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Canon 5D Mark II: How to Set the White Balance in Post-Production

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Shawn S. Lealos•updated: 6/30/2011

White balance is a fundamental part of filming, even when you are using a high end DSLR camera. Here is a look at how to set it on footage from a Canon 5D Mark II even when the footage is in post-production.

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    DSLR Revolution

    The Canon EOS 5D Mark II may be considered primarily a still image focused DSLR camera from a traditional point of view, but what it is known for today is primarily its ability to provide beautiful HD video that is broadcast ready. The 5D Mark II has created a revolution in the video world where still cameras are now thought of as lighter and cheaper alternative to large scale HD film cameras. Just as with all HD format video, you will have to deal with white balancing so you can show your camera exactly what true white is. If you cannot do this when you are in the process of filming, which can be an issue to do with lighting or lack of time for camera preparation, you can adjust the white balance on the Canon 5D Mark II in post-processing, when you are editing and color grading. Here is a look at how to do this white balance alteration to your footage during this post-production process.

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    Apply the Balance

    You have to begin by capturing and transferring the footage from the camera so that it is brought into your video editing program. You will often be using an external audio recording device, such as a Zoom recorder, to record audio along with your 5D’s video since it is not capable of high quality sound. Do not worry about that now because you can worry about syncing the sound once you have completed the Color Corrector 3-Way white balance process. When you are capturing this footage make sure that you are doing so at HDTV 1080p, square pixels, and make sure the capture setting reflect what you had the camera set at.

    Once the footage is in your Final Cut Pro Browser, you will want to bring it either into the Timeline to work on instead Whites into the Viewer. Go into the Effects tab and select Video Filters. From here, find the Color folder and inside that choose Color Corrector 3-Way. Drag that filter on the clip, and then make sure the progress bar is on the clip. You will then be able to select the clip, go into the Color Corrector 3-Way tab in the Viewer, and work on it as if you were color grading.

    If you want to adjust white balance on the Canon 5D Mark II in Post-processing you will start by going over to the right hand circle, which is the Whites circle. Go to the little arrow box to the lower left hand corner of the circle, and when your cursor lingers over it then it will say “Select Auto-balance Color.” When you click it your cursor will become an eye dropper, and you will take that over into the Canvas. This is where the video image should be, as well as the white that has not been properly balanced already. Find the area in your image that you know is intending to be white and click it. This will alter the entire image in accordance with that area being turned correctly white, in the same way that it would when you were white balancing on set.

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    What you have to remember about this white balance process is the application of the white balance during post-production is really just the application of a video filter on a clip in the Timeline. It will not change a clip that is in the Browser, such as the base clip, or the clip that it is referencing in the Capture Scratch. More than this, the white balance is not going to give a sense of perfect white in most cases. It is going to do the best it can according to the visual information it has, but it is very likely that the white in your image will be coming in at a variety of shades and you cannot identify all of it.

    Instead, what you are doing is telling the Color Corrector 3-Way that one particular area, which is not a pure white currently, should be pure white. It then changes that area to pure white and all other areas in accordance to the color difference that was there between them. If you do select an area that is very off-white then this could create an unnatural color pattern in your image, just as if you used an off-white card to white balance against when you were on set. Try to not select the darkest area of white or the lightest, as these will be too dramatic of changes. Instead, try to find a middle ground area of white so that it can be properly altered, and make sure that it has a reasonable form of lighting on it so that the color change will be properly represented through the entire video image.

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    Screenshots by Shane Burley.

    Source: Author's own experience.