So I have just watched a TV commercial that I assume would have had a pretty big budget (it was shot on film) on the TV. If you are in the UK it’s the new John Lewis Insurance ad.
Now when I first saw the add it immediately looked washed out and the blacks looked really milky, at first I thought there was something wrong with the encoding. But now I’ve seen it a few times in a few different places, in reality it’s meant to look like that, it’s obviously a creative look or style.
Frankly I don’t get it and I’m not sure many normal viewers appreciate the flat look and in some of the shots in this ad the blacks really are washed out. We have spent decades trying to figure out how to accurately capture deep shadows and display them convincingly. We are told how expensive OLED TV’s are so much better than LCD TV’s because they can show true deep blacks. People spend lots of money creating a home cinema with the right low light levels. Most modern TV’s include some kind of automatic contrast boosting mechanism. But at the same time it has become fashionable to show flat, low contrast, almost log like pictures on TV and online. Pictures that to me look like the pedestal/black level has been incorrectly set.
I guess here’s the thing: Shooting with log is in. Shooting with log is cool, shooting with log is the new fangled way to shoot. Producers, directors, creative people are being told that log is the best thing since sliced bread and from a capture point of view it does have some real benefits. The problem is that it appears that these people also believe that the normal viewing public also thinks that flat, log like pictures are cool. I’m not so sure that they do. Even though this was a film shoot it’s likely that the telecine would have used Cineon which is also a log curve, so the rushes would have looked very flat before grading.
Does grandma at home appreciate that a flat picture means a picture with a high dynamic range? Does Joe public think a flat washed out picture is special? Do they get the trendy flat creative style. Maybe they do, perhaps I’ve got it wrong, but to me it just looks all wrong. I’d much rather see a nice striking, contrasty image with rich colors and blacks that really are black. I think that sometimes creative people forget that outside of the industry peoples views on what looks good can be very different to the views of those of us that work in TV and film production.