I cannot be the only person who has noticed this: For some reason, 30 Rock’s scenes are being aired at approximately half the brightness of other programming, or even the shows own title sequences. The issue can be seen clearly in every episode of Season 5 on Hulu.com as well as NBC.com, but is not present on Season 4 or any other show on Hulu.
Here is a screenshot from last week’s episode of 30 Rock – ‘Plan B':
Compare that to a screenshot from last week’s episode of The Office – ‘Garage Sale':
30 Rock looks very dark and lacks contrast.
Now here are the histograms for each image:
30 Rock – ‘Plan B’
The Office – ‘Garage Sale’
If you’re not familiar, a luminance histogram measures tone in an image from pure black (on the left) to pure white (on the right). The mountains and valleys you see in the meter represent the concentration of that tone. As you can see, the histogram from The Office has bits of data from end to end, but the one from 30 Rock is solely concentrated from the black point to the middle, meaning there is no brightness data in the second half of the spectrum.
Now here is what the picture looks like when we fix the histogram.
The thing is, it appears to be intentional because, as I mentioned before, the issue is not present in the shows title sequences (and select cut-away sequences).
So, why is NBC doing this? It’s already well established that the show does its best to shoot on Tina’s right side to not showcase her facial scar (which is oddly mirrored in the show’s title sequence) and many TV shows used to use soft focus lenses to hide the blemishes of its actors or actresses.
Is this dimming of the footage an attempt to hide the looks of aging stars Fey and Baldwin? Is it just a very weird, but completely consistent, mistake? Or is there some other less obvious reason I’m missing?