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White Lab Coats

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Bill @ UGA
White Lab Coats
on Aug 10, 2006 at 6:02:30 pm

Of late, I am shooting a lot of labs where the usual costume is white lab coats. White is killing me, and I've been using flags and ND over lights when I can control the blocking. My geat idea is to purchase a few lab coats that may look like white on camera, but aren't as white...perhaps a light grey. Anyone else have suggestions on this? Thanks... -- Bill


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john sharaf
Re: White Lab Coats
on Aug 10, 2006 at 6:12:27 pm


Your intuition is spot on! The solution to your problem is to adjust the coats, not your lighting. I don't know that you need purchase colored coats, just use dye or even coffee to "take down the white". Consult a wardrobe person, I'm sure they will have done this before.

Of course if you were shooting with one of the latest HD cameras, like a Varicam or F900, you'd probably find that there is enough dynamic range to handle even the white lab coats in cunjunction with the lighting efforts you describe. If the shots are static the wardrobe can often be adjusted with double net over the offending part, leaving the face clear, but maybe your shots move or zoom so this simple fix does not work.


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Leo Ticheli
Re: White Lab Coats
on Aug 10, 2006 at 6:16:20 pm

Today's video cameras handle highlight areas much better than earlier models, and higher-end cameras typically do a much better job of it.

If you are stuck with a camera that doesn't handle the highlights well, you need to very carefully light and block the scene. Well, actually, you need to do that with any camera, even film!

I can't say the grey lab coats will work out well; while the parts going into clip will indeed be white, the areas in the shadows may look decidedly grey. It's an easy test and you'll have to make the call. There is the danger that the grey coats might read as dingy.

Even when shooting with the VariCam, which has excellent highlight capability, I favor deliberately putting some of the whites into clip losing the detail. This give a very bright, "happy" look that often suits hospital spots.

Good shooting!


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Dennis Size
Re: White Lab Coats
on Aug 11, 2006 at 1:14:34 am

Watch any daytime soap opera (I've lit thousands of episodes). They all have hospital story lines. There's a reason all their medical garb is always light green or blue (which is also true in many "real world" situations).

Do yourself a favor and.......


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tony salgado
Re: White Lab Coats
on Aug 11, 2006 at 5:54:11 am

Need more latitude out of a camera check out the new Sony F900R.

Tony Salgado

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Dan Brockett
Re: White Lab Coats
on Aug 21, 2006 at 3:32:34 pm

HI all:

Guess I am just old school but I am amazed that nobody suggested tea rinsing white lab coats. I had a biotech client and was cursed with having to shoot white lab coats for years. I bought half a dozen of them in different sizes and tea rinsed them all. Whenever I would shoot scientists in the labs, I would bring my "magic" off-white lab coats dress the talent. Worked well and cut the blooming issue and exposure issues way down, although to be fair, even off-white is too damned reflective for video in many cases.

To tea rinse, dump five to ten teabags into a tub of about 3-4 gallons of warm water. Submerge white garments for about two to three minutes. You may have to experiment, depending on the amount of labcoats, strength of the tea, etc. Always start conservatively, you can always re-rinse the garments to get a more egg shell or off-white but it's tough to get them to be whiter if you go too far.

A heck of a lot cheaper, faster and easier than messing with things in post.



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