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Why Did Soap Operas Look Different From Other TV Shows?

You don't have to be a cinematographer to notice that soap operas always looked a bit different than the other shows on TV, and while most people chalk this up to cheap production values there's more to it than that.

Soap operas had to deal with a lot of problems other TV shows didn't have, such as evenly lighting an entire set so the characters can move around, and multiple cameras can be used, without resetting the lights.

They also shot soaps on videotape instead of film, which made the whole show look "off" when combined with the lighting:

Backlighting, part of the three-point lighting setup often used in television production, helps "lift" actors out of the background. This is especially useful for productions that are shot on a lower-quality medium and in small interior sets, which soaps often are. The problem is that shooting on videotape on a small set can reduce the subtlety of the lighting technique. Actors in the foreground often wind up very noticeably backlit, something that doesn't happen on shows with larger sets, or shows that are recorded on film.

Read Why Did Soap Operas Look DIfferent From Other TV Shows? at Mental Floss


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