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Colour reproduction under stage lighting

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Reg Gothard
Colour reproduction under stage lighting
on Apr 24, 2008 at 9:58:58 pm

Hi - not sure if this is the right forum, but here goes anyway...
Shooting dance festival video.
Stage is unevenly lit. Hot centre, dark edges, various pools of hot and dark in between. 3 or 4 stops difference between brightest and darkest areas (based on my riding the aperture during performances)
Overhead lights are either bare white or (according to theatre techie) gelled with salmon.
Also uneven blue cyclorama (lit from top only)
No light from front, as far as I could see.
Performers have dark eye sockets etc., as seen by audience.
Using VX2000 and 2100.
White balanced on a large piece of flat white fabric, placed centre stage, correctly exposed,under bare lights (not the salmon or blue).
Most colours show okay, except for those in the mauve/purple families - these show up too blue.
Took a different (and hurried) white balance - ended up with green halo around (blonde) hair. I'm fairly sure this was because the white surface was being lit by a "salmon" light.
Tried the incandescent WB setting on my cameras - everything looked way too orange (especially skin).
Any suggestions for what needs fixing to get reasonable reproduction of all colours? Lights? Gel colours? My ability to white balance? Customers' expectations?
I have two more jobs at this theatre (next one is 8 days time) so would like to be able to have suggestions to discuss with theatre techies if appropriate.

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Jay Curtis
Re: Colour reproduction under stage lighting
on May 2, 2008 at 10:37:36 pm

A couple of things to try, including some more discussion/education with the stage crew.

Uneven lighting: work with the lighting guy to even out the coverage of the stage lighting. There are two ways to do that-- checking the focus of the lights to make sure they provide even light across the stage, eliminating super hot spots as much as possible. Second, work with intensity. If they're using a number of different wattages of instruments in one group, you may be able to get them to dim some of the brighter ones or boost intensity of the smaller wattage ones.

For video in any theatre, slightly dimmer is more likely to be even.

Eye sockets: unless you can add lighting from the front, there's not much you can do. You didn't mention what kind of theatre you're working in -- if there are lights in front of the stage of any kind, adding them to the stage lighting can only help. Just be careful; if you add too much, you'll create wierd dancing shadows on the cyc.

White balance: You did it the right way the first time -- manual white balance on a white object under white light. Color reproduction is tough enough under all-tungsten lighting; adding colored theatre lighting only makes it worse. You might try to talk the lighting designer into a less saturate color, like a no-color pink, or maybe a surprise pink.

Since cameras are much more sensitive to color differences than our eyes are, adding brighly colored gels just amplifies those color differences. I do some work with a guy who's been shooting the same dance company for more than 20 years. He just finished a DVD of an outdoor dance event under barely adequate lighting -- choices of pink or blue washes of the stage. When the ballet director complained, "That looks so blue!" he replied, "Well, it was blue!"

If all else fails, is there any chance of color-correction in post?

Jay Curtis
Blue Vase Productions

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Reg Gothard
Re: Colour reproduction under stage lighting
on May 3, 2008 at 5:57:18 am

Thanks for all the tips and advice Jay. I'm actually just finished day two of four of the next job there, but I'll chat with the tech to see if she can do any mods. Unlikely for day three (it's almost midnight now, and it all starts again in 8 hours...) but maybe I can smooth-talk her into making some changes after the session ends tomorrow (at 10pm!)
I'm going to try colour correction in post - it'd just be nice to get the colours right in the first place... (time = money yadda yadda).
Once again, thanks for the advice.

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