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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old February 27th, 2014, 07:04 PM   #1
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White Balance in the field?

I'm curious, when you guys do weddings, are you doing custom white balances before you shoot at the location?

If so, what tools are you using?

I'm looking at something like this Impact Quick Balance Gray/White thing
Impact QuikBalance Collapsible 12" Gray Panel QBP-G-12 B&H


or the PhotoVisition Black Gray White
Photovision 24" One Shot Digital Target DT24011 B&H Photo


or even the color checker passport
X-Rite ColorChecker Passport MSCCPP B&H Photo Video


I've had decent luck matching up my cameras (Canon/Sony variants) in post but am contemplating something like these options to improve on the process.

Thoughts and insights appreciated!
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Last edited by Kyle Root; February 27th, 2014 at 08:45 PM. Reason: fix line breaks
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Old February 27th, 2014, 07:37 PM   #2
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Re: White Balance in the field?

Have to confess -- just auto here. If desperate, eg coloured lights, might go manual. Generally don't want to keep manually balancing 4-5 cameras as lighting conditions change.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 08:28 PM   #3
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Re: White Balance in the field?

We are manual. I communicate with my second shooter and we make a decision on the white balance so that all the cameras match. We just use our best judgement. I don't use a grey card or anything of that nature. Of course, we will change as the day goes on and lights change.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 08:59 PM   #4
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Re: White Balance in the field?

Yeah, for years and years I did auto white balance. Then more recently started using presets. And now even more recently, have been using a white balance card system a friend of mine has... and that's got me looking into this kind of thing.

We ran some tests a few weeks ago between his XF300 and my NX5 and were surprised at how well they matched up with no color profiles turned on on either camera. The white balance helped ensure they were seeing the scenes "correctly".

Based on the little bit of research, it seems like a target like the one in the middle above would really help in post for the 3-way color corrector in defining black point, midpoint gray, and highlight white.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 09:08 PM   #5
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Re: White Balance in the field?

I just leave mine in auto too. 90% of the time it's perfect and the odd cast is simple to take out if it occurs in post. If you decide to manual balance then as you move location you have to remember to do a new manual balance ..for me that's one extra thing to remember to do in the chaos of a wedding. While I'm not filming all my cams are also left to full auto! That way if something happens I can grab a camera and shoot without missing anything so it's always start on full auto then go manual on whatever I want to control. Even with manual lenses I let the camera run in auto and then leave the lens ring at around 3' for focus...that way if I have to film instantly there is a good chance it will be initially in focus until I get a chance to tweak it.

This habit began when a sudden wedding event happened and I was filming speeches (all in manual) and had to suddenly switch to a dance floor event ...the first 30 seconds were horribily fuzzy but if I had left the camera in auto I would have nailed it!

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Old February 27th, 2014, 10:12 PM   #6
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Re: White Balance in the field?

I hated auto balance - too many weird yellows and pale people. We simply do our best manual balance in camera. That's easy at the ceremony (or any place where conditions won't change for a while) since, in final pre-check, with cameras in their positions, I can balance it pretty easy, and give people a touch of color so I don't have to color balance in post, so much.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 10:15 PM   #7
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Re: White Balance in the field?

I don't think there's any simple answer to this. Auto works fine in daylight and evenly lit tungsten. I worked with an ABC cameraperson who seemed to manual white balanced more or less constantly and I assumed that must be what they teach in camera school. I've got a 12" grey/white foldout balance card, it's too small, 24" would be better. But I think you need uniform grey - although it shouldn't matter if you balance off the grey or white side, I think the grey side probably is likely to be more accurate as possibly you're less likely to get environmental spill (i.e if you've got orange walls you don't want them white). Same problem if you're under colored lights - green scene you want it to stay green, flashing various one color dominant lights the auto is going to have a very hard time keeping up, so I think you're better off manual. My XF100 can be 1000 degrees K out on consecutive balance in the same light, but it's footage has unmatched correction abilities. I've thought about getting a white balance meter to get a neutral reading for all cameras, but have you seen what these cost?
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Old February 27th, 2014, 11:49 PM   #8
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Re: White Balance in the field?

If youre gonna go manual, have you looked into the warm card system? Its a series of cards of varying colors ranging from pure white to yellowish to bluish, the reason being that sometimes even when you balance to a true white, because of the environment the colors end up screwy in camera (too blue, too orange, etc). The warm cards give you options to negate those offset and make it look "true" in cam.
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Old February 28th, 2014, 03:38 AM   #9
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Re: White Balance in the field?

Stay in kelvin mode, inside 3700, outside 5200 to 6700...
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Old February 28th, 2014, 03:42 AM   #10
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Re: White Balance in the field?

Auto for me - with multiple cameras and moving quickly inside & outside it's the only option - I occasionally have to do a bit of adjustment but the alternative is a nightmare (shooting a ceremony with 2 cameras correctly balanced and 1 not).
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Old February 28th, 2014, 03:54 AM   #11
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Re: White Balance in the field?

Auto on multiple cameras seems like a nightmare in post, with ever shifting colors at the whim of each camera, especially different brands. I can fix a constant color cast on a clip, but shifting? No thanks!
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Old February 28th, 2014, 04:17 AM   #12
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Re: White Balance in the field?

Auto for me - in church I have 3/4 cameras on the go - during an hour ceremony the light can change dramatically and I can't run around my cams on a dull day every time the sun comes out.

Also in a typical reception room there may be 3 colour zones - daylight near the window, tungsten at the far side of the room and a mixture in the middle - I can't imagine constantly white balancing as I move around the room - and there is nearly always more than one room and several coridoors etc etc.

Back in the old day manual was pretty much the only option apart from 3 presets (cloudy/sunny/tungsten) and I'm happy with the freedom auto gives me.

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Old February 28th, 2014, 05:09 AM   #13
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Re: White Balance in the field?

I've had an Expodisc for years but I agree weddings are not the place for these unless you have compliant and understanding clients, constant light temperatures for each cams composition once set, a predictable timeline with no quick surprises, and plenty of time on your hands. A TV studio comes to mind :- )

You have to be pretty unlucky if you can't get most cams close to each other most of the time in post, and the occasional pig in post is more than made up for by the advantages of using auto on the day.

These things used to be very popular in the stills world though now there is little point as it is so easy to shoot RAW and correct non-destructively in post. That must also be just around the corner in mainstream video.

And what do you do if the light temperature differs throughout the composition? Its not unusual to have a "blue" temperature in the foreground and a tungsten temperature in the background. You can correct that in stills by making a flash your main light source and gelling it to match the background, then tweaking in post. But you can't of course use video lights that are so powerful as to achieve the same when gelled at weddings; I've experimented with gelling small LED video lights but the light falloff is too great for it to be effective even if actually using them was acceptable.

For me its another one of those things that some folks obsess about - rather like calibrating your monitors to the nth degree. I prefer to leave all that to the hobbyists who actually seem to enjoy it :- ) And as we know its all about the content with the clients not about your technical chops.

Pete
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Old February 28th, 2014, 07:13 AM   #14
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Re: White Balance in the field?

The warm card system is what we've been using (not consistently, but definitely more in 2013 than ever before). Although, I've found that I like to try and keep everything "white" and warm or tint in post. I know there are concerns about color casts from lights etc on white cards, and I generally wouldn't be trying to WB at a reception, because there we only shoot with 2 cameras and would use 2 XF300's which match easily in post.

Between my main second shooter and I, we are shooting a wide mix of cameras (Sony NX5, Canon XF300, Canon XHA1, Canon XA 10 and 20, Canon HV 40, Nikon V1, and GoPro - we also have recently added a Canon 5D MKII and a new teammate who has a Sony FS100)... not to mention my other backup shooter uses a Canon 7D... and I'm interviewing an "intern" this week (not sure what he's got yet).

I'm thinking maybe this year I'm going to try that 24" 3 bar photovision system above with the Black Gray White and see if that makes things easier matching cameras. I can have one of my assistants just hold it up maybe before the ceremony starts and maybe also after and let all the cameras get it in camera.

If I can't get it to work well for video, I can always use it for photography. lol
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Old February 28th, 2014, 07:21 AM   #15
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Re: White Balance in the field?

I need to set my Canon's manually almost all the time. I now have a Sony that normally does a better job of white balancing than I can.

I do like grey cards, work like a charm, but a white card is sometimes better.
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