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White Balance hell in church - suggestions?

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Craig Seeman
White Balance hell in church - suggestions?
on Mar 30, 2010 at 3:04:45 pm

Recently I did a 4 camera shoot of a gospel choir in a church. I simply couldn't capture the color as I saw it.

Normally I have no problem either targeting indoor 3200ish or daylight 5600ish and things look at they should.

Background:

The Church wanted all their ambient lights on (and it needed it for audience participation and overall light level).

Superficially most of their lights looked liked standard bulbs 3200. Behind the choir was CFL lights in the ceiling.

The room had an orange hue to my eye. That's OK. That's exactly what I wanted to capture.

I set up two 750w Lowel Totas on opposite sides of the choir. I set up one 500w Omni to light the dark corner where some musicians where and another Omni to light a dark corner the "lead" would often be.

I white balanced between the two Totas and the camera showed 2100 and everything had a blue cast. Obviously NOT what I wanted. I ended up setting all the cameras to 3200 which didn't quite look at what my eye saw. It seemed too orange.

Obviously there was a case of mixed color temperature going on. Of course the CFLs in the back part of the ceiling may have been around 5600.

Questions:
Why the 2100 reading on white balance?
What would one do to get close to what looked like the "natural" environment?

I certainly could have taken a reading with just the CFLs on and then just the rest of the church lights but the problem is if there's two (or more!) color temps gelling would still leave two (or more) color temps.

What's the best way to deal with this situation to get something close to what the eye sees?



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john sharaf
Re: White Balance hell in church - suggestions?
on Mar 30, 2010 at 3:45:49 pm

Craig,

With mixed lighting and multiple cameras, which are looking in different directions with different mixed lighting, you really have to have remote CCU's to "paint" them to match (also need to equalize video to match if analog). Your instinct to use 3200K preset was a good start, especially because you say you like a warm look, which the practical incandescents would have been (being closer to 2900K).

As far as the color temp readings in the camera, these are relative and cannot be taken as an accurate measure of the reading. They are derived from red and blue offsets from nominal and will not even match camera to camera. Being so far from normal though, the reading should have been a warning that something was wrong.

When white balancing under fluorescents it's really about the green spike; the correction will add magenta to the overall look, making your tungsten instruments reddish in color. To go the route of minus green on them is to really chase your tail and never get it right. The only "good" solutions are to turn the overheads off, relamp with photo grade colored tubes or "poison" your additional lighting with the same lamps and white balance overall. This is the most elegant solution, however probably would not have worked for you here because of the need to "throw" spot lighting to action areas where the lead singer and others were.

In cases like this where you do not have the money, time nor resources to do the job right, you must make compromises, remembering that the most important thing is getting the recognizable skin tones right. If that meant gaining up and white balancing under a consistent light color, maybe that's the best you could have done.



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Craig Seeman
Re: White Balance hell in church - suggestions?
on Mar 30, 2010 at 4:28:02 pm

[john sharaf] "you really have to have remote CCU's to "paint" them to match"
Ideally of course.
Three of the cameras were basically pointing in the same area, the gospel choir. One of them followed the "lead" who would wander around a bit.

The fourth camera was hand held to get close ups of the instrumentalist which where in a very small area.

I think the problem was behind all of them were the church ceiling CFL lights. It was the only area lit by them. Ideally I wish I could have killed the CFL lights and broadly lit that with a few more Totas with umbrellas to bring up the ambient light lost by killing the CFLs.

[john sharaf] "Your instinct to use 3200K preset was a good start, especially because you say you like a warm look, which the practical incandescents would have been (being closer to 2900K). "

Well a little understanding of lighting, I've used this as my "lemonade" solution before. I'm just wondering if there's a better "lemonade" solution that I'm overlooking.

[john sharaf] "the reading should have been a warning that something was wrong."

Yup, hence the "lemonade" solution above. The problem is in such situations I didn't have the time to see where the issue was coming from although I had a strong hunch. Unfortunately I was not in a position to change things. I did want much of the church lighting killed (especially the CFLs) but they did not want the audience in the dark nor the area behind the choir. Also the results would have been far too dark given the light kit I had. Having just the non CFL lights on might have given me an option to target that more "standard" indoor lighting (probably 2900 as you note).

[john sharaf] "When white balancing under fluorescents it's really about the green spike; the correction will add magenta to the overall look, making your tungsten instruments reddish in color. To go the route of minus green on them is to really chase your tail and never get it right. The only "good" solutions are to turn the overheads off, relamp with photo grade colored tubes or "poison" your additional lighting with the same lamps and white balance overall. This is the most elegant solution, however probably would not have worked for you here because of the need to "throw" spot lighting to action areas where the lead singer and others were. "

And that was my Rubik's Cube. That's why I was wondering if there was an alternative I was overlooking.

[john sharaf] "In cases like this where you do not have the money, time nor resources to do the job right, you must make compromises, remembering that the most important thing is getting the recognizable skin tones right. If that meant gaining up and white balancing under a consistent light color, maybe that's the best you could have done. "

That was my hunch.

Normally when I've shot in clubs or theatre there are easy solutions because even if the LD for the production/event avoids mixed color temperatures. If they had even had the budget for me to do a site visit I could have spotted this problem in advance and given them some options, even if it was simply buying incandescent bulbs and changing out the CFLs.

The only thing I've faced worse than this was shooting a sporting event in a small athletic arena where lights were replaced at random with non matching lights so that even the florescents were all over the place.

Basically I've had to learn lighting by the seat of my pants and through books/DVDs (I've been an editor for decades) and most training deals with controlled situations and I can do that well. The really tough part about lighting is trouble shooting knotty problems and I don't find much material for that.

Thanks John for confirming the issues and illuminating what the options were.



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grinner hester
Re: White Balance hell in church - suggestions?
on Apr 11, 2010 at 6:03:50 pm

[Craig Seeman] "What's the best way to deal with this situation to get something close to what the eye sees?"
Today, preset with some post love.
seriously.





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Jim Arco
Re: White Balance hell in church - suggestions?
on Apr 16, 2010 at 1:03:16 pm



Last winter, I shot a choir's Christmas concert in a church that had an uneven mixture of incandescent spots and CFLs. Of course some of the CFLs were old and needed replacing so they were even further off-the-mark than new ones might have been. Complicating it even more were tall windows on either side of the church that had pebbled glass on the lower part and pebbled yellow-orange glass on the upper part.

I could find every sort of light, from very blue to very yellow to very green-spike, directly and indirectly lighting the choir.

Since there was no budget to bring in a lighting truck, I eventually built an adjustment layer in After Effects for each camera angle. The adjustment layers had different areas of color to compensate for the different colors and unevenness in the lighting. I'm just glad I didn't have any moving camera shots!


The results were pretty good - not my greatest images, but worth every penney they paid for it.


Jim


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Chris Wright
Re: White Balance hell in church - suggestions?
on Jul 17, 2010 at 9:48:26 pm

let this be a lesson to everyone. Shoot a chip chart for each camera! Then post is a breeze. Eyedropping the "white" is way easier than guessing white balance, contrast, tints, etc.

http://technicolorsoftware.hostzi.com/


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Craig Seeman
Re: White Balance hell in church - suggestions?
on Jul 17, 2010 at 9:56:09 pm

Note that I want to keep the color cast of the room. Of course recording a white card or chip chart would allow me to use one camera as a "master" and then adjust the others until the had matching color cast. It would give me a reference to work off of. Thanks for that.





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