[tig] White balancing, DVDs

Marc Wielage mfw
Fri Apr 2 05:04:07 BST 2004

On 4/1/04 2:27 PM, "jeffh" <jeffh at nvbb.net> wrote:

> What exactly is the "art of white balancing": how is it done?

The problem with answering that question is that there's no way to provide a
quick, "shoot-from-the-hip" answer.  (Maybe the best answer is, "very well,
if you know what you're doing.")

It's as vague as asking, "what exactly is the art of mixing sound?  How
exactly do you adjust the EQ and levels so that things sound good?"  Coming
from a sound background, I assume you'll get the idea.  Color-correction is
more closely-related to the art of sound mastering, where you prepare an
already-mixed project for release on CD.  Still, that doesn't quite do it
justice, either.

A reasonably short answer would be:  using a calibrated monitor and a
vectorscope, the colorist adjusts the color controls in such a way that the
blacks and whites of the image are approximately centered in the X/Y vector
display.  That theoretically will produce an image where the whites appear
neutral, and the blacks appear neutral.  But it all depends on the nature of
the original photography, the color temperature of the original scene, the
developing (assuming it's shot on film), how the camera was set up (if it's
shot on tape), and so on.

And sometimes, if you make the blacks precisely black and the whites
precisely white, it may adversely affect the mid-tones.  Every shot is
different, and every project demands a different approach.  And you have no
way of knowing what's truly black and truly white in a scene; that's where
having the cinematographer present is tremendously helpful.  And sometimes,
we have to adjust the scene based on your gut feeling, and overrule what you
see on the scopes -- particularly when creative clients are calling the

Keep in mind that white balancing is only part of color-correction.  And
sometimes, you'll have a picture where there is no true white in the picture
-- or maybe you have a filmmaker who specifically does NOT want the whites
to be balanced, for a specific "look" they want.  Some rules are made to be
broken, and that's the choice of the guys behind the camera.

--Marc Wielage
  LA colorist-at-large

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