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Why do some episodes of the Twilight zone look more modern than others?
July 3, 2006 8:46 PM   Subscribe

Why do some episodes of the Twilight Zone look so different than others? Did they change the camera type in the middle of the show, or change the type of film used? This is, of course, evident by the TZ marathon going on the SciFi channel.
posted by crazyray to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Some episodes were shot on videotape rather than film to save money--is that what you mean?
posted by kimota at 8:53 PM on July 3, 2006


I always thought it was the older episodes were kinescope.
posted by birdherder at 9:16 PM on July 3, 2006


Good eye, crazyray! The episodes shot on videotape rather than film appeared in the second season - then they switched back. The episodes were Twenty-Two, Static, The Whole Truth, The Lateness of the Hour, Night of the Meek, and Long Distance Call.
posted by thejoshu at 9:21 PM on July 3, 2006


I noticed the same thing! I'm glad to finally know the reason behind it. All I knew was that some of the episodes looked ultra-cheesy, like they were soap operas or something. Which brings me to...

Are soap operas shot on different film then other TV shows? For some reason, it's always possible for me to tell if a show is a soap opera, even after only watching it for a second or two.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:29 PM on July 3, 2006


For Afroblanco
posted by RobotHero at 9:38 PM on July 3, 2006


I seem to recall that TZ had to resort to video for budgetary reasons.

Soap operas aren't filmed -- they're videotaped.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:39 PM on July 3, 2006


RobotHero - awesome! That pretty much explains it.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:36 PM on July 3, 2006


I wonder whether it's the 30 fps video vs. 24 fps film that makes them look different, or whether it's something else inherent in the medium.
posted by zek at 11:13 PM on July 3, 2006


I noticed on the TiVo that the schedule for the episodes at one point shifted from the normal every half hour to every 33 minutes. Like:
6:00
6:30
7:00
7:33
8:06
8:39
9:12
What's up with that? Were some of the episodes longer, and they didn't trim the commercials? Was there some sort of extra commentary going on?
posted by blasdelf at 11:22 PM on July 3, 2006


blasdelf, most likely the network screws with the timing so you keep watching their stuff. IE: when what you're watching is over you've already missed the beginning of something else on another network.
posted by crypticgeek at 12:34 AM on July 4, 2006


WOW, you guys are AWESOME. I have long seen the difference with certain shows and never known exactly how to put that into words, other than some shows look more live and others look more recorded, even when they're not live.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:02 AM on July 4, 2006


Since we're discussing this...

Following on zek's comment: why does video look so much crappier than film? Is it lower resolution, lower framerate, some other property of the equipment...? Because MAN it's terrible -- but digital video of a certain quality is much closer to film than video (though not quite all the way there).
posted by rkent at 1:06 AM on July 4, 2006


Standard video has a has a higher framerate. It's 30 versus 24, but it's actually even more of a difference than that. Standard TVs draw from top to bottom 60 times a second (not 30, not 24), but only draw every other horizontal line on each pass. Drawing every other line 60 times per second basically means you get 30 complete new pictures every second.

With standard video, each of those top to bottom passes (called a field) is unique. What happens when you spread out 24 unique film frames over 60 video fields? You get the 3-2 pulldown, which basically means that odd numbered film frames get held onscreen for two fields, while even numbered frames get held onscreen for three fields. This is noticeable to viewers (see here for a full discussion), and it's actually a flaw or compromise, but many viewers have associated the effect with the more expensive production practices of hollywood movies, leading to a preference for the look even for shows intended solely for TV viewing.
posted by NortonDC at 2:14 AM on July 4, 2006


blasdelf, my guess is that it has to do with the difference in the size of the commercial "holes" that the the networks use now as opposed to when Twilight Zone was originally aired.
These days, I think a 30 minute program only includes about 22 minutes of actual program content, the other 8 being commercials, etc.

The proportion of air time given over to commercials has grown slowly but steadily since the early days of TV to the present day. I think the biggest increase may have come under the Reagan Administration, at about the same time they repealed the "Fairness Doctrine".

Those time offsets my be indicative of SciFi wanting to show the entire original episode, which was produced at a time when more of the program slot was actually devoted to the program, without losing any of their contemporary revenue stream.
posted by hwestiii at 4:47 AM on July 4, 2006


Don't mean to hijack the thread, but the film-versus-video question got me thinking about a related topic: how come I'm usually always able to determine that a certain TV show is a Canadian production just from the picture quality? What is it that makes Canadian TV so 'Canadian'?
posted by macdara at 6:46 AM on July 4, 2006


This page does a pretty good job of discussing film vs. video.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:40 AM on July 4, 2006


Film versus videotape
Until recently, video cameras simply could not handle the brightness range of film. (Remember the 30:1 brightness range limitation of video?)
posted by squink at 7:50 AM on July 4, 2006


pmurray63...d'oh
posted by squink at 7:51 AM on July 4, 2006


film usually also looks softer to my eye.

i hate that 3:2 pulldown judder though.
posted by joeblough at 9:55 AM on July 4, 2006


why does video look so much crappier than film?

Basically, it has lower resolution, lower dynamic range, less contrast, and a smaller color gamut, and on top of that it is less forgiving than film about errors.
posted by kindall at 9:59 AM on July 4, 2006


It's hard for me to describe the difference between film and video. Soaps and video-era Twilight Zone just look a bit too... fluid. Everything looks just a bit too natural. Kind of like a home video.

However, this may have nothing to do with actual quality. It could just be that I'm used to seeing "professional" productions done in film, and "amateur" productions done in video, and thus associate video with "cheesiness."
posted by Afroblanco at 10:19 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Semi-interesting note: A few years ago I was watching some made for cable movie, and it looked like film at first, but I kept getting the "video" vibe too. I watched the closing credits and noticed a credit for Filmlook which processes video to look more like film. From what I read at the time, the more you want to pay, the more like film it will look, including introducing film-related flaws like grain, scratches, etc.
posted by The Deej at 10:36 AM on July 4, 2006


it has to do with the difference in the size of the commercial "holes" that the the networks use now as opposed to when Twilight Zone was originally aired...Those time offsets may be indicative of SciFi wanting to show the entire original episode

If so, good on 'em. What hwestiii is talking about is definitely true -- if you get to know the Zone well, you start to notice and become very irritated with the little edits that have been introduced into the versions shown on commercial broadcasts. Compare them with the archival versions on videotape or DVD sometime -- argh!
posted by Rash at 12:51 PM on July 4, 2006


Soaps and video-era Twilight Zone just look a bit too... fluid. Everything looks just a bit too natural. Kind of like a home video.

However, this may have nothing to do with actual quality. It could just be that I'm used to seeing "professional" productions done in film, and "amateur" productions done in video, and thus associate video with "cheesiness."
That's Afroblanco demonstrating this:
[3-2 pulldown is] actually a flaw or compromise, but many viewers have associated the effect with the more expensive production practices of hollywood movies, leading to a preference for the look even for shows intended solely for TV viewing.
posted by NortonDC at 1:38 PM on July 4, 2006


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