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Best method to white balance DSLR cameras?

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Richard van den Boogaard
Best method to white balance DSLR cameras?
on Aug 16, 2010 at 1:38:23 pm

Hi,

I must admit that I have my DSLRs set to Auto White Balance (AWB) probably a bit too often... shame on me ;-(

Instead, proper camerawork would require you to white balance frequently... but what is the best procedure with DSLRs?

Much like the way you point the lens at a "white" with ENG cameras, I have heard something about taking a still of a white piece of paper and then use that as the reference from which the white balancing feature works.

Alternatively, you can set the Kelvin values manually, but this requires a keen eye on knowing the proper color temperature at any point during the day (especially hard around sunrise/sunset when it changes every 5 mins).

Who uses what method?

Richard van den Boogaard
cameraman / editor / video marketing consultant

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W: http://www.brandedchannels.com


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Greg Brand
Re: Best method to white balance DSLR cameras?
on Aug 16, 2010 at 2:59:03 pm

To be honest Richard, I am probably in the same boat when it comes to being lazy with DSLR Auto white balance.
but so far i have been editing footage from the 5D, 7D and 550D all together shooting on Auto WB and have not really had many problems matching the footage in the grade.
I may be mistaken but i think DLSR Auto WB handles a lot better than my old Canon XHG1, which i always had to set manually when shooting.

I feel that unless your production is in a studio, and needs to be perfect, then Auto really does a good job of keeping whites white.

I am still a bit old school when it comes to the basics of Camera work, but so far i have not had any problems with my colours in my DSLR footage, so have no real need to be all "stuck in the mud" about it.

So i guess it comes down to what ever works best for you...

and yeah when i do need to balance whites then i take a still of a blank white page under the lighting setup and set the balance from there.

cheers

http://gregbrand.co.uk


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Richard van den Boogaard
Re: Best method to white balance DSLR cameras?
on Aug 16, 2010 at 3:33:12 pm

Thanks for your honesty, Greg!

Like you, I do not have that many problems with the color grade of the footage coming out of the camera, but after reading a book on video lighting (placing shadows) I was reminded again that white balancing is a necessary step in video production. Occassionally, I have had some green casts in my footage when I switched from fluorescents to mixed daylight/tungsten in a single take, but no white balancing procedure can fix that anyway. Proper gelling of windows beforehand probably does, but that was simply not possible at the time/location.

Like WB on ENG cameras do take pure white as a reference still, or have some available (sun light) mixed in?

Also, would there be a way to import JPEGs made in Photoshop as subtle warming cards and use those to white balance against in order to trick the camera into getting footage to look warmer than it really is? Or should you just shoot flat and solve everything else in post?

Richard van den Boogaard
cameraman / editor / video marketing consultant

Branded Channels
W: http://www.brandedchannels.com


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Ryan Mast
Re: Best method to white balance DSLR cameras?
on Aug 16, 2010 at 3:48:27 pm

White balance every time. Even if you set it to one of the presets to get it close, never rely on AWB (especially if you're grading).

I rarely actually white balance with the DSLR; I just use one of the presets so it's close and consistent. Precisely grading footage shot on AWB is an exercise in misery.

--
Meteor Tower Films
We make music videos, design video for live theater, and build interesting contraptions.


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Norman Pogson
Re: Best method to white balance DSLR cameras?
on Aug 16, 2010 at 5:54:48 pm

Not only does white balance have an effect, but be careful of picture styles, which can have a large impact. Still travel photographers used to set their white balance to cloudy +1 and that used to give a slight warm tone to the image.

This is my only niggle with the 7D is manual white balance. I shoot stills with Nikon and can set a gray card white balance in seconds with no menu diving.

My Canon 7D Blog


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Chris Wright
Re: Best method to white balance DSLR cameras?
on Nov 29, 2010 at 8:32:25 am

here's another algorithm to get white balance. Works better than color finesse and still keeps the tonal values, plus fully automatic.

http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/50/857931#857952

http://technicolorsoftware.hostzi.com/


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Jonathan Ziegler
Re: Best method to white balance DSLR cameras?
on Aug 16, 2010 at 7:26:09 pm

Hey there, white balance on the T2i and 7D (I don't have the 5D) is better if you use a grey card. To warm up colors, I throw a blue filter on my light or lights, then WB to a grey card - you can also put a thin blue filter in front of the camera lens and then do your wb. To cool down, use amber filters. if you don't already have a grey card, I strongly recommend getting one - they're pretty cheap (I use this one cuz it's large and portable and is white one side and grey the other - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009QZDL6/ref=oss_product ). Also, you only need something white or grey in the very center of the frame. I've used concrete, paper, white cards, grey cards, etc.

My worst was doing WB for sodium vapor lights. We only had that as it was a remote location and our light guy failed to show. Still got the shot, but sodium vapor lights put out a very narrow color spectrum so even white balance can't put all the colors back.

Jonathan Ziegler
http://www.electrictiger.com/
520-360-8293


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Richard van den Boogaard
Re: Best method to white balance DSLR cameras?
on Aug 17, 2010 at 8:31:58 am

Would it also work if you create a couple of subtle grey photo stills in Photoshop, put them on your card and then use those as warming cards against which you WB?

Richard van den Boogaard
cameraman / editor / video marketing consultant

Branded Channels
W: http://www.brandedchannels.com


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James Hilton
Re: Best method to white balance DSLR cameras?
on Aug 17, 2010 at 12:26:22 pm

Get it right when shooting, don't try and fix it in post is my top tip.

I have a very simple (cheap) method that works very well for me that I use most of the time as I am not bothered if I loose it when I am out and about. I have a white plastic lid (like the ones that go on the ends of poster tubes) from a 4" x 6" flower container that I put over the lens and take a photo and get my 5D to white balance using that shot.

It works the same as these.

It was luck finding on that worked just right, another piece of white plastic gave a slightly cool white balance. The flower lid gives results that are as good as my ExpoDisc which is MIA at the moment!

Have a look here for some ideas.


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Morton Molyneux
Re: Best method to white balance DSLR cameras?
on Aug 17, 2010 at 2:53:58 pm

It's always best to manual white balance at every lighting change. I've been using a pocket size DSC labs White'nWarm for years for video and found it works great with my Canon 5D mk2 for both stills and video.

cheers

Morton
http://dsclabs-us.intelex.ca/product.php?product_id=28



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Richard van den Boogaard
Re: Best method to white balance DSLR cameras?
on Aug 17, 2010 at 7:52:41 pm

Thanks to all of you for your responses!

I have decided to give the ExpoDisc a try. Seems to be an ideal and fast solution.

I do wonder what the best procedures are when using the ExpoDisc: do you point the camera at the dominant light source? Or do you point it towards the subject (the way you plan to shoot it afterwards)?

Richard van den Boogaard
cameraman / editor / video marketing consultant

Branded Channels
W: http://www.brandedchannels.com


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