TV-BAY January 2013

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Why does my project look different on every screen? by Thomas Urbye T he age old question, asked by so many people who’ve come through my suite: “I’ve downloaded it to my laptop and it looks different?” Then there is the inevitable panic: “Thomas, how can we make sure that everyone who watches it, watches it ‘properly’?” This issue recently came to light with a campaign backed by moviemakers launched to make sure films are watched “as the director intended”. ( technology-19650769) As a colourist, I’ve spent a great deal of time learning to understand colour science, thanks to years of discussions and teachings with friends like Martin Parsons @ Image Eyes and Steve Shaw @ Light Illusion.  We’ve had many chats over different screens and different technologies, and discussed the question asked by Producers, Directors and DPs the world over: “Why does my work look different on every screen?” I’m going to set out why it does, a brief note on the technology and finally, why it doesn’t matter as much as you think. A visit to my company’s website will quickly tell you that colour is very important to our business revenue, we are predominantly a colour grading company, and clients from all sectors of the industry use us to make their work look as special as it can, in real terms, adding value to what was shot and hopefully taking the image beyond what the client ever thought possible.  In a world where software colour grading tools, like editing and desktop publishing, is pretty much free, anyone can be a colourist now – just like they can be a graphic designer or editor. The difference is how quickly you get to the absolute best result, your understanding of your profession, your client skills, the client experience, delivering on time and knowing that your screens are calibrated... A lot of people think that there isn’t a standard for colour on screens, but there is. We have a lot of screens at The Look, all of them using different panel technologies inside – we have LCD, LED, Plasma and projection.  They have varying price points, various issues inherent with their design, and they have varying controls over their calibration.  But this article isn’t about the intricacies of different panels and the complicated world of colour science. The current standard of HD TV screens and content delivery, the world over, is known as Rec. 709 and you might be surprised to learn, that most panels inside the TVs you buy are roughly calibrated to this standard.  The problem arises when TV manufacturers add special ‘features’ to the TV itself (rather than the actual A lot of people think that there isn’t a standard for colour on screens, but there is! 60 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE TV-BA073JAN13.indd 60 11/01/2013 14:17