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Old February 4th, 2010, 10:49 PM   #1
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Poor color at receptions

I've noticed on an awful lot my competitors websites, footage from the reception tends to cast an orange skin tone on the subjects when using HD cameras. Is this to be expected when using these cameras or is this just a case of lazy videographers who choose not to properly set their white balance and exposure level. If you aren't using reception lighting, but the house lights are up, can one expect good color if camera levels are properly set?

This seems to be way to common and makes me wonder why anyone would except this in such expensive cameras.
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Old February 5th, 2010, 11:33 AM   #2
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I would argue poor white balance, simply because I have shot more than my fair share of dark receptions and can speak from experience that accurate colors are very doable. Thus, the equipment factor is ruled out.

I think the key is to constantly keep checking your white balance. I have edited tapes from other shooters where everything was nice and balanced during the grand entrance in front of the huge windows at 6pm, but as soon as the lights go down everyone looks like a pumpkin.
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Old February 5th, 2010, 11:51 AM   #3
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Setting white balance in receptions can be ambiguous at times. When mood lighting is used, white isn't white. If you attempt to set white balance under these circumstances, you can get some strange results. Imagine doing a WB on a white card under lavender light. you don't want the camera to try to make that card white. If you do try this, the people in the footage will look like they are from mars - or worse.

Another approach is to preset WB to indoor tungsten and then tweak the WB and CC in post to give it a more natural look. But if the lighting for the reception is lavender, you can't or shouldn't try to make it white. You can also use your own lighting to make people in the foreground who are the subjects of your shots look more natural. This can help you deal with lavender (or other color) skin but you shouldn't try to "correct" the room so that the lavender or other lighting looks white.
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Old February 5th, 2010, 01:05 PM   #4
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Tom, I know exactly what you're talking about. Here's the thing. When the lights are dimmed the color temperature of the lighting changes also. So if you're using an 'indoor' preset for white balance it may no longer look quite right because the temp of the lighting is no longer standard indoor temperature. Instead, the lighting is much warmer, so you get those orange and red tones.

In some ways it DOES accurately reflect the scene you are filming though. When the lights are dimmed the image you see with your eyes has changed too, so it makes perfect sense that the camera is seeing something different as well. The difference is that the camera has a harder time reproducing an accurate image as the amount of light drops. Our eyes work much better.

Our approach is to continue filming with the indoor preset (since sometimes you'll have the lighting change or the DJ lights might also come into play). We then make adjustments in post to achieve a look that is more accurate for each scene.
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Old February 5th, 2010, 02:09 PM   #5
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Our approach is to continue filming with the indoor preset (since sometimes you'll have the lighting change or the DJ lights might also come into play). We then make adjustments in post to achieve a look that is more accurate for each scene.
I completely agree. If you try to chase white balance in these situations, you can wind up with a real mess on your hands. You don't want the camera to try to make things white that aren't. It's important to strive for good exposure. This will assure the maximum latitude in making corrections in post. If your footage is too dark of light, you ability to make changes is greatly reduced. You can't change something that isn't there.
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Old February 5th, 2010, 03:04 PM   #6
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Everyone has their own method, and I don't consider my way better than anybody else, but for what it's worth I dial in the white balance using the degrees kelvin and can adjust in a few seconds. I have never come into a problem this way, and it is wonderful to have control that precise. I find balancing off something white can sometimes require a couple of tries, and even if I have been a touch off with the manual control, I have never been far off.
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Old February 5th, 2010, 08:54 PM   #7
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Low incandescent (which is usually what reception lighting is) will naturally cast an orange tint - it does not only through a camera lens but through ours as well - our eyes and brain compensate naturally so we don't notice as much.

I'm in agreement about not trying to chase white all night long. Just shoot with as much light as possible getting into the camera and adjust in post.
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Old February 6th, 2010, 06:30 AM   #8
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Tom, my regret is that most people, even people earning their living in this business, either ignore white balance or rely on the camera's auto setting.

Generally WB only requires setting once in any specific location and takes a few seconds and one piece of kit - a white plate.

What you should never do is chase white balance, even assuming you can (try doing that with three cameras in different places around a room) and even assuming you're able to log the changes - if you don't log the changes the edit will be an absolute nightmare.

Of course there are occasionally situations where the colour temperature is changing during an event (we did a reception in a white tent last summer, mainly illuminated by the sun shining on the tent behind the top table and setting as we worked!) but frankly the solution we took (and it's not perfect) is to set the white balance at the beginning and then correct in post.

In practice the difference is more noticeable in the shots including the white surface on which the sun was shining rather than the guest reaction shots in the opposite direction. This meant we could make progressive changes with scenes separated by a reaction shot. What you can't do is to change the WB in successive shots.
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Old February 6th, 2010, 03:30 PM   #9
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I think lots of people also dont understand the basics of on camera lighting. They use an on-camera LED light with a daylight range balance when most other house lights are much cooler. This just exacerbates the color differential.
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Old February 6th, 2010, 04:39 PM   #10
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I'm not quite sure what it means to "chase" the white balance, perhaps someone could clarify. Color temperature progressively changes during the evening at a typical reception. The sun sets, the lights are dimmed, you turn on your lights, and the DJ turns on his lights. Usually it's quite easy to dial in the correct K value as time progresses and stay very close to an accurate white balance. I'd like to stress the importance of being very close from the start. (The tungsten preset, for instance, is never close.)

The "set it and forget it" or "just fix it in post" approach will make it impossible to come out with accurate color. Let's say you have a shot with a white tablecloth in it. In your editing program you white balance using the tablecloth. Sure enough it changes to white, but everything else is slightly off. Usually, flesh tones look completely wrong and have a reddish or magenta cast.

If you've set the correct white balance, both the tablecloth and the skin tones look correct.

So unless you plan to grade in Color or a similar program, it's worth getting used to setting the correct WB in camera. Aside from mixed lighting, the reception doesn't pose any particular challenges to getting accurate color.

I totally concur that you don't always want to make whites look white. Your real job is to represent how things actually looked, and sometimes they didn't look white to the human eye.
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Old February 6th, 2010, 06:33 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Erik Andersen View Post
I'm not quite sure what it means to "chase" the white balance, perhaps someone could clarify. Color temperature progressively changes during the evening at a typical reception. The sun sets, the lights are dimmed, you turn on your lights, and the DJ turns on his lights. Usually it's quite easy to dial in the correct K value as time progresses and stay very close to an accurate white balance. I'd like to stress the importance of being very close from the start. (The tungsten preset, for instance, is never close.)
In most circumstances, the things you say are correct. The point that I and others were making had to do with receptions that are mood lit with colored lighting. When this is done, there is no white. In that situation, if you attempt to white balance using something that is white in regular lighting, the camera tries to make the lavender (or other color) lit white card look white but the actual result is terrible with strange results that makes a reception look like the set for Avatar II or some other surreal place.

No one is suggesting a cavalier "set it and forget it" or "just fix it in post". The specific issue is how to deal with colored lighting. In those unique situations, the most practical approach is to preset white balance around 2800 to 3200K and be careful with exposure. By having properly exposed footage, you have more room to make adjustments when you edit.

This is a very different situation than when the regular house lights are just turned up or down during the event. In that case, it is worthwhile to adjust white balance when the lighting is changed. Typically when incandescent lighting is made dimmer, its color temperature is also lowered (made warmer.) It is appropriate to adjust white balance accordingly in that situation. But that is a very different issue from colored lighting.
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Old February 6th, 2010, 07:55 PM   #12
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Erik, I understand your point for a single camera or fully manned shoot, but I think you're very dismissive of "just fix it in post" etc.

This is wedding video we're talking about and I think a note of reality has to apply; changing the WB on three cameras, one mounted maybe 14ft above the floor on a hot head because the DJ has changed the colour of his wash is fighting crocs when the objective was to empty the pool.

In any case, a pro should be colour grading in post.
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Old February 6th, 2010, 08:29 PM   #13
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I totally concur that you don't always want to make whites look white. Your real job is to represent how things actually looked, and sometimes they didn't look white to the human eye.
I was trying to respond to a suggestion that you could just use the tungsten preset and be good to go. Even with actual tungsten lighting, I don't find that preset accurate at all.

A pro should definitely be color correcting in post, all the time, but if you're starting with a shot significantly off in white balance, the result won't be perfect or even close.

White balancing three cameras is no fun, to be sure. It takes time and a methodical attitude to filming. If your approach to filming a wedding is, "I need to film every single thing that happens," then you'll have to make compromises on image quality. There will not be time to get your settings right.

But I've never met a client who expects or wants to see every single second of the wedding. This means that you have many opportunities to tweak settings and plan shots in the midst of even the most hectic reception.

Think like an editor... "Okay, I've got a good shot of the two cute little kids dancing, but the white balance is not even close. So now I'm going to stop filming, correct my white balance, and get the same shot again if they're still dancing." When you do go to edit you'll thank yourself, because rather than having a 30 second shot of the same thing with poor white balance, you have a 5 second shot that looks great. That's all you need as an editor to convey what happened.

Our attitude is, "Let's capture all great moments that we can, but let's also make everything we do capture look great." There's a compromise there, but when you deliver an edited video, the "missed shots" fade from view, and the client receives a beautifully produced selection of moments from the day. In my experience, that's what they want.
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Old February 6th, 2010, 08:30 PM   #14
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Let's say you have a shot with a white tablecloth in it. In your editing program you white balance using the tablecloth. Sure enough it changes to white, but everything else is slightly off. Usually, flesh tones look completely wrong and have a reddish or magenta cast.

If you've set the correct white balance, both the tablecloth and the skin tones look correct.
I have to disagree.

If you manually set the white balance on the table cloth you're going to get the exact same result as manually tweaking it in post (assuming you were using a close preset). If setting the tablecloth to pure white in post gives you people with blue-ish faces for example, you'll get the same result by setting the tablecloth to pure white in-camera at the event. That's just how the color system works. Going with a manual WB at the event doesn't change the rules of the game.

If that system works best for you .. great! But it's not a magic fix any more than post-adjustments are a magic fix.
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Old February 6th, 2010, 08:41 PM   #15
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Travis, that's not my experience at all. Let's say you are color correcting a shot, that you know was improperly white balanced. You're in a room lit with tungsten lighting, and you used the tungsten WB preset. There's a table with a white tablecloth. There are some people seated at the table. There's a centerpiece with candles. In the image, the candles appear pure white in their brightest points.

In your shot, the tablecloth is a tad yellow, so you drop your color corrector, tweak, and voila it's white. But, now the candles aren't white anymore, but are tinged blue. Skin tones do not look accurate. You haven't experienced this?

If you're prepared to sit there with each shot and play with multiple filters, you can "correct" any shot known to mankind. But while editing over 10 hours of footage? No thanks.

I'm not expert on how these filters work, but my eyes tell me that a properly white balanced shot looks awesome after a tweak in post, and an improperly white balanced one looks decent at best. Maybe I could say "good enough" but I have a hard time with those two words.
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