Why dark backgrounds in videos look awful

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/03/30/why-dark-backgrounds-in-videos.html


(Psst, Mark: 256 * 3 =768.
256 ^ 3 (which is 256 * 256 *256) = 16,777,216)

The backgrounds in my videos look awful because I’m standing in front of them.


It’s colour banding, not colour bounding.

  1. Shit monitors.

Unless you have a professional grade display dark colors are horrible. Yes compression causes blocking, but most LCDs can’t show you the difference at the very dark and very bright ends of the spectrum. This was one (possibly only) redeeming qualities of CRTs.


It’s funny to me how programming notation has become sort of normal outside its original context. Especially when we have perfectly good ways of representing multiplication (256 x 3, or to be more accurate 256 × 3) and exponents (2563).

Not trying to say either is right or wrong, just observing how things have changed.


I don’t know of a programming convention that uses a single asterisk for exponentiation though. Mark probably meant to type the caret (256^3), which some webforms recognise as mark-up for superscription, not sure if it will show up here with a caret or as a superscript. Some programming languages use a double asterisk like 256**3.


Agreed. @frauenfelder should totally fix that.

Well, those “perfectly good ways” involve symbols not generally found on keyboards. Programming languages (with the notable exception of APL, which even required its own keyboard) generally stick to standard typeable characters, which are just easier to use in any context, programming or not.


Maybe he learned exponentiation playing this game as a kid:


Bah, carets are for rabbets!

I cube like so:

(->> 256
     (repeat 3)
     (apply *))

Though it’s more fun if you take the third item in the infinite sequence of every positive integer power of 256:

(nth (reductions * (repeat 256)) 2)
1 Like

Has he done an explainer on why he always wears the same red shirt?



For those who skipped the video, you are probably better for not watching it. There are things like MP3 compression artifacts and (sorry) “The Game” that once you are introduced to them are impossible to NOT notice everywhere. I can’t stand the horrible over compressed Satellite Music, scan and store most photos as Tiff or Raw whenever possible etc. My local OTA TV has 2 HD and 3 SD channels on a single transmitter and ALL the shows look awful. This is one of the few times the more you know the WORSE it is, and ignorance is bliss.


Why are you using TIFF and RAW when PNG is lossless and much newer and more consistently supported?

1 Like

Been doing this for 20+ years and I have ALMOST lost items from niche compression methods. Now it is Tiff/Raw. Space isn’t much of an issue nowadays anyway.

1 Like


From my perspective TIFF and RAW are niche these days. Most browsers don’t support them consistently but do support PNG. Which has been around since 1996 so it’s certainly not the new kid on the block either.

I didn’t actually know that PNG was that old. I thought it was newer. Goes to show you never can tell.

1 Like

This is the problem. The compression scheme should really be storing these areas as smooth curves (or, like, five-dimensional surfaces or whatever) and then dithering the decompressed output at the end.

exp(log(256)*3) :wink:

1 Like

PNG isn’t a raw format. Raw format is all of the original sensor data, unprocessed, allowing you to do things like make lossless color temp adjustments the exact same way the camera does when creating a JPG, from the same data. PNG doesn’t and can’t store that information.


Agreed that compression is the primary culprit. In fact this seems to be the most noticeable compression artifact for many people. And low bit depth is a part of the compression.

My pet peave is that HDR tv formats should be able to eliminate banding in shadows with higher bit depths on modern high end tv displays. But most of the HDR shows seem to have been mastered at a low bit depth and so still show banding in dark scenes. Even gradients on Hulu and AppleTV interfaces show needless banding on my HDR capable Roku ultra

ZeroZeroZero was the first show I have noticed doesn’t have that banding on my LG C8. It has spectacular use of dark scenes, so much that I felt the need to turn out the lights to get the full effect.


Exactly. TIFF and certainly RAW aren’t display formats, for upload to a website; that’d be a dreadful idea. Conversely, PNG would be horribly limiting as an archive or processing format, as it can’t be freely re-edited.

Apples and oranges!