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Advances In Cinema Tech Overcoming a Strange Racial Divide 164

Posted by timothy
from the colorblindness-considered-harmful dept.
barlevg writes "Since the birth of film, shooting subjects of darker complexion has been a technical challenge: light meters, film emulsions, tone and color models, and the dynamic range of the film itself were all calibrated for light skin, resulting in dark skin appearing ashy and washed-out. Historically, filmmakers have used workarounds involving "a variety of gels, scrims and filters." But now we live in the age of digital filmmaking, and as film critic Ann Hornaday describes in the Washington Post, and as is showcased in recent films such as "12 Years a Slave," "Mother of George" and "Black Nativity," a collection of innovators have set to work developing techniques in lighting, shooting and post-processing designed to counteract century-old technological biases as old as the medium itself."
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Advances In Cinema Tech Overcoming a Strange Racial Divide

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  • For real? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Friday October 18, 2013 @11:34PM (#45172217)
    Is this for real? Hollywood produced plenty of Italian American superstars, as well as Latinos. How did Bollywood manage?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Most Bollywood films don't have very good lighting....

    • Re:For real? (Score:5, Informative)

      by dwywit (1109409) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @12:00AM (#45172349)

      Sounds unlikely to me - although some films were produced to "enhance" skin tones. Kodak had a specialised film made for weddings and portraits, and I can't remember seeing anything other than caucasians in the example brochures. You can enhance any part of the spectrum you want, but enhancing caucasian skin tones would negatively affect other parts of the spectrum. Besides, it's a creative decision as to how a film should "look", so it's largely up to the director, art department, and editor what the finished product looks like. You can have blue & orange (the current fad), or wash it all out a la 70's westerns - there's lots of ways to influence the final product - choice of emulsion, choice of lighting, and choice of post-processing, to name a few.

      • Re:For real? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gl4ss (559668) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @01:46AM (#45172803) Homepage Journal

        But isn't this technique just another "how things should look on film" approach? I mean, often the white skintones aren't natural either on purpose. leading to the difference in police lockup photos of celebs vs. what they look on film(and makeup too but that's part of the workflow).

        I didn't know this "divide" was there and I've known some dark, dark skinned people and seen photos and film of them.. so this new-old divide seems like a marketing ploy to me, "see blacks the way they really are! first time on film!"

        • The problem is that the human eye out performs the film (or digital equivalent).

          In person you can make out everyone's features, but when you look at photos or video of the same event either all the white people are ghosts or all the black people are indistinguishable blobs.

        • Re:For real? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @09:31AM (#45173961)

          My wifes a photographer, she does simple stuff like family portraits, the occasional wedding, etc...

          I'm decent with Photoshop so I post-process all her work. I can make you look like a zit faced kid, wrinkled old grandfather, over tanned beach bum, whatever...

          But a few years ago we adopted our son, and he's black. Touching up our own photos is no-longer nearly as easy. Pretty much everything you do to make a white persons skin look better makes a black person look near death. Getting black skin to show up correctly makes the whites in the picture look very pale and anemic.

          • by oursland (1898514)
            Is this the fault of the technology, as the premise of this article claims?
      • Re:For real? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by stenvar (2789879) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @04:45AM (#45173297)

        You can enhance any part of the spectrum you want, but enhancing caucasian skin tones would negatively affect other parts of the spectrum.

        For color, it's not a question of "enhancing" or "negatively affecting"; it's simply a question of how the spectrum is mapped into color and what kind of palette people prefer for skin. Nor is there a big difference between Caucasian and other skin tones: it's the same two pigments that matter in all cases, melanin and hemoglobin. But I don't think this is about color anyway.

        It's more likely that cinematographers simply found dark skin tones difficult to light: you either lose details in the dark areas or you blow out the light ones. Losing detail in dark areas looks more natural than blowing out light areas, because that's what human eyes do. Furthermore, even in person, it's harder to read facial expressions of dark skin tones under bad lighting, so this isn't really a "bias" of film but more a reflection of reality.

        Incidentally, brochures for both Kodak Portra and Fujicolor Pro (both "portrait films") show Africans and Latinos.

        • by nukenerd (172703)

          But I don't think this is about color anyway. ... It's more likely that cinematographers simply found dark skin tones difficult to light: you either lose details in the dark areas or you blow out the light ones. Losing detail in dark areas looks more natural than blowing out light areas, because that's what human eyes do. Furthermore, even in person, it's harder to read facial expressions of dark skin tones under bad lighting, so this isn't really a "bias" of film but more a reflection of reality.

          Exactly. Someone is trying to make a race issue out of this.

          I am a keen photographer and have looked into the technical side a lot. The difficulty is with limitations on brightness range (= contrast range). Any photographer/cinematographer with more than a cheap all-auto camera can place the optimum exposure on whatever tone they want. Optimise for black skin and the white people will appear washed out; optimise for white skin and the black people will lose detail in darkness. It's your choice. Make

          • by AK Marc (707885)
            It's not a purely race issue for taking the perfect picture, but we have 100 years of photo-science aimed at optimizing the white person (implicitly ignoring the black person). The racism isn't in the science, but the application of it. For darker people, it works to shoot the scene with more light, then lighten it in post-processing, but white people get more washed out. When the "default" is to frame every scene and treat it individually, there's no issue. When the default is to apply "white" settings
        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          I haven't even gotten that far into figuring things out.

          I"m still trying to figure who the fuck this Tyler Perry is.....seems to have a lot of black tv shows and movies.

        • We can't lose the finer details though, otherwise how would we be able to count the number of stories that Morgan Freeman has told?

      • by hjf (703092)

        Kodak had a specialised film made for weddings and portraits, and I can't remember seeing anything other than caucasians in the example brochures.

        Kodak Professional Pro Image 100. Box [staticflickr.com]. This one seems a localized version for the Asian market, with some very white asians. Mine has white people only: this is it [megaphototienda.com.ar].

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      Is this for real? Hollywood produced plenty of Italian American superstars, as well as Latinos. How did Bollywood manage?

      There's a vaster difference in skin tone between Italians, Latinos, and Indians compared to 'Straight from Africa Black' than they are from European. Most Europeans can come close to those shades with sufficient tanning.

      That's just looking at it from a technical perspective. I still believe that the 'problems' were overstated, but then, given the tendency for makeup departments to do extensive work-ups on movie stars so they look 'normal' on screen, for clothing designed to present a certain appearance o

      • by metrix007 (200091)

        That's nonsense.

        Italians, Latinos, and Indians are closer to white than 'Straight from Africa Black' .

        Not sure how anyone could think otherwise.

        • by Firethorn (177587)

          Uh, that's what I said? Italians and such are much closer to 'white' in skin tone than they are to the really black blacks. Of course, blacks themselves range a wide gamut.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      As an Italian American, it confuses me that you seem to think of Italian Americans as "dark skinned".
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It isn't just "film" that's changed, but television too.

      Through the years consumers have experienced all sorts of color shifts when wathcing c.r.t. based sets. The use of separate electron guns for R, G, and B inherently brought mismatches between gain, offset, and the linearity of the transfer function between dark and bright for each gun. The darker parts of an image might have a color shift one direction, while the bright parts have another. For years the most popular set designs had adjustments to ma

  • hilarious (Score:4, Funny)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Friday October 18, 2013 @11:38PM (#45172237)
    Anyone else remember when HP's webcam face login program refused to recognize black people and it had to be recalled and altered? This totally reminds me of that. Classic HP.
    • by Seumas (6865)

      Same thing happened with Microsoft's Kinect for XBOX 360.

      • by tgd (2822)

        Same thing happened with Microsoft's Kinect for XBOX 360.

        I suppose if we're just repeating made up stories... um, same thing happened with those Toyotas!

    • by obarthelemy (160321) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @12:38AM (#45172545)

      Oh my. I remember Better of Ted's "the good news is: our security system is NOT racist, because it doesn't see blacks" episode, but never had an inkling it was based in reality.

      http://www.avclub.com/articles/better-off-ted-racial-sensitivity,71599/ [avclub.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A company I once worked for developed a porn scanner based on skin tone. Yep, non-Caucasian porn got through. It took some time; but later revs included Black, Hispanic and Asian tones and allegedly they worked. I didn't test that actual part of the software; but yes--I did view porn in the course of everyday work. Mostly plain ol' frontal nudity of women. The. Same. Women. since it was a test set. After a while, you make up names and stuff... Oh, there's Connie again. The tests passed.

      No idea if

    • I thought they had trouble with face tracking but that would be the same base issue.

      There have also been some digital cameras that have trouble detecting faces. The ones that do automatic metering, red-eye removal, and such. Same with photo editing software.

  • by Cyfun (667564)

    Microsoft might be interested in some of these techniques for their Kinect.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    shooting subjects of darker complexion has been a technical challenge

    This is slightly true, but no more so than any other dark object.

    ...were all calibrated for light skin

    No, not really. The very first color on a Macbeth chart(in use for decades) represents dark skin.

    • Re:Uhh, what? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @11:02AM (#45174565) Homepage Journal

      White skin presumably means what Europeans have. With a bit of a tan is close to 18% reflectance.

      This is the same as a grey card [wikipedia.org], but the reason is that lots of other things are this tone too - foliage, brick, weathered wood, old roads. It's also, on a log scale, the midpoint between the lightest and darkest tones film can show.

      Article is a load of horsefeathers. Films are no more biased against black people than they are in favour of yetis.

  • Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow (48369) on Friday October 18, 2013 @11:53PM (#45172319) Homepage Journal

    Film is not "biased" towards people with "light skin." Quite frankly, I don't see how any visual medium that's designed to capture an accurate colour spectrum could be racially biased.

    I think this whole article is a trollish attempt to inject a "racial issue" where there is none.

    • by oldhack (1037484)
      Yeah, sounds like some race warriors trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill.
      • I heard Photography is going after gays and illegal immigrants next.
      • by BalthCat (2472732)
        The entire article was rather subdued. It's about the rather uncontroversial fact that the nuance of white skin was more important to most photography, and that now there's more innovation than there once was.
    • Re:Nonsense (Score:4, Insightful)

      by janimal (172428) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @12:03AM (#45172365)

      Agreed. Implying a racial bias here is a crock. If film is racially biased, so are our eyes. Specifically, when I'm driving at night in a certain predominantly indian country, the poor bastards on the side of the road wearing black with dark skin are friggn hard to see. Clearly this has to do with my eyes being biased against dark clothed and skinned poor people.

      If you want to solve the dark skin problem in shooting pictures, you have to develop some fantastic dynamic range on your capture device. Modern DSLRs are better than film ever was, but you still should do a bit of post processing to bring out the shadows. Perhaps NOW is the time to "racially tune" photography, since it became at all possible.

    • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @12:04AM (#45172383) Homepage Journal
      Gamma. The difference between a light object in full light and a light object in shadow is greater than the difference between a dark object in light and a dark object in shadow. Human eyes adjust automatically across the range and trick you into thinking the shading difference is more normal, but the gamma curve on a camera exacerbates the difference. This is why totally black fabric appears to be slimming; your eyes can't pick out the shape as well and you're left with just the silhouette. It's more or less the same phenomenon as in HDR photography.
      • I really struggle with this in taking pictures of my jet-black Labrador Retrievers. I just can't get the same level of detail that my eyes can pick up.

        "White" skin isn't really white, it is often pink/brown/yellow. It is a mid-range color, where "black" skin CAN be tan/brown or pitch black. When shooting someone that is very dark-skinned, it is fucking hard to get detail.

        • by BalthCat (2472732)
          It's especially harder when there's less motivation to innovate toward achieving technologies that allow that nuance. That's the extent of the claim that film was, once upon a time, racist.
    • by Firethorn (177587)

      capture an accurate colour spectrum

      The problem with your premise is this assumption. You have to remember that Cinematography wasn't about accuracy, it was about looking good. Remember all the shortcuts taken during the original Star Wars trilogy? A major function through history was fooling your eyes. 'Good Enough' was everywhere.

      Considering that there are lighting changes you want to do when you're photographing a black object vs a white one - Say a black PC Case vs a white PC Case, I believe that they might indeed have a point, if you

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In your yearbook, are there any students who are just eyes and teeth? If the photography setup were truly unbiased that wouldn't happen. But the photographer decided to use a flash and a certain shutter speed, and a certain f-stop because that setup works 80% of the time.

      The same was true in the early days of Technicolor, when compromises had to be made, they were made in ways that would not affect the appeal of lighter skin tones. Watch Black Narcissus with commentary for a good explanation (and a good m

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by aix tom (902140)

        In your yearbook, are there any students who are just eyes and teeth? If the photography setup were truly unbiased that wouldn't happen. But the photographer decided to use a flash and a certain shutter speed, and a certain f-stop because that setup works 80% of the time.

        Uh-oh. Imagine the solution to that.

        Having one photo/lighting/background setup for white people and one setup for black people and then having queues labelled "white people" / "black people". Which would be the perfect technical solution for the problem, but would probably cause one hell of a havoc with the "PC" folks.

    • by Seumas (6865)

      The words used may imply some sort of motivation inherent in the mechanics, but it isn't unreasonable to address the issue of film (or lighting or what have you) not picking up the way certain skin tones appear in real life, quite as well. Actually, the word "bias" doesn't seem to be used with the intention to imply any such thing, but I guess a lot of you have chosen to interpret it that way.

    • by znanue (2782675)

      Film is not "biased" towards people with "light skin." Quite frankly, I don't see how any visual medium that's designed to capture an accurate colour spectrum could be racially biased.

      I think this whole article is a trollish attempt to inject a "racial issue" where there is none.

      Apparently, gone are the days when fox-news-esque comments like yours wouldn't be modded down past most decent people's filters. You've said nothing of persuasion and apparently barely even understood the summary. They're talking about a bias in the technology so that you do not get an accurate color spectrum. Following up by ascribing such a base motive to the poster of the article itself without any real evidence is another way to play to prejudices and score that elusive +5 informative without actuall

    • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Informative)

      by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @12:42AM (#45172559)

      Did you read the article? Or, like most Slashdotters are you spouting off based on your uninformed "gut" instincts. The article is spelling out for you how black skin has traditionally been harder to film for tangible, technical reasons which required extra work for directors to address. How many directors do you think want to have interns smearing Black actors with vaseline between shots? This has obviously let directors to say "f it" throughout Hollywood's history. This has nothing to do with the "reverse racism" rants you hear on daytime radio.

      • by Solandri (704621)
        The same was true (and still is to a lesser extent) for Asians. With typical gamma response curves of film and digital sensors, black hair with white skin turns into a nondescript, flat uniform black. I usually try to make sure there's a rim light (light from above and slightly behind) to give black hair some 3D depth.

        The problem doesn't just show up due to racial features. The tradition of a bride wearing white and a groom wearing black was murder for film. Special low-contrast films were made to ha
      • by khallow (566160)

        How many directors do you think want to have interns smearing Black actors with vaseline between shots?

        Given that everyone in the shot was smeared with something, that can't be hard.

      • by msobkow (48369)

        I disagree with the basic premise of the article that film can be racist. It might not provide pure image quality as it should, but that's a fault of physics and design compromises, not some hidden racist agenda.

        The same film that has trouble capturing the details of a black person's face has trouble capturing the details of a black car. A competent photographer knows what kind of film to use for their subjects.

        It doesn't make the film itself racist, nor does it make the film's design engineer's raci

    • Film is not "biased" towards people with "light skin." ... I think this whole article is a trollish attempt to inject a "racial issue" where there is none.

      No, no; the universe REALLY IS biased against you.....

      2.1.6 Sentence 4: Why does the universe prefer matter over antimatter? [google.com]

      Physicists have announced that more matter particles are generated than antimatter [discovery.com]

      A team working with data from CERN's Large Hadron Collider says it has discovered a particle that decays unevenly into matter and antimatter. [foxnews.com]

      .... that is, if you're made out of antimatter. If so, then to make us for the total unfairness of everything, I'll give you a BIG hug.


      Back on to

    • thanks, frankly, for leading such perfect cases, in point, of the specific colour-however-you-spell-it-blind-ness in question.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Quite frankly, I don't see how any visual medium that's designed to capture an accurate colour spectrum could be racially biased.

      It's not that kind of medium. When you take your color photos to the drug store, they adjust colors on those, because film doesn't capture precisely what your eye does. Movies are often twiddled even more.

    • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 19, 2013 @02:24AM (#45172935)

      "Film is not "biased" towards people with "light skin." Quite frankly, I don't see how any visual medium that's designed to capture an accurate colour spectrum could be racially biased."

      The error in your comment lies in the second clause - "designed to capture an accurate colour spectrum"

      Very few film stocks were designed to be accurate; most were designed to be pleasing.

      Many were designed with a certain colour profile or palette in mind. Some very general examples: Kodak films usually had a red/yellow bias, making things in a dreary, grey, northern climate look more saturated, at the expensive of making vivid colourful things in a tropical environment look cartoonish rainbow vomit, other films, like velvia, over saturated all the colours, and crunch all the shadows into a deep black, so sunsets would appear breathtakingly beautiful.

      Nearly all of these types of film took into account that 90% of the time, they would be shooting people - so they had to make skintone look good. But they only really designed it for white skin tones.

    • It's real. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kylemonger (686302) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @03:10AM (#45173093)
      The film bias is real. The January 2006 issue of Popular Photography featured an article about different film emulsions sold outside the U.S. that better capture skin tones that are darker/different than caucasian. They shot a black model using Kodak Portra 160NC and Kodak Ultima 100, a film "tailor-made for shooting Indian weddings." They used the same lighting, adjusting exposure only for the 2/3 stop difference in film speed. I quote:

      The negatives were dramatically different. Ultima 100 produced visibly more detail in Dionne Audain's skin than did Portra 160NC, especially on the shadowed side of her face. In matched prints, not only was that shadow more open, but there was a much better sense of texture in her hair and black sweater. The surprising thing is that, despite Ultima 100's higher minimum density, it seemed to have more snap overall than Portra 160NC.
    • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 19, 2013 @03:46AM (#45173175)

      There is a phrase, for years, nay decades, used among colorists, video engineers, camera operators and lighting designers/directors, to describe human subjects of significantly dark and contrasting skintone: LRP = Low Reflectance Personnel. It wasn't/isn't racial, it was/is descriptive without being so. All skin tones, regardless of race have their challenges...for instance the same 1/4 cto filter I use for some black actors to warm the blue skin cast is the same filter I use for white actors with too much magenta pigment.

      The writer of the article, besides trying to get her race card stamped, seems to be hugely ignorant of the industry in general and the technology used in filmaking then and now - it's one thing to decry (as it shoud be) the portrayals of blacks as "caricatures" (although what do you say about cartoonish white guys like Jim Carey, Arnold Schwarzenegger and our pal, Larry The Cable Guy), and the use of white actors in black-face. It's quite another to make the claim that the industry as a whole discrimated against blacks and people of color by rigging the technology. Ain't nobody got time for that - or, as the Mob would say, "there's no percentage in it." Apparantly the author has no concept of this industry, which is all about making money, and, as we all know, comes only in green, gold and silver.

      Back when the motion picture studio moguls (and their Mob financiers) saw that talkies were all the rage, studios invested heavily in the best sound technology money could buy, and made it all back on "the musical." Al Jolson may have been in black-face, but Lena, Ida, Dorothy and Pearly Mae weren't, and a lot of the sound technology from Westrex, RCA and Siemans was created to capture their subtle and resonate vocal range, not belters like Jolson.

      Now that HDTV and digital distribution is all the rage, they're again investing and developing technology to exploit the market. In this case, as better processor, sensor and lens technology comes into the market, less use of color correction in lighting will be needed, ergo less labor costs for technicians in production or post. It's all about the Benjamins, man...if it makes it simpler to shoot dark skinned actros, then I predict you'll be seeing a return of the "blacxploitation" film...as long as there's a market for it.

      Seriously, quoting an assistant professor from Howard (that is renown for it's film school - not) isn't exactly a qualified source or proof of "discriminating" by white man's technology. Additionally, the alleged quote from Steve (I wasn't there, but I saw it as a kid in the theater) McQueen isn't valid if it's attempting to make the racial case. In the 1960's you had limited choices for film stock and even less if you wanted to shoot at night. You had to light everything with big Brute carbon arc lamps or risk looking like it was shot in a closet...and those suckers generate heat. So, of course everyone was sweating - black, white, actor, crew - it's not like today where we use led, hmi and xenon lights that are far more efficient and cooler than the old 220v carbon arcs.

      Oh and, by the way, the "vaseline" on the skin of dark persons trick? Been using it and teaching it for years, and it works on white skin too...baby oil is better for females, but really, anything that'll cause the skin to reflect light...fashion shooters have been using it for years as well to highlight muscle tone and shape of faces and body parts. That trick is really to cause pop since, after all, we're really only shooting in 2d and need separation/contrast for detail - and the only way to get that when skin tone contrast/gamma is fighting you is to make the details shine and reflect.

      And, for the record, as the line in Blazing Saddles goes: "Are we black? Yes, we are..." and I've been shooting film and video of folks who look like me for the last 50 years. And folks that look like you, too.

      • Well said. Thanks you.

        I'd like to add that this is also a dynamic range issue. B&W film has a dynamic range of about 10 stops. But Kodachrome (the only transparency file I've used extensively) is only about 5 stops. Shooting a very dark-skinned bride in a white dress was a challenge. My Nikon DSLR has about 12 stops of dynamic range, making my life much easier.

      • by Dutch Gun (899105)

        Thanks for an entertaining and informative post!

        You may also find it interesting that the artists at the game company I worked at had to work very hard to come up with good shaders that could make darker / black skin show up and look right. It's not just a matter of changing the RGB constants - humans are very perceptive when it comes to faces and skin coloration, and can tell when things "just look wrong", even if they don't precisely know what's wrong. I never learned all the details of what they had to

    • by verifine (685231)

      Exactly, let's inject race into a purely technical issue. I worked in broadcast and professional television for twenty years. The first TV cameras I worked with were Marconi Mk VII monsters. The camera cable itself was at least an inch and a half in diameter and the cameras needed constant adjustment. If something was dark in color, good luck in having it reproduced with any kind of fidelity. It was not a racism issue, but purely technical limitations. Newer cameras did a better job, and the technolog

    • by Rick Zeman (15628)

      Yes, and light meters don't see color. The 18% grey that they're calibrated for is a darker tone than Caucasian skin and a lighter tone than black skin.

    • First off, film was *not* designed to capture an accurate spectrum. If you took a picture of bouquet of flowers, and compared the spectrum of that image to the original's, the spectra would be quite different even if the color reproduction was perfect.

      That's because color isn't a physical property like wavelength. It is a physiological response to wavelength. This sounds like splitting hairs, but it's not. Two different mixes of wavelengths can produce the same perceived color if they stimulate the cones

    • by BalthCat (2472732)
      Did you actually read the article? Firstly, your entire comment is fundamentally flawed with the claim that film is designed to capture an accurate colour spectrum. It isn't. It's designed to capture a colour spectrum we find visually appealing. So it's not about film, an inanimate object, being magically racist (that's stupid to even suggest some one else would try to claim) it's about how our choice of films and lighting, and which technologies we chose to innovate with, being primarily designed to br
  • by djupedal (584558) on Friday October 18, 2013 @11:55PM (#45172329)
    . . .Lilies of the Field was done in B & W.

    That, and there was less competition for cinematography Oscar bestieness.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Japanese camera companies' digital cameras have often had trouble with European skin tones. The reason being that all digital cameras embellish colours and their development subjects were Japanese. One particular example was Canon, whose cameras were making faces ruddy for years until recently.

  • Now they have the technology to make Teal'c look good without making all the white people look like ghosts [cybermage.se].

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @12:51AM (#45172603)

    You shouldn't be a photographer or work in the film industry.

    Every (competent) photographer knows that camera film and sensors have a very limited way of "seeing" compared to the human eye.

    Your eyes have an incredible dynamic range (the range of light you can see at any one time) that cameras cannot hope to match, at least not currently. That's why you see no stars in the moon landing photos; and why you *can* see stars and the moon simultaneously when you look up at the night sky.

    The funny thing is that film (negative, not slide) has *more* dynamic range and exposure latitude than digital. Getting differing subjects exposed correctly is mostly in the lighting, which has always been possible.

    • by luckymutt (996573) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @01:24AM (#45172743)

      The funny thing is that film (negative, not slide) has *more* dynamic range and exposure latitude than digital. Getting differing subjects exposed correctly is mostly in the lighting, which has always been possible.

      Way easier said than done.
      Sure film has a fantastic range, but pulling highlight detail and shadow detail has always been difficult in the final print. If properly exposed, all of that detail is in the negative, but getting them to both look good in the final print has never been an easy task, still photography or motion picture.
      For still photography, the trick was in the darkroom where you could dodge and burn. In pre-digital, pre-photoshop, the approach was referred to as "expose for shadow, develop for highlights." In camera, the photographer would expose for the shadows, while in the darkroom, develop for the highlights. In a wedding portrait, for example, it would also include dodging the wedding dress to keep it from getting blown out, and burning the tux to try and get more shadow detail.
      Such tricks were not available to motion picture, so they generally try and balance it in camera with a bias to highlights so they don't get blown out.

      • by Rick Zeman (15628)

        The funny thing is that film (negative, not slide) has *more* dynamic range and exposure latitude than digital. Getting differing subjects exposed correctly is mostly in the lighting, which has always been possible.

        For still photography, the trick was in the darkroom where you could dodge and burn. In pre-digital, pre-photoshop, the approach was referred to as "expose for shadow, develop for highlights." In camera, the photographer would expose for the shadows, while in the darkroom, develop for the highlights. In a wedding portrait, for example, it would also include dodging the wedding dress to keep it from getting blown out, and burning the tux to try and get more shadow detail.

        Methinks you got dodge and burn backwards. You burn to make darker and dodge to make lighter.

  • by shameless (100182) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @01:22AM (#45172741) Homepage

    This reminds me of when they were developing the original pilot for the original "Star Trek" series. They wanted to know how the green-skinned Orion slave-girl would look when filmed. They covered her in green makeup and shot some test footage. It came back from the lab with normal pink European flesh tones. So they tried darker makeup. Still pink. They tried the darkest, densest makeup they could find. Still pink. It turned out that the lab was oh-so-helpfully "correcting" the color for them. I think this speaks volumes as to the article's premise...

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @01:28AM (#45172761) Homepage

    There was a hack in some early NTSC TV sets which actually did have a bias for white people. NTSC has a luminance channel and two color channels, which are converted to three color channels to drive the CRT. Because the color channel bandwidth was limited and the signal level wasn't that consistent, some early color receivers had a special case for "skin color". When the two color channels, treated as a vector, were in the "skin color cluster region", they were pulled to that value, which was set for "white" people. Even if the other colors were way off, the skin colors would be consistent.

    But that hack went out with vacuum tubes.

  • Whenever a new movie is about to come out, there is an stupid amount of press related to the movie.

    The 100 million dollar promotion budget seems to also make a little bit of its way to slashdot.

  • Sure, these days they're dying slightly less pointless deaths, but the "token X guy" (generally black, but certainly not white) still seems to exist in a lot of movies. The last one that got me was X-Men Origins. Who's the first "newbie" mutant to bike it (for the team, of course), but Darwin, the single black guy.

    I have a hard time believing that this sort of crap is just coincidental, and I'm white. Until being a "minority" actor in a AAA-1 movie isn't a bit part or the equivalent to a sci-fi red shirt, I

  • ... and post-processing designed to counteract century-old technological biases as old as the medium itself."

    In other words, they've gotten better at color correction. I worked on color correction for Walt Disney's Heroes Work Here campaign [youtu.be] and I spent a long time agonizing over the woman in the stadium. It wasn't because of any kind of racial bias, it wasn't because of any kind of subconscious decisions. It's entirely because of shooting technique and conditions. The problem was making her skin exhibit contrast against the dark background without making her dress completely blown out.

    It was a combination of the fact that she wasn't shot with enough lighting to make her stand out against the background, and that digital imaging sensors don't have as wide a range of exposure (dynamic range) as the human eye.

    The problem is even further than that. When you get into psychovisual enhancements to allow lossy compression to better do its job that means discarding details, and details we least often notice happen to be in the darker portions of luminance. What's needed there is some sort of more intelligent encoding system that can differentiate foreground objects from background objects.

  • My favorite film is Kodak Ektar 100, the modern wonder-film. It has super-fine grain, scans great, and produces vivid in-your-face colors. It makes everything look good -- except white people! Caucasians generally come out looking pink and sunburned. Well, I guess that's why Kodak sell Portra film too.

  • by koan (80826)

    "For the first hundred years of cinema, when images were captured on celluloid and processed photochemically, disregard for black skin and its subtle shadings was inscribed in the technology itself, from how film-stock emulsions and light meters were calibrated, to the models used as standards for adjusting color and tone.'

    I don't have the time for this dreck but I find it amusing that the suggestion is film was designed to make white people look good, it must really suck to be black and see conspiracy ever

    • I find it amusing that the suggestion is film was designed to make white people look good

      You honestly believe that a film stock designed to make white people such as Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor,and Cary Grant look good wouldn't sell? Are you nuts?

      Now, perhaps Sidney Poitier should have been included in the test sample, but racial bias and shortsightedness might have prevented that.

  • Have you never seen a civil war photo of a black soldier? Or the group shot of the Tuskegee airmen? Or To Sir With Love?
  • I have observed many black actors appear on film and video with bloodshot eyes - that is, their eyes appear to have prominent blood vessels. Perhaps it's because blood vessels in the eyes are simply more noticable in black actors, but I'd suspect that it's a side effect of the lighting and filtering changes photographers are making. If photographers are bumping up color channels to make black faces appear less grey, a special emphasis on turning this off in the eyes might make this effect disappear. I could

Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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