Monday, June 11, 2012


Camera calibration is a huge deal. In particular, with live television, where I do most of my work, our video engineer will take a good deal of time ensuring that all of our cameras perfectly match. He has the ability to tweak more settings than you can on your DSLR...but in an ideal setup, when I work with him as the Lighting Designer, it should minimize what and how much he has to manipulate. I'll spend a lot of time tweaking lights, LED's, and gels to make sure the lighting is even, maybe specialized for a host and generally "works." Why, when he has all of that latitude in the cameras? Because if he has to swing from Person A to Person B, live on air, he needs to have faith that they will be close to matching without having to hit every switch and dial. A lot of this pre processing can be applied to photography with a couple of tools.

 So in television we use a Chip Chart-types vary, but they ensure accurate reproduction and matching of grayscales and colors amongst cameras. For DSLR still and video shoots, I'll let you know about two of the products that I use that may help you out, as they certainly help me out.

The first is X-Rite Checker Passport. It's built for photographers and we've rolled tape on it before sending things to an edit and everyone has had positive feedback. It's a small chart that is the standard color deviations, as well as"creative enhancements"-sure as +warm and +cool. Taking a shot of this little chart is invaluable as it provides accurate, reproducible colors that are immediately available as a reference. If you decide you are shooting RAW and take a shot of this chart, you can use it to create custom color profiles with relative ease, or simply use it as a visual reference in any post work. The most critical situation that I've used it in has been when rolling on footage of products and logos-where your color reproductions needs to be SPOT ON rather than what you think is close. At only $100, it's not too expensive either.

The other product that I've used extensively both in video and still work is a somewhat more "broad stroke" version of the color chart called Warm Cards by Vortx Media. These little things are fantastic and seem super simple. Basically, they are a set of cards, each one a carefully calibrated blue or amber (plus a few others). By setting up your lighting setup, and white balancing to these cards, you can shift everything just a tad more warm or cool to really get it perfect. Their white card is also fantastic-it is fantastically neutral and has had no chromatic shift over the years (yellowing, etc). Plus, if you're like me, and shoot JPEG, it lets you get a very pretty white balance quickly and easily. For video shooters, it means you can all be at the same event, and white balance off of the same card (warm1, cool 1, whatever) and your images will come out at the same baseline, saving post time.
Even better, it's durable as heck and pretty cheap. A Jr set is only $49 and the full set is only $99 .
If you shoot video, go with the full. For still shooters, you can probably get away with the Jr. The only difference is that the Jr set is smaller cards (4.5"x6"), while the full set includes the smaller cards (4.5"x6") as well as the larger cards (6"x9"). The only reason I find I need the larger cards is in setups where after lighting and cameras are set, the talent position is a bit far away and the zoom of the camera/lens cannot get a full frame or near full frame shot of the smaller cards.

What about you? Do you guys have any color checking or tools like this you use?

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