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How is white balance dealt with on bigger projects?


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#1 scott karos

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 08:55 AM

i use dslr for all of my projects, so they're all small projects without much of a crew. By bigger project, i mean having a crew, schedule, budget, etc...

 

When I set White Balance, I have a bunch of different presets to choose from (daylight, incandescent, cloudy, etc) and I choose accordingly. 

 

Now, are the presets always used? Is it that simple of just choosing one of the several presets available?

 

I know you can set a custom white balance by taking a photo of something completely white and that'll be accurate. Is that the more accurate way of doing it?

 

My questions are little all over the place. Thanks for answering.


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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 11:07 AM

Generally we use presets, Or at least I do. In times past we'd custom whitebalance on a camera, but that's a rarity. Truthfully when we were on film we only had 2 white balances, 3200 and 5600, so we were kinda used to matching our lighting to whatever was prevalent.

 

For myself as well, I will often white balance to the camera-- e.g. what the camera's native white balance is, as each camera has one. For example, I feel the BM Pocket looks best when I white balance it to around 4500K, which means my tungsten is a little warm and my daylight a little cool. I find this looks "best" for me and I'll often set it to that by default. If i'm on a Red, I'll also balance it to around 5600K for everything and then attempt to deal with lighting temps in correction (though of course sometimes; you have to go 3200K, but I like keeping it native).

 

Hope that kinda help .


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#3 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 01:28 PM

First off, I wouldn't use a DSLR for shooting anything important. Being locked into Rec709 color space with MPEG2 files (limited dynamic range), doesn't really give you any correcting ability in post production. So when you make a mistake on location, even a minor one, you will struggle to fix it. Even with magic lantern installed, shooting RAW, it's still more challenging in post then a true cinema camera would be. 

 

Choosing your native white is more of a creative decision then anything else. The stock DLSR settings are kinda restrictive, the light bulb icon is 3200k and the sun icon is 5600k. The other settings are for automatic exposure. With magic lantern, you can manually select a white point, which is very nice. Most of my DLSR shooting has been done indoors on sets, and I've found they work pretty good at 3200k. There is plenty of saturation and anything more could be considered overly warm. With the blackmagic camera's, I tend to push it to 4500K indoors and 6500k outdoors, I've found those numbers to deliver a nice warm image when I apply a lookup table in post. This means I only tweak and not re-work everything, like I would if the camera's white was set colder or warmer. 

 

When you work with a DSLR stuck on Rec709, it's imperative to have a decent color corrected monitor attached, to make sure you're in the right zone. Also, it's critical to make your lighting as flat as you can, the moment you add contrast, the MPEG will start to fall apart when correcting. You'll get noise in the highlights and pixillation (due to the 8 bit recording) in the lows. The lows/darks are the real problem because they become very muddy and you can physically see steps in the image from grey to black. The only solution's I've found are to over-light (make the image very flat lighting wise with very even exposure throughout), as if your shooting 200ASA film for DI or crush the ever living shit out of the blacks. Yes, I'm one of those whack jobs who shoots 200ASA indoors with DSLR's, it's amazing how much it helps in post however. 

 

Anyway, if I were you, I'd rent some cinema cameras for your production; Sony, Red, Arri, Blackmagic… choose your poison.  I'll say this much, being heavily involved in post production, I vastly prefer the Pro Res workflow of the Arri and Blackmagic cameras over the RED CODE or MPEG2/RAW work flows of the Sony and Red cameras. 

 

:wipes brow: hands are tired, good luck! :) 


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#4 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 01:46 PM

First off, I wouldn't use a DSLR for shooting anything important. Being locked into Rec709 color space with MPEG2 files (limited dynamic range), doesn't really give you any correcting ability in post production.

 

Not to get off-topic, Tyler, but doesn't the BMPCC record only in Rec709?  I'm guessing the compression rates of the ProRes codecs even things out a bit?...

 

Just curious because I know you really like the camera.


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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 02:01 PM

No; it shoots Log (Film) Mode, similar to Log-C, though I will disagree and say there is a time and place for vDSLRs; like every camera, and in truth, sometimes they are my first choice-- depending on what we're doing. 


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#6 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 03:34 PM

No; it shoots Log (Film) Mode, similar to Log-C, though I will disagree and say there is a time and place for vDSLRs; like every camera, and in truth, sometimes they are my first choice-- depending on what we're doing.


Yup...read a little more on the website and saw that. Can you record in Log and still see a Rec709 image on the camera's screen, or would you need a separate monitor?
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 03:37 PM

You can see "video" which is "kinda REC" on the onboard; but it's crap. Output is currently just Log, so you can then LUT it on a monitor; or if you're like me on a DP4, I just watch generally in monochrome with my contrast up to get a "rough idea." In truth, I tend to treat most digital cameras like film-- with a meter, at least at first. As you go with one after awhile i at least kinda just know, ya know.

 

Oh Bill btw, I might be up your way sometime this summer, in PA, but daytripping to NY, we should grab a drink.


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#8 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 04:19 PM

Yea, the whole concept of the blackmagic cameras is their ability to shoot in 12 bit Cinema DNG, which works flawlessly with DaVinci for post. I have yet to use Cinema DNG mode because the Pro Res HQ "film" mode looks so damn good. It delivers a flat image like Raw, but in a quicktime wrapper so you can drag and drop directly into an editing program without doing any transcoding. If you protect the highlights during capturing, this mode works fantastic. The down side is; if you over-expose, good luck getting anything out of it. The histogram shows raw capability, not pro res… so that's a small snafu with the design. 

 

The built-in monitor is worthless without a viewfinder adaptor. The viewfinder itself isn't representative of what's going onto the card. In a lot of cases it's covered in zebra stripes and green marks from focusing anyway, so it's only good for composing. The mini-HDMI output is also not full quality when capturing, so it's kinda worthless anyway But yes, you can set the output AND viewfinder to Rec or RAW mode. 


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#9 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 04:24 PM

Oh Bill btw, I might be up your way sometime this summer, in PA, but daytripping to NY, we should grab a drink.

 

Terrific!  PMed you.


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#10 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 04:26 PM

Yea, the whole concept of the blackmagic cameras is their ability to shoot in 12 bit Cinema DNG, which works flawlessly with DaVinci for post. I have yet to use Cinema DNG mode because the Pro Res HQ "film" mode looks so damn good. It delivers a flat image like Raw, but in a quicktime wrapper so you can drag and drop directly into an editing program without doing any transcoding. If you protect the highlights during capturing, this mode works fantastic. The down side is; if you over-expose, good luck getting anything out of it. The histogram shows raw capability, not pro res… so that's a small snafu with the design. 

 

The built-in monitor is worthless without a viewfinder adaptor. The viewfinder itself isn't representative of what's going onto the card. In a lot of cases it's covered in zebra stripes and green marks from focusing anyway, so it's only good for composing. The mini-HDMI output is also not full quality when capturing, so it's kinda worthless anyway But yes, you can set the output AND viewfinder to Rec or RAW mode. 

 

Thanks, Adrian & Tyler.  This is all very useful information for someone such as myself who is kind of catching up with the digital realm.


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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 04:31 PM

It's a scary jungle; but i take solace in my meters ;)


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#12 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 04:55 PM

It's a scary jungle; but i take solace in my meters ;)

 

Yeah, me too.  I notice that the general learning curve of digital filmmaking relies heavily on the monitor and tweaking it there.  That's a great luxury/convenience but it's also where the discipline of film has been lost.  I've never used a monitor or even a video tap when shooting film.  I've always relied on metering, my eye & tests.


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#13 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 04:58 PM

I will disagree and say there is a time and place for vDSLRs; like every camera, and in truth, sometimes they are my first choice-- depending on what we're doing.


Sure, external recorders and software like magic lantern, do make the camera's usable. However, by the time you've added all the gizmo's to create a decent image, you could have bought a real cinema camera, with true 12 bit RAW capability, S35mm sensor, global shutter and 4k resolution. So yea, if you've made the investment, might as well use it. If you had that same investment into a Blackmagic 4k camera, you'd probably use that every time as well.

I only own the pocket cameras, so that's what I shoot with. If someone came to me with a feature, I'd rent something else because I know they're not up to the challenge.
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#14 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 05:02 PM

Yeah, me too.  I notice that the general learning curve of digital filmmaking relies heavily on the monitor and tweaking it there.  That's a great luxury/convenience but it's also where the discipline of film has been lost.  I've never used a monitor or even a video tap when shooting film.  I've always relied on metering, my eye & tests.


It's one of the reasons I like the blackmagic cameras with standard ol' analog control. It's all manual, using a light meter or relying on built-in histogram to determine exposure. The focus and exposure guides are very handy to have, but my SR had both of those. It's just the old method was analog and the new method is digital.
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#15 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 05:33 PM

That's not what I mean, Tyler. Take for example the A7S with it's crazy low light; or even a 5D unhacked which can get a useable image at night without any recorder. It's a question of the compromises you make. Sometimes, something like the Pocket is great, or like last night, given the confines of the bathroom we were shooting in and the shot the director wanted (from ceiling down) which was thrown in-- it would've been an ideal time for a gopro-- though we all know a gopro is not a cinema camera-- it can be used in cinema settings.


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#16 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 26 March 2015 - 01:06 AM

Got ya… That's what I initially thought you meant, but scratched my reply because it didn't seem logical! LOL :)

In the film days, mixing and matching camera bodies was part of the trade. I'd carry a Bolex, Arri S/M and SR with me, on every shoot. I'd use the S/M and Bolex for all the MOS stuff, including close-up's and wides. I always had a zoom lens on the SR and would shoot all the sync sound stuff with that camera. However, I'd always run the same stock in each camera, so there was no difference in quality. Cutting between them was seamless, it looked like everything was shot from the same camera. I also generally shoot an entire film with ONE stock. Look at the script, pre-plan for proper lighting and pick a stock which will work for the look.

I use the same philosophy in the digital realm, only the stock is the camera you use. So in my world, I stick with the same camera for an entire film. Scenes that are dark, I will bring in practicals to bring it up a bunch or perhaps raise the ASA as a last ditch effort to compensate. If a director needs that crazy wide angle shot, I'll rent the components needed to adapt the A unit cameras to get the shot. I really focus on shooting things the old school way and keeping the constancy throughout a production.

But hey, I'm one of the bozo's who dislikes digital cinema and wishes it never existed. I was born 40 years too late evidently! LOL :)

Edited by Tyler Purcell, 26 March 2015 - 01:07 AM.

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#17 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 26 March 2015 - 01:45 PM

i use dslr for all of my projects, so they're all small projects without much of a crew. By bigger project, i mean having a crew, schedule, budget, etc...
 
When I set White Balance, I have a bunch of different presets to choose from (daylight, incandescent, cloudy, etc) and I choose accordingly. 
 
Now, are the presets always used? Is it that simple of just choosing one of the several presets available?
 
I know you can set a custom white balance by taking a photo of something completely white and that'll be accurate. Is that the more accurate way of doing it?
 
My questions are little all over the place. Thanks for answering.

On a bigger project, pretty much everything in the frame is controlled - lighting, art direction, wardrobe, props. That includes the colors of all those elements. So the main decision is to choose beforehand what you want all those colors to be and then bring the right tools to control them. For maximum control, you would then pick one white balance setting in camera which could be either one of the presets or a custom white.

Generally, the DP would then shoot a grey card or color chart at the beginning of the camera roll under the lighting that he or she wants to look 'white' and adjust everything else in the scene to that reference. If you were shooting film, the color would be 'white balanced' back at the lab by correcting the grey card image to be neutral. White balance on video cameras simply moves this process into the camera.

For example, let's say you are shooting in a day interior in a high rise office building. So you have 5600K (blue) daylight coming into the large windows as the largest source. This color may be tinted by the color of the glass. Then you will have overhead fluorescent lights, usually recessed into the drop ceiling. These are usually either Cool White 4500K-ish (blue-green) or Warm White 3700K-ish (amber-green). You now have a mismatch in color temperature and color tint, so you need to decide whether you want to correct one source to the other so that they match or leave them as is. If the latter, then you need to decide which color temp to balance to, or if you want to split the difference. Perhaps you may even want to keep that dingy greenish look, if that is the style of the scene. If you watch the pilot of 'House of Cards' on Netflix, that is what David Fincher chooses to do. It is really an artistic decision at that level, so any choice can be justified.

This may be further complicated by mismatched bulbs in the overhead fluorescents, additional existing practical light sources like tungsten 3200K desk lamps and cool daylight 6500K computer monitors. And also your own lighting sources which you will be bringing in. The important thing is to come up with a game plan with your gaffer on then tech scout so that you bring the right tools and are not wasting time on set figuring out how to solve the problems that come up.
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