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Old April 22nd, 2007, 10:52 AM   #1
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How often do you manually white balance?

Last night I was shooting nine live bands playing at two a time at an upstairs and downstairs dance floor.

The upstairs had considerably better lighting while the downstairs was very dark, lit only by stage lights...I found myself manually white balancing each time I'd go up and down stairs, which became quite a hassle - especially when I needed to also quickly set up a tripod shot.

As far as I know, the VX2100, which I shoot on, doesn't have multiple manual white balance presets, so is there a workaround this type of situation? Should I use the tungsten/indoor lighting preset when shooting in a place with good lighting, and use manual white balance when in darker areas?
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 01:48 PM   #2
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Personally I always use tungsten white balance while shooting anything lit with stage lights. It's just too hard to get consistent results manually white balancing in this situation (you need a stagelight without a gel at 100% intensity shining on a white or neutral surface, something which is hard to find at a performance shoot).

I think the results are just as good in the end. If your goal is capturing something close to what you saw, you shouldn't white balance to any lighting with gels or lights which are partially dimmed.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 02:26 PM   #3
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I agree with boyd,

Lights change shadows change to much.. go auto preset like he said... it way pay in the end if you try to white balance you will get nice looking picture at the time of balance but then when you go to edit all the shots look different.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 02:39 PM   #4
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I got some beautiful shots of a vocalist half shrouded in shadow, such a clear contrast between his skin tones and the dark.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 02:54 PM   #5
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I had an almost similar situation videotaping a few rock concerts one day with the Z1u. The whole thing was live to TV. I had to keep it on auto white balancing because as I was taping them the lights were constantly changing every few minutes.

White balancing should be used as much as possible but this is one of those situations where you have no choice but to keep it on auto.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 04:05 PM   #6
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I don't use auto myself. If you shoot a performance in auto the camera will constantly compensate for the lighting and strange things may happen to the color. If you set for tungsten then blue will look blue, red will look red.

With a mixture of halogen, HMI, xenon, even LED lighting these days it can be hard to find a happy medium though. For example, if you have people and scenery lit with halogen fixtures, and a video screen then you have to choose between having the video look blue when the people look natural, or having the people look orange when the screen looks natural.

The Z1 has a nice feature which lets you assign white balance shift to the programmable buttons, so it's easy to run it up or down in 500K increments until you find a setting you like. The VX also has white balance shift in the custom presets. You might want to experiment with setting white balance to tungsten and shifting up and down to find the best overall look. Of course it's tricky to tell what this really looks like on the little LCD screen, much better to have an external monitor for color judgements.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 05:57 PM   #7
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I think the whole process is mostly a crap shoot. You really have to do the lighting equivalent of a sound check to know for sure. There are simply too many variables with stage lighting.

I use Canon cameras, and their tungsten white balance is a bit to warm for my taste when shooting live performances, particularly when the lighting designer chooses to "surprise pink" or"special lavender" gels. These particular colors are predominantly blue with a healthy dose of red to make skin tones pop. Usually drives me crazy in post. I always white balance to the downstage center with all, and I mean all, stage lights up full. I tried white balancing to no gel lights, then blue gel lights, and finally warm gel lights.
No approach was perfect, but the all lights up full gave me the best overall baseline. However, this scenario was in a real theatre with tons and tons of wattage. A nightclub is a whole different story. There, a tungsten setting on the camera might work. The distinction is less wattage overall instead of color temperature. I'm not exactly sure why, but my cameras behave better in small clubs if I choose the tungsten WB over manual WB.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 10:01 PM   #8
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I always use the indoor preset on my Sony's. When there is more than one camera( multi cam shoot) to edit there is always a need to colour correct anyway. I usually do this to match the various camera clips before I start to edit so that the filter is applied to the whole capture on the timeline. At least the correction will be consistent that way. In other words I never white balance.

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