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  • Colbert lighting

     Todd Terry updated 5 years, 5 months ago 3 Members · 4 Posts
  • Bob Cole

    September 11, 2015 at 1:00 am

    If you’ve seen the new Colbert Late Show, I’d like to know what you can tell me about the lighting.

    The studio underwent a huge renovation, but the lighting seems not quite up to standard. When Colbert is at the desk, he looks great. But the guest is lit sort of harshly. And during Colbert’s stand-up, he goes in and out of the light.

    Am I wrong about this? Did you find the lighting a bit surprising? Are they going for something new and different that I’m just not getting?

    Bob C

  • Mark Suszko

    September 11, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    For comparison purposes, I recorded Colbert AND all the competing late night talk shows, and watched them back to back. The show I liked least for lighting was actually Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, with what I thought was a very soft, glowy, diffuse and too-yellow lighting that seemed more suited to an early morning aesthetic or women’s talk shows, than late night talk. Colbert’s show seemed to be shaded to favor a cooler color temperature.Colbert has a lot of LED screens and projections all around the set, and that may create problems with the overall base light.

    Not lighting-related, but of all the competing shows, the one that actually seems to capture the essence and overall “flavor” of the Old Carson show at its best, was IMO actually Jimmy Kimmel’s show, from lighting to overall production values, pace, and format.

  • Bob Cole

    September 11, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    [Mark Suszko] “the one that actually seems to capture the essence and overall “flavor” of the Old Carson show at its best, was IMO actually Jimmy Kimmel’s show,”

    True! I enjoy Colbert a lot, but I had a similar reaction, but more about the nature of the host. For that time of day, mellowness has its charms. Colbert is like caffeine.

    So, you didn’t think the guest chair lighting was stinky, huh?


  • Todd Terry

    September 11, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Even though they use the same space, Cobert’s set is a fair bit more “inimate” than Letterman’s was, and I’m sure that creates some issues with the lighting plot. And, as Mark said, there are all the video walls (which I don’t really care for) that come into play and I’m sure that affects things, too.

    I find the video walls distracting, and also make the backgrounds look very flat and compressed… Colbert looks like he is sitting right in front of them two feet away, when I’m sure there is actually much greater distance. They should consider blurring the sources in them. Letterman, on the other hand, with his NYC model background, looked very deep, even though it wasn’t (the design of the background portion of that set was really brilliant, with a lot of phony perspectives that really gave the illusion of depth).

    With Colbert I have noticed a couple of times that talent slipped out of the lights. Obviously they are still trying to figure out what all space might be used. Letterman’s set was very broadly lit, as you never knew what he might do. In fact, an operator with a handheld camera was always on stage, just in case David decided to walk backstage or out the side door onto 53rd street. They would sometimes go days or weeks without taking this camera, but it was always ready.

    One thing that is bugging me a little with Colbert is camera blocking. When he’s center stage in the hero monologue spot, they have the main camera above his eyeline (significantly above it). Letterman’s man camera was slightly below eyeline, which I believe is a much better look in that situation… it’s definitely stronger. The above-the-eyeline shot makes Colbert look weaker, the set look smaller, and makes vertical lines in the set unpleasantly converge.

    Many years ago I was lucky enough to attend a taping of the show… Johnny Carson. Almost unbelievably, it was a night when Johnny, Ed, and Doc were all there, which seemed rare in later years. Most people were surprised at how smallish that stage actually was, which seemed so massive on TV. They always framed shots so you never saw both sides of the rainbow curtain… either the left edge or the right edge but never both, and the illusion really worked.

    Personally, some people think it would be sacrilegious, but I think they should rename Studio 50 from the Ed Sullivan Theatre to the David Letterman Theatre… or at least the Sullivan-Letterman Theatre. It’s not like the place was being “honored” before… it was a falling-down rat hole before Letterman moved in. And as far as “legacy” goes, Letterman’s show was in the theatre for significantly longer than Sullivan’s was.

    As far as late night programming goes… if you haven’t watched Craig Ferguson’s replacement, James Corden following Colbert on CBS, give him a try. He’s pretty talented, self effacing, shameless, and quite quite entertaining.


    Todd Terry
    Creative Director
    Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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