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Photon Management
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Old September 24th, 2005, 12:20 PM   #76
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Northridge Ca
Posts: 734
Wow. This is quite a thread. Could be posted as a tutorial on shooting. Of course, someone might point out if you worry too much about the minutiae you may do a lousy job of shooting. But lots of good information here.

Karl, you may not have done anything wrong. The big unkown in your situation is what's going on with the lighting. You can tweak your camera till the cows come home, but if the lighting designer is doing something "creative," you may not be happy with your results. For example, it is very common to light a stage production using 3200K instruments for the overall fill light (with or without colored gels), and keying with a spolight(s) that is 5600K. While this doesn't look bad to the eye, it looks like a mistake on camera. In that situation, the common course of action is to white balance to the spotlights, and let everything else go warm. Not the ideal fix, which would be to ask the lighting designer to color balance his spotlight to 3200K, which he may or may not be willing to do. So you may wish to have a discussion with the lighting designer, and see what he is doing with the show, color balance-wise. If he is using spotlights to key the show, you might want to white balance your camera manually to a spot light, rather than use the preset for 3200K on your camera. If he is already color correcting his spotlight, it may be warmer than 3200K, say around 2800K, which would result in your pictures being warmer than they should be. That's why a manual white balance under the key (spot) would be advised.

However, my gut feeling tells me you are using a Canon camera which tends to warm up the reds, versus the Sony cameras which tend to be a bit cool. Look at a tape of the evening performance. Do the faces look good, but the reds are too hot? I would suggest pulling down a bit of the saturation in post, which is an easy fix with most NLE's, that can be done with no rendering hit. So much can be done in post today, it is almost not worth stressing at the shoot if you protect your master, exposure-wise.

The best case scenario: Before the evening performance, you get the lighting director to give you a typical key light situation on stage with no color lights polluting the test. This should be his properly color balanced key light, be it spotlight or just stage lights, set to his maximum key level. You then white balance and set exposure to this level. (Shoot a Kodak Gray Card Plus under this light. You can use it later in post if you know what you are doing) Then leave your settings alone. It is his show; if he wants to lower his levels for effect, that is his decision, leave your iris setting, or you will end up chasing your tail. If your client complains, you tell him, "Hey, that's the way your lighting director lit the show. Talk to him."

If you have the time when you are doing the set-up, you could add a cast member in a red outfit. Look at him on the monitor. Too warm? Then cheat the white balance. Cover your lens with a CTO gel (or use the proper Warm Card) to cheat the white balance toward blue just a tiny bit. If you don't know what I am talking about, fix it in post.

Wayne Orr, SOC
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