Light a candle rather than curse the darkness

In a previous entry I linked to an example of the Dark Halo, the extinct video artifact caused by the limitations of the equipment of a bygone television age. While the Jimmy Dean video had some good music and was a fine example of the unique lens flare it is this Boing Boing segment showing a candle burning on the old Mr. Wizard television science show that demonstrates the Dark Halo perfectly.

Mr. Wizard - Dark halo video artifact

Show it to your kids so they know how bad we actually had it and tell them to stop whining about how their computers are not powerful enough to play Goldeneye when chatting on the Tweeters at the same time.

The Dark Halo

I may be the only one to ever comment on an extinct video artifact; that of the Dark Halo, a unique lens flare common to early television. There were a number of limitations to such new and expensive means of communication and for decades the promising technology was unable to fulfill its full potential as a medium. It was, in spite of its advanced nature, a fairly simple means of communication and it would take years of development and the anticipation of market penetration to work out all the bugs.

Early television worked but it didn’t work all that great. Static, ghosts and other problems caused by transmission, reception and the limits of the equipment made television viewing something of a general disappointment. Television wasn’t the slick eye-party of modern times. The questionable quality was endured because that was all there was. It was the transmission of the information, not the experience, that made broadcast television worthwhile in the early days.

One of those artifacts of broadcast television of days long gone that surely caused concern among broadcasters was the Dark Halo. I’m sure there is a technical term for it but I don’t know what it is. The Dark Halo was a lens flare caused by the inability of the camera or equipment to fully process the image against an overwhelming light source. It was caused by a bright point of light reflecting into the camera. Typically a bright, intense reflection from a ring, piece of metal, glass or sequins on a dress or suit would cause a bright flare on the image. Instead of a bright, white glow and haze the equipment would instead create a momentary darkened halo around a bright center. In modern film craft the bright lens flare is a camera technique used on purpose for effect (Star Trek, CSI, etc.) but in the past it was an annoyance that highlighted the limits of technology.

Via boingboing. Click the photo to experience the caveman days of television for yourself.
In the image/link above a Dark Halo can be seen on the sparkly jacket worn by Buck Owens just above his hand on the guitar neck. For performers like Buck who wore ‘nudie suits’ and the slinky sequined dresses favored by female stars like Barbara Streisand during their television performances the Dark Halo was a constant and familiar presence for the viewer. It was also nearly restricted to the black and white era. By the time color began to appear in television the image processing difficulties were being overcome for the most part, though on many shows one
can still observe the occasional Dark Halo flare overwhelm the equipment. This is evident from the reflections seen coming from from the jewels on Cinderella’s crown in the 1965 broadcast of Rodgers and Hammersteins’ Cinderella.

The Dark Halo is also something I look for when a modern show recreates television scenes of the past as I am nerdy that way. These are normally depicted during scene on a camera or monitor as a black and white image that is in the foreground of a set (as in the film That Thing You Do). In those rare instances I have yet to see any show faithfully recreate the darkened lens flare or other video artifacts with the exception of poorly rendered lettering or titles superimposed on the image.