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Video Production - White Balancing and Color Temperature Explained


If the color of the video you shoot is messed up, chances are high that the problem is either with white balancing the camera or the "color" of the light you are videotaping in.

These two things are a bit on the technical side when it comes to making video but they are not really that hard to understand. White balancing and color temperature are intricately related and any discussion of one will include the other.

White balancing is an adjustment you make to the camera that tells it what kind of light you are recording in so that the camera records video the correct color.

Small, automatic cameras always have automatic white balancing so you do not need to worry about it, but larger video cameras have manual white balance control which gives you better quality. Now a small automatic camera can easily be overwhelmed by different colored lights and not be able to handle it, but outside of changing your light, you would have no control over the situation.

WHY DO YOU NEED TO WHITE BALANCE?

Different types of light are different colors, and these differences are measured on what's known as the Kelvin color temperature scale. Color temperature has no relation to any HEAT that might be given off by the light, rather it is about where the light falls on the color spectrum.

The camera needs to adjust itself, called white balancing, in order to shoot proper color. This might seem strange, because light generally looks white to us humans, regardless of its source. We do not see sunlight as blue, florescent light as green, or incandescent as orange, but they are.

Cameras see the light as it is truly colored but our brains and eyes sort them all out as white or else we'd feel like we were on a permanent LSD trip. (Wow man, everything is soooo colorful.)

Color temperature is the technical term for measuring the color of light. The Kelvin Temperature scale is used. Standard sunlight is about 5,400 degrees Kelvin. Shadowy sunlight is "colder," about 7,400 degrees.

Tungsten halogen TV lights are orange and come in at 3200 degrees kelvin.
You do not really have to know these exact values to adjust your camera.

Most cameras white balance by pointing them at a white card that is reflecting the light being shot under. Then a button is pushed and the camera reads the white and adjusts all other colors relative to the white.

It is important to re-white balance your camera every time you change light sources and of course, every time you turn it on.

One advanced tip is to white balance on a card with a slight blue tint and you will get a nice warm orange. Not orange enough to look distorted, just orange enough to look inviting.

You can do the reverse by balancing on a slightly orange card. This gives you a blue tint, which might just be what you need to make that Christmas scene shot in July look cold.

To play it safe and get the truest color, it is best to shoot in one type of light. Mixtures can throw a camera off. For example, if you shoot inside under incandescent light your windows will look overly blue. Sometimes that can actually look nice, but often it looks horrible.

If you go outside to shoot without changing your white balance setting from taping indoors, your video is likely to be very blue.

If your camera has a manual white balance, use it every single time you change light. Also change it as the day lingers, because sunlight in the evening is much bluer than sunlight at noon. If your camera does it automatically, cross your fingers and hope for the best. Most do amazingly well.

One great feature to look for in more advanced video cameras is the ability to set white balance presets. They can help you change your white balance quickly, without having to go through the typical routine with the white card.

I hope this information helps you make better videos!

Lorraine Grula
Internet Video Gal

 


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