Color balance for stage lighting

Discussion in 'Digital Discussion & Q&A' started by Zoolfoos, Mar 27, 2008.

  1. Zoolfoos

    Zoolfoos TPF Noob!

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    Well, it's that time of the year. High Schools drama clubs everywhere are preparing for their annual spring musicals. That means that I get a lot of assignments from work to go photograph these people, and I have to say that color balancing has been a bit tricky.

    I don't have a color temperature meter (or $1000+ dollars to spend on one) and I don't know much about manual color balance anyway, to be totally honest. Most of the time I go with the camera's presets or the presets in the computer software and then edit by eye if necessary. It's especially odd with stage lighting though because even though I would assume they are working with tungsten lighting, they also seem to be using all sorts of colored gels on the lights at random, which makes it more difficult to balance.

    My only idea was to try to bounce a camera mounted strobe off the ceiling to sort of even it out. The big problem there is that the ceiling is always black, and the walls.... and the stage.

    I have a friend who works professionally in stage lighting and says that it's pretty tricky to photograph the stage anyway, but if anyone has advice I'd appreciate it.

    Thanks!!
     
  2. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You want to get the funky coloured stage lights without having them screw up by autowhite balance?

    Simply set your white balance to daylight that will keep the bright colourful lights reasonably correct. There's no correct whitebalance in this situations because the eyes can adjust to all sorts of weird displayed colours.

    I can only suggest that if you are remotely worried about white balance, shoot in RAW and fine tune in post processing.
     
  3. Zoolfoos

    Zoolfoos TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Garbz!
     
  4. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    I've done quite a lot of stage photography and cinematography. I would suggest setting the camera to tungsten white balance, or to about 3100 kelvin if 'tungsten' on your camera is less than that. If you get the chance, then the best way is to do a manual white balance (or shoot a reference white card for later use, if shooting Raw) to ungelled stage lights before the show starts. Then ungelled light will look white, and gelled lights will maintain their intended colour.

    Keep the white balance constant, and don't try to vary it because of the use of gelled lights - you are trying to capture the intent of the lighting designer, not oppose it. If you do decide to do an adjustment in post, keep it consistent for all shots taken in that scene/lighting.

    Most theatre tungsten lights are between 3000 K and 3200 K, though they tend to be at the 3000 K to 3100 K end of that range because the lower temperature lamps have a longer life than the higher temperature 3200 K studio tungsten lamps. (As you raise the filament temperature of a tungsten lamp the colour temperature rises and it gets more efficient, but the filament life decreases.)

    Best,
    Helen
     
  5. Zoolfoos

    Zoolfoos TPF Noob!

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    Great advice, Helen! Thanks so much for the info.
     

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