Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fair and White-Balanced

White Balance NOW!

You can tell A LOT a photog by watching them white-balance. Take this cat. When he stumbled in late to a press conference in motion, a PR chick sidled up and jammed a program in his hand. He never looked at it; just stuck in front of the lens and calibrated his colors. That the speaker he was about to shoot was standing under a spotlight thirty feet away didn't seem to bother him. I like that; if only because it drives the production types crazy.

See for every schlub white-balancing off his tube-socks, there's a pasty shooter rifling through a collection of mail-order warm cards. No doubt he'll find just the right shade of ivory to synch his camera's innards with the room's brackish light - but he'll miss the first seven soundbites trying to decide. I choose The Middle Way... Sure I like to show up early and sniff around the room's edges for palatable light, but if I gotta bum-rush the interstate at dusk and 'zero out' my fancycam's color memory off a passing semi that ain't been washed in a while... Well, that's how the white-balance bounces.

Soooo, if you're a forgetful photog or just a well-dressed ex-thespian who works with one, do us all a favor: the next time you see a shooter trying to Mirandize his camera, hook a brother (or sister) up. Uncrumple that grocery list, point to the sixteen ambulances parked nearby or simply flash him those pearly whites your parents are still paying off. That way, nobody will turn up blue on the evening news, we'll all keep our jobs and those clowns in the edit bay will have to find something new to cackle about. The lenslinger in your life will thank you. This one certainly does.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Man! Why you hating on me so bad? You know that my Assignment Desk is really bad...we don't have the time that you do to go around the room and "sniff" out the best balance.......can't wait till I see you doing something that ain't so cool........

Lenslinger said...

Dude, no HATE! I once kept the same white-balance for three and a half weeks! I dig your moxie! As for being late, you got a point. I've never met a photog who WANTED to be late. If only the newsrooms worms had to drag half a TV station into the middle of somebody's special announcement...

Adam Butler said...

Preset works every time 70% of the time.

Ed Sharpe said...

Like the quick use of the program!

Alas sometimes though I am time slicing it so close the thing is on the sticks and running in record mode as i cross the threshold into the room where the even is.. I drop it, sight it in correct the color if needed in post..... I am really fast off to running around the room with a small videocam and a still camera....

Anonymous said...

So if I flash my coffee stained teeth what color balance would he derive? Or that's why they have color correctors on NLEs?

Yeah, some guys just don't get it but my second day on the job back in the steam powered days of 16mm film news gathering I remember asking a seasoned pro what the f-stop was at the governor's podium. With disdain (while chewing on a stubby cigar) he narrowed his eyes and said "you figure it out". I guessed 5.6 and my film didn't look terrible. Next time I got there early with my light meter.

Goldendrilla said...

It's a news conference! At least he is using his WB switch.

Plus it can be color corrected in FCP on his laptop later after his
5th presser of the day, unless the pool needs it fed by 2:30.

Don't forget that fluffy white cloud floating by, it holds all your dreamy thoughts of outdoor whites and vivid colors...ahhhh.

Quantity over quality wins everytime.

As for "clowns" in the edit bay... sounds like the ringmaster hasn't worked with the animals in quite some time. Might come down from that ivory white-balance tower, the "blues" aren't confined to the video on your boob tube.

Now can we wax audio screw-ups too?

Anonymous said...

worked with a cameraman once, who whilst leaning on the red, white (mostly white) and blue station vehicle said " i don't know what to white bawance ahn." no wonder his nickname was Dubah.

Anonymous said...

Shooting a presser in Boston and a vet shooter set up two 1k's for the presser that was indoors but the room had Skylights and a wall of windows. I got a 6.2K with the natural light bleeding in and asked the vet if he needed full blue for his halogen lights and he said "You must be joking, were indoors, you use halogen lights when your indoors" So I set my white to a 4.7K that looked ok at best

cyndy green said...

Two things.

Film - at the Sacramento pressers if you got there late and were naive enough to call out for an f-stop, three different crews would give you three totally different readings.
Lesson: use a spotmeter.

Lights - no name mentioned, but I ran into a similar situation with wall of windows and a 500 watter aimed at the podium for a presser. Asked the old timer who set it up if he could put a dichroic on the light and he said (quote): They pays you the same if you do it good or bad.
Lesson: don't get old and crusty

Oh yeah...I've white balanced on clouds and asphalt and those funny white stripes in the middle of the road.

Anonymous said...

WB Memories. I've been running up to a scene, camera on shoulder and white balanced on my shoe, lines in the road, ambulance...etc.

A referee's rear end always makes for a good wb at high school football games

Anonymous said...

I know a guy who won't white balance off of clothing because he convinced that "laundry detergent in the clothing throws off the white balance".

Anonymous said...

I'm sure this guy in the pic was doing the best the he could under the circumstances. Are we saying that a 3.2 is much worse than a 3.3 or 3.4? Really....it might be good to ask the photographer in this pic if the pic might be used as an example of trying to get "better white-balances". I wonder if this was done or are we standing on Holy ground? Just sayin'......

Anonymous said...

Used to do local football games for the cable company, and white balance was a bear...as the sun went down, it changed, a LOT.

Fortunately, the opposing teams rarely had any attendance, because those dandy aluminum bleachers, washed in whatever God awful mix was raining down on the field worked great to balance on.

Once watched a guy with a four year degee (and zero experience) who we'd just hired try to balance on the side of an ambulance being bathed in alternating swatches of red, blue and yellow light. It was fun for a while, but I'm glad I didn't have to edit what he shot.