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Old January 19th, 2008, 05:10 AM   #1
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White balancing in the field

Hi all,
I am wondering how you all go about setting the white balance for your shots in the field. Obviously it's not something you can always set up the way you would with a card if you were in a studio. Are you all using your auto white balance, or is it something you set up manually? I am asking this since some of the shooting i have done is either in the early morning or late afternoon, & the light intensity changes so dramatically. I am not really happy with the colours when i use auto white balance, but i'm not sure i'm getting it right when i'm "guessing" as i change the settings as the light changes. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Bryce
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Old January 19th, 2008, 06:30 AM   #2
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Whitebalance

When I was commercial I used to take a pure white card or paper along. Even better was a white plastic clipboard to double as a dry erase marker slate and WB card.

Set camera's color balance to manual and hold the card so it fills the lens, be there are no shadows on it, just even, ambient light that matches that of your subject. Then hit the WB button.

If you are shooting something on the stage or say, mountains, it's best to putthe whitecard on stage or 10 or more feet away. Make it so the card is illuminated by the same light at the same approximate angle the subject will be. Get close or zoom in to fill the frame with white, then hit WB button.
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Old January 19th, 2008, 06:35 AM   #3
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Hi Bryce.

First, I think this question belongs in the Under Water-Over Land forum :)
But I will try to answer it how I do it.

As a main rule I think no automatic controls belong in wildlife videoing, because of constantly change of focus, behaviour of animals/birds, walking in and out of view and the lightning conditions constantly changing, etc.
A least that's how I do it - all manual when shooting wildlife.

Situations I want to mention when i think it's very importened to use manual white balance is:
1) Filming in light from artificial light - in doors (lightning pipes).
2) In mixed lightning - if your scene is a mix between in door and out door. Let's say you're filming a person (or what ever) walking from in door to out door, or just passing a window with light coming in from out side. These are very difficult to shoot as the light will change.
3) In the magic hour - before sun rise and after sun set you'll get a much more blue light then in day sun light.
4) Shooting in the shadow - on a sunny day with a blue sky the shadows have a much more blue colour then the directly sunlight, because of dominance of reflected light from the sky.

I think many cameras today have more then one customer presets to save manually taken WB on.

In Norway we can buy ice cream in white plastic boxes, I've cut a peace from a such one, used some glue and put a white paper on it. That's in my bag where ever I go for manually white balance :)
I just hold the white plastic in front of the lense and push the button for manually WB - Voila!
This year I also will buy myself a focus control unit, It'll make it easier for me to manually focusing in the field.
I would also go for a polarizer filter, which take away reflections. It also give the scenes a much more dynamic shape, bright colours, depht of field and maybe a touch of 3D.

In the end you just have to try out with your camera, what is best for you.
To film with manual controls needs practise, practise and practise.

I wish you good luck and hope this could be of some help.

See you in Uwol 2008 - February we all start up again :)

All the best.
Geir Inge
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Old January 19th, 2008, 06:42 AM   #4
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Thanks James,
I would do that, & i do have a pure white & also an 18% grey card for setting my white balance & exposure, however, i am thinking more along the lines of when i have a subject i'm focusing on from a long distance away, like 50m or so. From that distance it is really hard i think to get the white balance right if the subject is in shadow or amongst bush. That is where i'm not sure how to set things up correctly. I guess if i look at where my subject is, & what the light is like maybe i could set up a card in similar light & do a proper white balance, but since my subjects are mostly animals, i'm not sure they will hang around untill i get things sorted. Thus far i have been using the auto white balance to get a rough idea, then tweaking it until i get a picture that atleast looks to me through the viewfinder or in the lcd the same as what i am seeing with my own eyes. Not sure if this is the best way to go though.

Bryce
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Old January 19th, 2008, 06:58 AM   #5
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Hi Geir,
Thanks for that info. How far in front of the camera do you use your white balance card? I have always tried to get it where my subject is, that's why i'm asking the question of how you all do it, since we are normally far from our subjects.
I'm glad to see that it seems as though i am on the right track as far as the other things you mentioned go. I pretty much always have a circular polariser on. I do have a lanc controlled zoom thingy with start/stop etc. & have just bought myself a set of rails that i will be buying a follow focus for very soon. That should help me no end in focusing i think.
Thank you also for the tip with the blue light in the magic hour. I have read that before, but as i'm just starting out, i have tried to read so much, i think it got lost somewhere in the miriad of other info i have in my head!

Bryce :)
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Old January 19th, 2008, 07:17 AM   #6
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When you're filming out doors/animals, you can not just walk to the animals, take the WB and back again to start shooting :)
I just hold it in front of my camera, zoom in so I get the whole paper in the view finder and push the button for WB. I try to get the same light, or as close to, as what I am filming. Turn around so you get the right lightning conditions and push the button. Hold it in front of your lens so it fills the whole view finder and be sure it's in focus, that's how far from the lens :)
In doors you can do some more planning and make, as James Harring suggested, white paper plates on a stage etc. In the wild you can not do that, you'll never know where the animals will pop up. And you'll probably scare the heck out of the animals - any way.
What I think is the most difficult with wildlife filming is to keep focus, but I am practesing :)

I've seen your videos on your web page, and I think they are good.

Geir Inge
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Old January 19th, 2008, 08:30 AM   #7
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In the olden days when Noah was a pup and the earth was soft and consumer level video was still shaking down, I think one white-balancing option was a white plastic cap which fitted over the lens which was pointed in the direction of the reflected light or was it the light source? Memory fails here. Maybe that was why the cap was thick. If all else fails, a white coffeecup cap might work.

Can't remember if it was any good or not.

Last edited by Bob Hart; January 19th, 2008 at 08:34 AM. Reason: error
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Old January 19th, 2008, 04:50 PM   #8
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http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...tal_White.html


If you go to the above site at b&H this is a white balance filter, put it on point and set white balance.

I have not used one but sounds like it would be good for wildlife filming where you often do not have a ton of control.

I simply use my white card, use a polizer if there is enough light and settle for that.
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Old January 19th, 2008, 05:10 PM   #9
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Thanks Bob, & Dale,
I think the plastic cap idea is the early version of the item that Dale posted the link to. I have looked at this as a soloution, however, i actually watched some videos of how to use it, & to put it very simply, each time they set the white balance they went to where the subject was to point the camera back at where they were shooting from took a shot, & set the white balance from that. Needless to say i think i will stick with my white card. It certainly sounds like i should be using it a heck of a lot more though! I guess i'll just have to get out there & practice a whole lot more!!

Bryce
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Old January 19th, 2008, 06:15 PM   #10
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If you're shooting at dawn or sunset, you might only want to use a pre-set daylight setting otherwise you will get some rather strange colour effects at times.
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Old January 19th, 2008, 06:33 PM   #11
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Thanks Brian,
So would you use a custom preset, & shoot with that preset throughout that period of time when the light is chaning rapidly?

Bryce
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Old January 19th, 2008, 07:05 PM   #12
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I use a neutral translucent coffee can lid.

http://www.enosoft.net/products/enod...iteBalance.htm

The above article relates to the situation when you can't set the white balance in the field and do so in post. For a camcorder with user-adjustable white balance, I simply set it while the lid is over the lens.
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Old January 19th, 2008, 07:17 PM   #13
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Thanks John,
That's a very interesting article. In my situation recording directly to tape, obviously i couldn't do it in real time, but for post on footage that isn't right, it looks very interesting. I will have to have a go with the coffee lid to see if that way is easier to get good results than what i am currently doing. (Using a white card)

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Old January 19th, 2008, 09:24 PM   #14
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Bryce:

The important thing is to decide how you want the video to look. Are you trying to make it resemble the way your eye and brain interpret the light, or enhance the look?

Couple things to factor: very early and especially very late light tends to run warm, much more to the red end of the spectrum. Knowing that, you have to decide whether to fight it, or run with it. If you want to stay white balance neutral, you just need to get anything white--I usually keep a biz card in my pocket--and carefully get the direct light on the card. If you want to accentuate the warmth, do a shade balance out of the primary light. It'll make the sky color or the sunlight on objects very warm and friendly. It's a great trick for unfiltered sunsets to really pop the colors.

Now, if you're shooting everyday objects, like white houses, then you have a problem. Direct sunlight balance makes the whites look natural, but all the shaowed areas run very blue. If you shoot cool, the house turns cream colored. I'll normally set up a 5600-ish color balance on my "A" switch, and then a 6500-8000 balance on the "B" switch. Then, I can flip back and forth very quickly as I move from sun to shade shooting.

One big help is the growing number of very good color viewfinders as a quick double check for the color balance. Those of us who were weaned on the black and white viewfinders quickly learned to guess the video look based on the numerical color value our white balancing showed in the viewfinder. Of course, sometimes the camera would still fool you.

But to answer your original question, always manually balance. Many of the prosumer cameras fool themselves by grabbing a new, erroneous balance as you pass by a light source.
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Old January 20th, 2008, 03:54 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce Comer View Post
Thanks Brian,
So would you use a custom preset, & shoot with that preset throughout that period of time when the light is chaning rapidly?

Bryce
It depends on what I'm wanting to do. Usually I wouldn't try to go for a neutral midday look, because the angle of the light would give it away. Also, part of the beauty of filming around that time of day is the warmer look.

However, before the sun goes down too far you may find that you're trying to match to material shot earlier in the day, so you can try some "progressing" white balances to try a basic match. However, if you go too far you'll find the shadows becoming a deeper blue closer to sunset because you're doing a WB to an increasingly warmer sun.

You can grade in post to match the shots, but I'd keep a warmer look rather than a neutral one.

If you're shooting around sunset, don't suddenly change the time scale of the sequence. Basically don't go back to film the beginning again, having shot everything else. You really need to work quickly, so you don't really notice the colour temperature changes because you've a logical progression towards a warmer light.
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