October 25, 2012 at 1:11 PM #51488UmlautParticipant
I am shooting on a Canon XL-2. My subject is actors on a lit stage. Traditional stage, a play. The last time I shot the show all the faces where blown out. How can I white balance the so I can see the people on stage and what they are doing? Thanks!
October 25, 2012 at 2:10 PM #204597EarlCMember
It's not so much proper white balance. With years of stage production video experience I've found that with good cameras you're almost better off using the camera's auto white balance due to the fluctuation and variance of stage lighting from BLOW THEM OUT SPOTS in the middle, to all matter of mood lights, mostly reds (YIKES) and blues. There are two major problems with the lighting, especially with amateur, even community playhouse productions and that is when they have an ensemble the ones in the back are in the dark due to lighting falloff, and the ones in the front look like Casper the Unfriendly Ghost.
I attend full dress rehearsal where they are "supposed" to use the actual lighting planned for the performance. Not always the case, but better than going in totally cold. However, you can usually get an idea of what to expect even if you cannot attend the rehearsal or don't make enough off your productions to cover being there gratis. Just try to talk with the lighting director. Sometimes they actually help and are glad to.
About that white balance. What you need to do instead is NOT use auto exposure. Set your exposure, apature, and use exposure lock on your camera. Darker is better in most insteances. Some units offer a SPOTLIGHT or SNOW setting that sometimes helps if there's a predominance of HOT spotlights. But by and large, setting your apature and locking it for a general range will help. Also, some cameras will allow for upping or dropping this exposure setting while recording. My units do and it is a godsend.
October 25, 2012 at 2:14 PM #204598theonecanoeParticipant
Sounds more like an exposure problem rather than a white balance problem. Are you shooting on manual exposure or automatic? I've never found stage lighting to work ver well for video production, often the foreground light on the actors is much too bright and the set or background is too dark. When shooting ''photo-calls" at our local theatre I alway get the lighting guys to 'tweak' the lights for a better look. Of course you cannot do this during an actual performance. Just try manual exposure adjustment and set your levels for the performers faces.
October 25, 2012 at 9:48 PM #204600JackWolcottParticipant
Adding on to what Earl and Wayne have said: we always go to a dress rehearsal or performance of the show before taping. We build the cost of this into our contract with the theatre. During the performance (rehearsal) I tape moments in the play, usually using a bracketing approach. That is, I'll shoot a few seconds with an f2.4, f2.8 and f3.4 exposure. Back in the studio we can look at these shots and determine what looks best, always bearing in mind that we never want faces to be blown out.
Remember, you're not making a television production when you record a play; you're recording what it actually looked like during performance. If the lighting designer chose to make things dark, your video will look dark too. As long as the follow spots don't blow out faces you're o.k.
When we go into a situation in which we haven't been able to attend and sample a rehearsal I always ask the show electrician to show me the brightest scene in the show, complete with follow spots if they're used, and set my iris for this.
October 27, 2012 at 12:57 PM #204613paulearsParticipant
Jack's got it here. If they can give you their brightest state, and you set up for that, then everything usually looks ok. The trouble really is that cameras have such poor dynamic range compared with the eye, so the lighting designer works to the eye. Here in the UK, there's been quite a bit of discussion on this, and most of my business is linked to theatre. Video people, often ask for changes to the lighting – often it's too patchy, too dim, too bright in certain places and worse still, it's coloured. If we are lighting for TV, then the LD will be looking more at a monitor than the stage – all the looks are set to look good on the screen, and the audience suffer – the reduced contrast range doesn't look so good to the eye. If the LD is being paid to design for the audience, then it's unlikely they will compromise what the paying people get for a video crew (who often turn up late, and don't even say please.) We provide lighting, sound and video services, and always colour balance our cameras to 3000K, which gives a good white, UNLESS we're using lots of discharge sources like moving lights which have a much higher colour temp – if the rig has lots of this white, we'll probably use a daylight camera setting. Follow spots are very tricky, if it's a musical or review type show, because their purpose is to be brighter than everything else – if you need them to not burn out, then they'll need throttling back quite a bit, often, to the point they can hardly be seen.
If we are providing both lighting and video, we give the decision on which is most important to the producer or director. They cannot have both. It's difficult to explain why certain scenes may be a problem, but sometimes, we plot two versions of a typical scene, and shoot a bit of video to show them, and help them make the choice. Once the show has been plotted and is 'finished' then no matter how many times the video people want the red made pinker, or the big dark patch made brighter, it's NOT going to happen, unless planned, and rehearsed. In a play, there may be many subtle changes in brightness – it's how the director attracts the audience's eye, bearing in mind the audience watch a continual longshot. If you start to brighten bit up, or dim them down, you can wreck this. It may be possible in some shows to make modifications without spoiling the show for the audience – but you need to ask early, NOT half an hour before it starts. Any request that late (and they're quite common) get the response I'll do my best, which is code for 'not a chance!'
The thing with iris settings is that it's quite possible scene 1 will be bright and scene 2 dim, then back to bright for 3. You can then set the perfect setting for each scene. To do this, you MUST have been at the last rehearsal. We always find the dress rehearsal really handy, because if you shoot it, you may well have extra material to cover problems on the real one. Amateur shows are often less structured and 'looser' than pro shows, but you can't take this for granted.
To be honest with a play, your biggest issue will be sound, not lighting.
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