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MAGAZINE
STUDIO
SCHOOL

White Balance

Lesson 1
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Lesson 2
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Lesson 3
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Lesson 4
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Lesson 5
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Lesson 6
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Lesson 7
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Lesson 8
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Lesson 9
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Lesson 10
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Contributed By Glen Berry

IMPORTANT CONCEPTS
  1. Kelvin Scale
  2. Daylight is Blue, Tungsten is Orange
  3. The Camera Must be Told what is White

Although our eye will automatically adjust to different light sources, the camera needs to be told which is which. Many cameras have automatic white balance functions but the surest way to know is to explicitly tell the camera. This is done by holding a white card or piece of paper in front of the lens and indicating to the camera that it is looking at white, commonly done by pressing a button on the body of the camera or in a menu setting labeled “White Balance”. With white established as a reference point, the camera can correctly interpret the color temperature of the light and calibrate itself.

Improperly balanced footage is easy to identify. Shots in which everything appears blue in the camera original are ones that was balanced for artificial lighting but shot in daylight. Shots that appear orange are ones that were balanced for daylight but shot in a setting with tungsten or incandescent lighting. Regardless, you do not want an undesirable color shift. Check your white balance each time the lighting changes in a scene to ensure consistency in the color. The color of the shots can always be modified in post but it is wiser to maintain consistency in production.

For some projects, it can be desirable to intentionally shift the color temperature. “Cooling down” a shot means taking it in the direction of blue. “Warming up” a shot means taking in the direction of orange. This is a subjective choice but it is possible to use White Balance to change the color intensities captured in the camera original. This can be done on many cameras by manually taking control of the White Balance settings and shifting the temperature in one direction or another.

It is also possible to “trick” the camera into thinking a color is white. You can place a light blue card in front of the camera and explicitly tell the camera that it is white. Then you will “warm up” your shot and make all colors shift to orange. Conversely, you can take a light orange card and white balance to it and “cool down” your shot.

SUMMARY

  • The Kelvin Scale, measured in degrees, is a scale of the color temperature of light.
  • Different light sources have different colors. Our eye fools us into seeing them all as the same.
  • The camera must be explicitly told what is white. It can guess with automatic settings but as with exposure and focus, you need an operator to verify and manipulate these settings.
LESSON
Introduction to Cinematography
Responsibilities of the Cinematographer and main areas of focus.
Composition and Mise-en-Scene
A description of mise-en-scene as well as how and why we want to create powerful compositions to display on the screen.
Focus and Depth of Field
The importance of focus, factors that effect depth of field and how to critical focus.
Shutter Speed and Aperture
A discussion of latitude, stops and the effect of shutter speed and aperture settings on exposure.
White Balance
The color quality of light , the Kelvin scale as well as the how and why of properly calibrating your camera.
Clapboard and Camera Log
How and why to mark your shots as well as maintaining a camera log.