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- View Offline
- Understanding video resolution and frame rates
- Comparing DSLRs and camcorders
- Choosing equipment, from tripods to memory cards to lights
- Achieving the right exposure
- Working with shutter speed limitations
- Setting white balance
- Recording better audio with an external microphone
- Incorporating movement and storytelling into video
- Preparing for video editing
Skill Level Beginner
One thing that is still a bit new to digital photographers is white balance. You might be used to using auto white balance but if you're going to shoot video, you must learn to work with specific white balance settings, not auto. White balance is how your camera calibrates the way it records the color of light. This ultimately affects all of the colors in your scene. Different light sources have different colors of light. To show you that, I have some different types of lights here to demonstrate. Just keep in mind that the color of light coming from the sky is a different color than the light coming from the direct sun.
The light coming from a fluorescent light is a very different color than light coming from an incandescent light. Our eyes sort of have an automatic color balance feature that allows us to adapt to any type of light situation and see colors correctly. Here you see a nice arrangement of flowers. They look correct as you see them because the video camera recording them has been balanced to that light. Now look what happens when the light changes. The color changes dramatically because the camera is not balanced for these conditions.
Let's change it back. Now it looks more normal. And what is interesting about this is as I am standing here, I am not seeing the change that you are. I see a little bit of a change when the lights first change on and off-- because we do see the color change. But my eyes adapt it for and now the flowers look perfectly normal. The camera doesn't react that way. It has to be balanced to the light, whether the camera is doing that automatically or you are making a specific white balance choice.
Well, you might think that auto white balance would then be perfect. Unfortunately auto white balance causes real problems for video. Auto white balance is designed to change. It has to in order to adjust to changing light. Auto white balance can and often will change from shot to shot. That's a problem. Imagine the two different colors that you saw here being shot with a camera over here and then a camera over here and you put them together. That color change is going to be a real problem.
So regardless of whether color changes are strong or subtle, they are going to show up in your edited video. Remember that video is about a sequence of shots, not individual photos that stand alone. Any difference in color can make a jarring change to your viewer, making your edits obvious and distracting. Not something you want. So what do you do? The easiest thing is to simply match your white balance choices with the light that is on the subject.
For the flowers here, I can match their light with the tungsten setting because that is the light that they're in. So I am going to go over here and change it to see the white balance, and it's on Tungsten light. It looks pretty good. Anything else now just simply does not look as good. So, I'll go back to Tungsten because that looks right. If the light changes to a daylight color, then I need to match a white balance setting to that. So again I am going to turn on the White Balance and I am going to go over to Daylight, so now the gray of the table looks more normal.
I don't have that kind of funky look that I had with the White Balance on Tungsten. Tungsten is not balanced for daylight. This daylight balanced light is also like shooting outdoors. When outside, choose a setting appropriate to the conditions there, such as Sun for daylight, Cloudy for cloudy, Shade for shade, and so on. Now some cameras have a Kelvin temperature option. White balance happens to be more than selecting a Kelvin temperature, which affects the color of light from blue to amber.
However, you'll find in many situations Kelvin does give you a degree of control over how warm or cool your subject and scene will look. It works well for tungsten light, so I am going to switch back to this other light over here and go to the camera. And I am going to change this to Kelvin and see what happens. So go over to the K and right now it's on 3200. Everything looks fine. As I start to change it to a lower number you can see it starts to get very blue. Start to go in the other direction, go to a higher number, things look warm.
And I can go back to 3200 and I can play with that to really tweak the warmth or coolness of a particular scene. A final way of adjusting white balance is to set a custom white balance that is specifically measured by your camera. This can be a very accurate way of using white balance but it does mean you have to take the time to do it. Unfortunately, different cameras from different brands do this custom white balancing differently. You're going to have to check your camera manual to see exactly how to set a custom white balance with your camera.
The important thing is to choose a specific white balance, whether it is a preset or whether it's custom white balance, whatever works for you, and leave it set while you are shooting a location, subject, or scene. You want all of your shots to have locked- down, unchanging color because then your edited video will look its best and your viewers are going to expect it. That will happen if the white balance is set to one thing.