Balancing Things Out

Welcome to the second of a series of articles showcasing the controls of your friendly video camera. If you missed number one, you may want to go read about manual focus. As I said in the first article, these articles can also be used as a shopping guideline for those looking to buy a video camera. Anyway, enough rambling! Let’s meet our control for this time. Everybody give a big hand for White Balance!

Ever shoot some video that looks like the colors were just a little off? Maybe when the lovely white trim around your window looks (gasp!) yellow? Aha! You haven’t been setting your white balance.

I think that the hardest part about setting white balance is the fact that so many cameras have it hidden under multitudes of menus. This is where I can’t help you. You will have to read your manual (if you haven’t already) and discover how to find the white balance controls.

Luckily, once you’ve found the controls, white balancing is pretty simple. Your camera probably has a setting for indoor, outdoor, and manual white balance. Indoor and outdoor settings are automatic. But for complete control (and a trick we’ll discuss later), you’ll want to use manual.

First thing’s first. You’re going to need a white card. Or anything that is pure white. Over the course of making iSundae II, we just used whatever was on hand: the cover of the folder holding the script, a white sheet of paper, the back of my shirt. You name it. If it’s white, you can use it.

In order to balance correctly, you need to hold the card out where your actors will be. Zoom in on the card so that all you can see on your camera’s screen is solid white. Now, navigate your camera’s menus to your white balance controls. Follow the instructions in your camera’s manual to set the white balance manually. Tada! Your scene should now be balanced. Frame your shot and begin filming.

This article wouldn’t be complete without a note about a trick that you can do with your white balance. You can change the entire look of your scene if you balance to a color, rather than white. For example, we balanced to a yellow card to shoot nighttime video in the daytime. How’s that work? Well, when you balance to yellow, your scene takes on a blueish cast, making it look like night. You’ll want to play around with different colors to see what sort of effects you can create.

This video was shot in broad daylight!

This video was shot in broad daylight!

I hope I’ve encouraged you to start using your white balance controls. One more tip before you leave. Don’t forget to bring a white card. You would not believe how many times we scrambled around, looking for something white to use!

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One comment on “Balancing Things Out

  1. Pingback: Phantom Moose Films » Blog Archive » Exposing Exposure

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