I tried Googling this and came up with people talking about it washing things out, but not the other way around.
What's weird is the VLC color/contrast is identical to that of the default player for my old computer's DVD player (from 2009). However, the same video files on Youtube (before download), Quicktime, and the player for a separate DVD player I bought to use with my new computer look far less saturated/contrasted than on VLC.
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I haven't looked into this for a long time, but it used to be that there were two separate paths for video, and the video card software could have different settings for both. The "overlay" was the path for video and was used by media players, but NLEs and other programs which operated on video used a different path.
Google "video overlay settings graphic card" (without the quotes) and you'll find more.
Most media players have their own settings to control the picture settings (ie: contrast, brightness, color levels, etc.) and the default settings of all players are not the same and can vary based on the decoding options used. Open the same video with 6 different players, and you will likely find all 6 look different. Some will be very similar, but they won't all be identical.Google is your Friend
Yeah, but in this case, VLC seems to have a good reputation on the internet, yet nobody says anything about the unrealistic skin colors (everyone looks either drunk or like they spent the day in the tanning bed) and crushed shadow detail?
I saw some screen shots someone took of a show (of which I own DVDs for) they played in VLC, and the color in those screen shots looked the same as it does for me when I use VLC. Is this more of an issue with the VLC settings being meant for screens with lower contrast or something as a way of compensating?
Unfortunately, colors in any player can vary depending on the graphics card, it's driver version, the driver's settings (proc amp controls, "auto" controls, etc.), the logical output device (renderer) the player is using, and the player's internal video proc amp and "auto" controls. When they're set the same you get the same colors and levels. On my system VLC can display the same colors/levels as any other player.
So you need to go through all those possible sources of problems and make sure they are set properly. Using test pattern videos can be a big help. This post has some rec.601/rec.709 videos:
I had the same problem, it turns out the default saturation was set to 1.24 instead of 1.00
(make "Show Settings" is set to "All")
Goto Preferences->Video->Filters->d3d9_filters->Image Saturation
Or search for saturation in the options
Try unchecking "Use hardware YUV->RGB conversion" under Preferences/Video.