Oct 11, 2016

The colorful world of tomatoes and lasers: why I still miss my black and white TV set

2 min read

When I was a kid in a small country far away from where I am writing now, we only had a black and white CRT TV set at home. (You won’t believe me, but I am actually not that old. I am talking about the eighties). It didn’t stop me from imagining what the hair color of my favorite actress was, or filling in my mind the blue color of sky or green color of grass.

Moving to a color TV lost much of the magic and need for imagination – the nostalgia remained – but suddenly I got confronted with the fact that the reality this new TV set was trying to mimic, was still more colorful and vivid than what the color TV could do then – PAL, Rec.601 color primaries, I learned much later. So still, my mind wandered to paint a picture with even more colorful colors than what the TV set was capable of.
Color spaces
Much water has flown under the bridge since then. The projection and display – and at the same time the movie and television – industries are constantly vying to improve the reality of the images and immerse the viewers more and more. The Rec. 709 color space came along together with HDTV – a compromise between the PAL and SMPTE colors spaces for Standard Definition. The DCI P3 color space for digital cinema followed – standardized based on the Xenon lamp performance of early digital projectors and trying to cover as much of the film gamut as physically possible at that time.
Most recently there is talk and even standardization of an even wider color space, dubbed Rec. 2020. ‘Rec’ means recommendation; according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) nomenclature: BT.2020.
Find out more about color science
In the next few blog posts I’ll tell you all you need to know about colors, and why this matters when it comes to projectors and displays.

We will cover wavelengths, spectral power distributions, color matching functions, tristimulus values, luminous efficacy curves, chromaticity charts, color gamuts, all the way to how a projector or display generates an image with strict color fidelity.

If this doesn’t scare you, you are surely ready to read on. If it does scare you, consider it a challenge and keep reading anyway!