Why are movies and TV so dark now?

Have you ever enjoyed a movie or TV series and suddenly noticed that you were squinting at a dark screen? Recent releases such as “Euphoria,” “Batman,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and classic movies such as “Alien,” “Taxi Driver” and “Seven,” all use dark images, but are visual. What if is too dark to see everything in the frame?

Dark scenes are usually due to the filmmaker’s vision, but there are several factors that affect the viewer’s ability to see what’s happening on the screen, both in the theater and at home. ..

Home viewing

According to digital imaging technician Nicolas Cage, one of the causes for home viewers may be the viewing environment. When he visits his parents’ house, he is amazed at the plump image quality of the TV screen. There is a possibility. As someone who spends countless hours completing visuals on and off, he’s personally angry with his parents’ television settings, from the smoothness to the brightness of his movements.

“They see something like this, and I’m like,” Oh, my god, you’re killing me, please, let me help you. ” Said. Oh, what happened? I said, “What do you mean, what happened? This is the way you are supposed to see it!”

The TV settings are just one factor in how the movie will look in the end. Other determinants are the size and quality of room lighting and monitors.

Cinema images should provide the ultimate viewing experience for Cinephilia, but can be as dark as a poorly tuned home screen. Many projectors are not well maintained and can be flat even at 4K resolution.

When the final season of Game of Thrones aired in 2019, many viewers said they couldn’t see what was happening during the battle sequence.
Helen Sloan

But in the end, the reason a movie or series looks so dark is because it’s the way the filmmaker intended it.

A few years ago, the final battle at the Game of Thrones finale was criticized by many viewers for being too dark to see what was happening. Cinematographer Fabian Wagner defended the work of the time and told Wired. He also pointed out that the scene was shot at night and is intended to aesthetically distinguish the battle from other scenes throughout the series. He also emphasized that he sees the show in places other than where it gets dark. A room with a neutral, large monitor was a disadvantage to the viewer.

Mood setter

But besides the viewing environment, Kay, a 20-year industry veteran who has worked on movies such as “Joker,” “Venom,” and “Black Panther,” said dark images have practical and emotional reasons. I did. The two are often closely related, referring to the moodyness of the media and the literal lack of light.

Matt Reeves’ “Batman” takes place primarily at night, “Handmade Stories” are set in dark gystopia, and horror films like the “Fear Street” trilogy are dark to keep viewers on their toes. Depends on the cover of. And more are facing criticism that the shadows are too strong ( Westwind drive-in in Las Vegas He told patrons that if “Batman” turns out to be too dark, he can’t get a refund, but instead it could be an unrealistic portrayal of the plot.

“I think many cinematographers try to make it feel very true when they do that,” Kay said. He personally feels struggling like, “Does it separate me from it?” My job is actually to adjust the eyes as the cinematographer wants. “

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Digital imaging engineer Nicolas Cage states that Ridley Scott’s 1979 film “Aliens” is a “great example” of the film’s dark visuals. “It’s all artistically sought after and technically purposeful.”
Courtesy of Paramount

Of course, it’s not just the new titles that viewers are scrutinizing. Over the years, movies from “Alien” (1979) to the well-titled “Dark City” (1998) have been presented in very dark images. One difference, according to Kay, is that these films were shot on film, but most modern films are shot digitally. Even digital remastering of these classic films can look much flatter than the original, as the number of particles in 35mm film is two to three times per square inch. 4K is in pixels. In short, filmmakers need to be creative in creating unique, “organic” images.

“They’re fighting for digital clarity, clarity, and perfection. That’s what they all say, and that’s why they want to shoot on film, that’s a lot of them. That’s why I want to use smoke. And filters — basically to take away perfection. “

Special treatment of “Euphoria”

One of the most notable deviations from the digital landscape is Sam Levinson’s HBO teen drama “Euphoria.” The second season of the show was filmed in 35mm Kodak Ektachrome.

“Euphoria” has become famous for its unique visuals. Cinematographer Marcel Rev illuminated the set “as if it were illuminating a sitcom” because the film speed is 100 ISO (an indicator of the amount of light the film picks up). As a result, Rev got a very textured final image that could be played with light in ways that most filmmakers couldn’t, and acknowledged that contrast was an important aspect of his vision.

“We were trying to make it look like a velvety deep shadow, but I don’t think it’s dark,” Rev said. “Every image always has a very bright reference point. I don’t think there’s any image that wonders. What’s in the image?”

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Cinematographer Marcell Rév of “Euphoria” said he tried to capture “velvety deep shadows” on 35mm film during the show’s second season.
Eddy Chen / HBO

Lev said he didn’t think the film would generally be dark and bright, but he focused on one inspiration in the world of film noir, David Fincher, especially the 1995 film “Seven.”

“Really dark [film]”Reb said. “It revolutionized the way movies were shot in the 90’s. [cinematographer] Darius Khondji used film stock to underexpose the film stock and show how he illuminated the film. This was very original and unique. In the 90’s it was much darker than what you can see in the cinema today. “

In The Batman, Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser used a technique similar to Conji to print digital prints of the film on film and use bleach bypass to achieve higher-contrast images. .. Technology It blends cinematic and digital aspects to create a more textured look than most digitally shot superhero films allow.

As an engineer who entered the industry during the transition from film to digital, Kay’s work captures the essence of the film they saw and grew up without having directors and cinematographers emulate the look and feel of the film. He said it was to help. Special treatment from Kodak.

Kay said the studio has gained more control over the final product since digital took hold, and as a result, believes that many films are actually brighter than they need to be. A well-known cinematographer and cinematographer who has complete control over the resolution and coloring of the movie. He referred to the work of his friend’s cinematographer Bradford Young, who shot films such as “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (2018) and “Arrival.” (2015) and Kay’s 2019 miniseries “When They See Us”. All of these works make use of dark images, but Kay said it was completely intentional.

“He likes darker things as an example of someone who wants to be more honest with the image, and certain scenarios and scenes are dark,” Kay said. It was intended to be this organic and visceral experience that these children are suffering from. “

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Cinematographer Bradford Young is well known for his dark aesthetics, as seen in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018).
Thanks to the kindness of Lucasfilm Ltd.

Illuminating dark skin tones can also be a problem for cinematographers, and the industry has only recently begun to recognize the injustices black actors and people of other colors face on the screen. Many of the techniques used in lighting have historically been tuned for whites. That’s why the “unsafe” cinematographer’s work, like Young and Ava Berkofsky, has made a huge contribution to this technology.

Kay said the dark visuals were justified for the works of Lawrence Sher’s “Joker” (2019) and Matthew Libatique’s “Venom” (2018).

“‘Joker’ wasn’t that dark to me. The theme was darker. You don’t feel like you’re having a hard time seeing it. It’s like being done a lot at night. At times, on the subway, etc. The lights are on and off … it’s all virtually motivated. “

However, beyond aesthetic or practical motivation, the reason for the dark lighting in the scene can be much more mundane. If the movie makes use of special make-up, or if the shot is picking up a lighting cable in the background, darkness provides a great solution for hiding things. Filmmakers don’t want the audience to notice. The latest technology in CGI and VFX editing can solve the problem, but for low-budget projects, the old-fashioned method is much easier.

“‘Just blacken’ is literally all the answer,” Kay said. The environment and they are realistically illuminated. To illuminate them more, you begin to reveal that they are fake. “

Adjust tv

But no matter why the image looks dark, Kay has some tips to make sure you get the best shot to watch the movie as you intended. He googled TV makers and models, and in addition to the settings, “If the outside window points to the screen, you’re in a difficult battle.”

For local cinemas, be aware of screen stains and poor image quality and warn the theater manager. Try to patronize cinemas that prioritize the viewer’s experience, such as AMC’s Dolby Cinema and Alamo Drafthouse.

If someone can’t control how they see one of the projects that takes months to complete the image, Kay challenges his job.

“Most people will see this on an airplane or iPhone anyway,” Kay said. “But that doesn’t stop you trying.”

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