How to White Balance multi-cameras in theater setting

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    • #49718

      Hi everyone.

      I’m shooting an award ceremony in quite a large theater using three HD cameras which I will later synchronize in post. This is my second time doing it and the first time I had a few issues with something as basic as setting the white balance. The stage is well-lit (if anything it is over-lit) and the lights stay at a constant for the duration of the ceremony. I don’t have any control over the lighting – I’m not authorized to make changes. My issue is consistency with all three cameras. I know there are various ways in which the correct white balance can be achieved – holding up something white in front of the camera and manually setting it (not practical for such a large theatre). I’ve also heard of people using the Tungsten setting on their cameras but I have never done these before.

      Could anyone advise what would get the best results in these circumstances?


    • #203464

      My best advise is to white balance all the cameras on the stage using a white board. After that set them up in their locations. That would give you the same white balance for all cameras.

    • #203465

      I agree with Charles. And why isn’t this practical in a large theatre? Come in early; ask the light board operator to bring up the lights just as they’ll be during the ceremony. Bring the cameras down to the front of the stage and white balance using a white card (we use a sheet of foam core.) At this time you can also set the appropriate aperture (f-stop) for the shoot on each camera. Leave the cameras in standby and return them to the back of the theatre. You’re all set to go.

      I often hear videographers say the stage is over lit. It’s not; it may seem too bright for your camera but it’s appropriately lit for the show that’s being performed. Theatrical lighting designers light a show to have some bright scenes and some dark, depending on the mood of each scene. Our job is to set up our cameras to accommodate that lighting.

      Our company does a great deal of shooting in theatres throughout the city and we always write our contracts to include paid time for us to attend a rehearsal. During a dress rehearsal we shoot a few minutes of each scene in the play, bracketing f-stops — e.g., f2.8 (which looks too bright,) f3.4 (which looks about right,) and f4 (which looks too dark.) Then, back in the studio, we look at the scenes on a monitor and decide how to shoot the show. By doing this we’re never surprised by a follow spot that blows out the face of the leading lady, or by a scene that’s “moonlight” and so dark the actors are afraid to move. We do our best to make each scene look like it did on the night we video taped it.


    • #203466

      All my cameras have 3200 presets that match very well, so the only time I do a proper, conventional white balance is when using a strange/unknown camera – when I have to do a real one. Our cameras a bit tricky to get to the stage, so I just keep in the van a large white cloth in with the chromakey stands – and just set them up with the big cloth on and zoom everything in to this. The only snag with an awards type show is that for interest, the LD will use whatever colours are also in the rig – so while the front camera(s) see faces lit with open white, it’s possible for there to be strong sidelight from the booms and cameras looking across from audience left or right can show these colours on people’s cheeks or shoulders. Not much you can do about that one. Some producers will insist on all white light for certain events, but I suspect an awards show will be colours and some white face light. I like Jack’s comment about brightness. I’m a theatrical lighting designer too, and when I’m wearing that hat, I probably am the video person’s nemesis! I love contrast, I like shadows and I love controversial colour choice. I’m also one of those designers who doesn’t always go for symmetry across the centre line. I may well for theatrical shows have cool colours on one side balanced against warm colours on the other – so faces may have pinky tones to the left, but be bluer on the other. For the audience it looks great. To the camera, less so. I have had video people turn up with no rehearsal, ten minutes before the doors open for the audience and demand more white light, and less contrast. Oddly I seem to forget my video work at this point, stare at them blankly and say sorry – but no time to adjust anything – if only they’d been there during the rehearsals, we might have had time to plot something – but in all honesty, I like my design, and that’s what I was paid to do – not changing it for a potential audience at home rather than an actual audience there and then!

      Sadly – in my part of the world, I have never had the video people present at rehearsals bar just once – and put that down to a novelty one-off. They’d actually be welcome because we hate last minute surprises. When we do video work in other people’s venues I’d like to think we try to fit in with whatever they have already done, and we always ask in advance if there is anything we need.

      Probably also worth mentioning that many venues who specialise in one-night events use a generic rig that works for most things with just minimal recolouring and refocussing – so it would be fair to say that the lighting may not be ideal for each event, but rarely is the budget available for a days prep and a days restoral afterwards.

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