Monday, March 28, 2011
All the World's a White-Balance
It's about as sexy as changing the batteries in your smoke detector, but skip it just once and your whole day could go up in flames. I'm talking about the lowly white-balance, that in-camera calibration that separates the cameramen from the fan-boys. Sometimes a push-button, but most often a toggle, this seminal switch can unmake your day faster than a traffic reporter hopped-up on fender-benders. Ahem...let's review the science. Embedded deep within each and every fancycam is some metallic doohickey that can't judge color for shit. Thus, a persoanl asist of sorts is needed each and every time you fire that puppy up. It's easy: just find something white in the room/submarine/typoon you're shooting in and point the camera at it. Press another button and the camera shuffles through color cards from the mini-series ROOTS before finally deciding precisely what white is. Seconds later you're own your way, smug with the knowledge that your fancycam damn well knows the difference between taupe, puce and of course, magenta. As such, all colors will properly stick to the tape, all will be jake and at no time will the Smurf word be used... Until you wander into another room/submarine/typhoon, at which point you have to start the whole needlesome process all over again. Got it? Good!
I'm happy we've had this time together. Ya know, other than just running my mouth non-stop, I really want to establish the Lenslinger Institute as a place of higher learning, where photog fashion and camera-mannerisms can be studied by shell-shocked survivors of the Fourth Estate. I just hope I wasn't too technical. I mean, sure, I could delve into coor-temperatures and the Kelvin scale, I could prattle for endlessly about where to white-balance in brackish light. I could even devise some sort of miniature flow chart that young news shooters could stuff into their cargo shorts pockets, you know, the ones filled with dead Double-AA batteries, Cheeto dust and travel bottles of AXE body spray. But what good would that do? A new photog has to repeat every error in the book at least twice before he or she remembers to search endlessly for spare square inches of hue-free real estate. It's more than a technical setting - it's a rite of passage! Why, I remember the first time I white-balanced on a passing albatross. The sea was angry that day, my friend...