Modern cameras are capable of adjusting to a wide variety of lighting types, but they must be given an accurate sample of what you want “white” to look like. A true white balance is preferable when photographing most subjects, but if that’s not possible for some reason, an error in the red direction is usually more acceptable than one that results in greenish skin tones.
If your scene is lit by a mixture of sources (sun, incandescent, fluorescent, etc.), you can get an acceptable setting with this white balancing tip shared by Larry Jandro of Scottsdale, Ariz. Rotate or angle a white card to reflect to the camera more of the light whose color temperature will be prominent in the scene, then white balance. This process will get you acceptable white balance about 90 percent of the time, despite the odd color temperatures also present. You can then fix the rest in post if needed.
Gordon Kelly of San Diego reminds us that we can give the scene a warmer look by white balancing through a sheet of 1/4 blue (CTB) lighting gel.
A sheet of paper from a classroom flip chart makes a good white balance target. When held horizontally, the sheet is large enough to fill the screen at most shooting distances, and it can be folded easily for storage.
When working at a banquet, many video pros will use a white tablecloth draped over the lectern to color balance.
Sometimes the oldest tip is the best solution. My thanks to Jesse Wayne of Studio City, Calif., for reminding me of this tip I first received 50 years ago from the station news director when I was working as a reporter at KNTV in San Jose, Calif. (You may also remember it from the James L. Brooks film Broadcast News.)
The Problem: Your interview subject is sitting in a chair and you notice that his suit jacket is riding high on his neck and shoulders, creating an unsightly bulge.
The Tip: Suit jackets are made to hang correctly when the wearer is standing, not sitting. Recommend that he sit on the coat tail, which will hold the coat in place for a sleek, clean look.
There are always cables and gear that need to be labeled during setup or teardown. There is always someone who asks for a Sharpie to label something. Then the next question, “Where is the tape?”
“I have found that it is much easier to travel with some tape on the Sharpie itself,” writes Aigar Dombrovskis of Chicago, Ill. “I have put on white gaff, white board tape and then white electric.”
It fits in the pocket better than a roll of tape, and it helps identify the Sharpie as mine, ensuring its return.
Curing Cable Crud
It began to rain during an outdoor sporting event being broadcast by Carl Korn of Seattle. By the time he was ready to strike the equipment, the ground was really muddy. To keep the muck and water out of the cable connectors as they were dragged along the ground, he appropriated aluminum foil hot dog wrappers from the food vendor and used them to wrap the connectors. Many engineers carry a box of large plastic sandwich bags and heavy-duty rubber bands for just such occasions.
Shooting through a piece of pantyhose or other net material is a trick that cinematographers have been using to soften facial lines since the days of Clara Bow. Jose Mendoza of New York asks if it makes any difference if you mount the net on the front or back of a zoom lens.
First, we have to understand that nets and most special effects filters work their magic by putting tiny threads, lines, dots, pits or other objects in the light stream. As you increase the focal length (zoom to telephoto) with one of these filters on the lens, the front of the lens looks through a smaller and smaller area of the filter. The image is being influenced by fewer threads, dots or whatever, and each of them is affecting a larger portion of the picture. With rear-mounted filtration, however, the focal length does not change the amount of the filter being used.
So, to the discerning eye, the difference is consistency, depending on the type of filter and the direction in which you are zooming.
What’s Your Idea?
There is an old saying: “Anyone who is fed from the pot should help keep it full.” Over the past 34 years, hundreds of video professionals have given back to the industry by sharing their shooting and production tips through this column. Now it’s your turn. Share your shortcuts and easy ways to do things by sending an e-mail to DVTips@nbmedia.com. All submissions become the property of Reizner & Reizner. None can be returned.