues, both the Leno and Letterman shows must supply more female skin. Only by comparing captured images in these technical forums can we come to a proper conclusion.
post #20 of 50
I like the look of Letterman better over Leno. Looks more like what I have seen in TV studios , to me anyway.
post #21 of 50
They look different, but both appear fine to me. I wouldn't want them to look exactly alike anyway. It seems like it's just the lighting, more than anything. And the set and decor.
post #22 of 50
Letterman looks more lifelike to me in terms of color. It also seems sharper and more detailed.
post #23 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

SNL also uses Sony cameras. OTH, so does GMA.

And interestingly to me, they both appear to have a color balance in the same ballpark. But Letterman is the only show I've seen with this skewing of color, a color balance that just looks different than any I've seen from a stuido equipped for HD. It's interesting that some here prefer it though. Certainly to some degree, the 'which is more accurate' question will depend on how the final viewer's HDTV is calibrated. But at least on my displays Letterman just doesn't quite look like the fleshtones I see in the real world.

Man, it's terrible to be so anal!
post #24 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus Carr View Post

Letterman looks more lifelike to me in terms of color. It also seems sharper and more detailed.

I have to agree with this. Leno's colors seem too saturated. Almost cartoonish. Letterman's colors seems so much more natural and lifelike. I also agree Letterman seems sharper and more detailed.
post #25 of 50
That is why they have blondes, brunettes and redheads guys. I will say that my Panny 50PHD7UY has been calibtrated by Greg Loewen and Letterman looks really good on it. Very natural. When it was done a couple months ago, I played a section of Letterman from D-VHS and Greg though it looked perfect. However, we call react to the world differently. Leno used to look much better before the advent of Weather Plus however, and I have the tape to prove it!
post #26 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

To properly evaluate these colorimetry issues, both the Leno and Letterman shows must supply more female skin. Only by comparing captured images in these technical forums can we come to a proper conclusion.

Why can't male skin be used to evaluate colorimetry?
post #27 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JWhip View Post

That is why they have blondes, brunettes and redheads guys. I will say that my Panny 50PHD7UY has been calibtrated by Greg Loewen and Letterman looks really good on it. Very natural. When it was done a couple months ago, I played a section of Letterman from D-VHS and Greg though it looked perfect. However, we call react to the world differently. Leno used to look much better before the advent of Weather Plus however, and I have the tape to prove it!

JWhip, keep in mind that "Weather Plus' or any subchannel will impact on the issue of artifacts more than color quality.
post #28 of 50
It used to be much clearer with better color and contrast to my eyes
post #29 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by StuDBaker View Post

Why can't male skin be used to evaluate colorimetry?

Two reasons come to mind.
post #30 of 50
Hmmmm....

.....Letterman looks more colorful tonight......very similar to Leno......
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