Pop culture

Why is NBC dimming 30 Rock?

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 as well as It 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.

Better, right?

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 not to 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.

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 apparent reason I’m missing?

Business Technology

Robert Scoble is wrong about analog.

I’m going to go out on a limb and flat out disagree with Robert Scoble.

In his latest post, he cites an EngadgetHD article noting that we have only two years remaining before the government-mandated shut down of analog television. The completion of this switch will lead to a more efficient, higher quality, and (most of all) more media company friendly digital signals. Scoble uses his own father as an example as to why this shutdown won’t happen.

While he raises a good point, his argument is flawed. His point is that older people vote. And they vote in large numbers. Scoble argues that when they find out we’re going to take their analog TV from them, they will come out in droves to change the laws. I’ll go on the record and agree if there is anything that would – and could –stop this switch from happening, it is the elderly voting it down. But I’m also going on the record to say it won’t happen. The transition will occur without a hitch.

I think by the time the analog switch is flipped off, very few people will notice – especially the elderly who are, demographically, less in-tune with technology. 

The main reason for this is something I’m not sure Scoble caught:
The switch doesn’t require the average consumer to upgrade their set, only their signal.

It just means that pretty much every household that wants a cable connection will have to switch from an analog receiver to a digital receiver. They don’t need to buy an HDTV or anything of the like. 

My parent’s 15-year-old TV works fine with the digital box, and probably so will Scoble’s dad’s. Most people don’t understand the difference between analog and digital, nor do they care. They just know the cable company is offering them a better deal and more channels if they switch the box on top of their TV. Most people won’t even be aware it’ is happening or that they have digital service.

Here on Long Island, it feels like the transition is pretty much over already. Cablevision, the dominant provider in the area, has made it cheaper to switch to their iO digital cable service than to keep your existing analog one. Combine that with the cheap bundles of broadband with your digital signal, and it’s pretty much insane not to. And now, more companies are getting into the game. For example, Verizon has started to penetrate the once monopolistic grip of Cablevision with its FiOS service, and it doesn’t offer analog service at all.

I think Scoble raises a good point. If it were highly publicized, I think some people would come out against the transition. But I believe it would be almost entirely based on a misunderstanding.

Even if people did band together against it, if consumer rights groups got up in arms, I’d argue you wouldn’t hear about it too much. Not to sound cynical or like a conspiracy theorist, but the media companies aren’t exactly going to publicize it when they stand to benefit from the transition, and the people who would be up in arms aren’t exactly reading technology blogs daily either.

The transition will be barely noticed when it happens. The media companies have been working on this for a while, and when the day comes, most people won’t even know it happened.

Mark my words.