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Color Effects With Your Camera

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/1/2011

Instead of just relying on post-production software you can do color effects right within your digital video camera.

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    Video Art

    Video is an art form like any other. It can be used to tell stories, convey messages, and act as a mode for self expression. The key part of this quest is that you need the ability to control the image and the product so that it fits your vision. One of the main ways that people do this is through effects, which are alterations on an original image. This is not just done on the image that you have already recorded, but also by your camera altering the image that exists in the real world. With your camera you can easily do some color effects to your final video before you even hit the post-production closet.

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    Built In

    The easiest options for this are ones that may be built in to your camera. Though you will most likely have at least an option to put the image into black and white, you may also have sepia, threshold, and a few other color options. Go through these and see if they give you the type of image that you are looking for.

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    Color Balance

    One of the most interesting, and personally customizable, ways to change the color of the images you are recording is to trick your white balance function. Normally you use a pure white card to zoom into to calibrate what the camera reads as “true white.” If you use a card that is a different color than white then it will balance the colors in a completely different way. What ends up happening is that every single color recorded by the camera is then changed in relation to the new establishment of what the chip is reading as white. Yellowish brown cards will end up giving much of the image a bluish tinge, though there really is no absolute for how a color will effect the color change. You absolutely have to do camera tests for each color selection before filming.

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    On Set

    Changing the color on your camera can often be done at the scene itself. Using colored gels on your artificial lights is a common way of changing the entire color of the image the camera is receiving. For example, a blue gel is often used to make a fully lit scene appear as though it is at night. Another way to change these things is to use colored foil reflectors on your subjects and objects. These will make just a slight change in the colors, but it can be just what you were looking for. Golden foil is often used as a reflector on people to make them look tan,

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    Do it Later?

    The best way to approach color is to do it in the editing room because that way you have more chances at trial and error. If you record you raw footage with an altered color palette it will be difficult to fix in post production.