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Cooling Off the Color of Video Images

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 2/26/2010

Learn how to cool off your digital video image with a few easy steps.

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    Cool Video Lighting

    The overall color tone of a given video image says a lot about both the mood and story space of the piece. Color temperature can say quite a lot depending on the context, and you may have a very specific idea of how you want the light in the situation to look. Often times we end up with a warmer look and instead want a cooler color temperature, which may mimic morning sunlight. Here are a few tips for cooling off the color temperature in your digital video image.

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    Light Types

    The first thing to look toward is the type of lights that are actually being used on your set. Tungsten balanced bulbs come in at 3600 degrees, which is a much warmer look. If you want a cooler light appearance you are going to go with daylight balanced bulbs instead, which come in at 5600 degrees. A good tip is to go in and change the types of lights that you are using on the set to daylight balanced bulbs of the same lights. HMIs can also get a much cooler appearance, but they may be too powerful and expensive for your digital video production.

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    White Balance Tricks

    The most standard tip for cooling off a digital video image is to trick the white balance. There are several ways that you can do this and each has a variable amount of effectiveness depending on the situation. The first thing you can try is to simply place an orange gel over the lens of the camera when doing the white balance. This will make the entire white card appear orange to the camera and so when the white balance is taking place the camera will remove the orange color. This will remove some orange from the overall video image, making it cooler. You can also decide to white balance on a card that is slightly yellow or orange, which does approximately the same thing. Using the gel tends to be more efficient as it is easier to do on set and orange light gels are much more common than an orange card. If you do not have either one of those objects you can simply find a surface that has an orange tint and see if you can white balance on that. Another option is to gel all of the lights that you are using on your subjects with orange. Then you do the white balance so all of this orange light hits the white card. Once the white balance is completed you remove the orange gels from the lights so that the image appears much cooler.

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    Blue Gels

    If you simply want to do a little on set cooling you can simply add a quarter blue gel to the lights you are using. A quarter is usually weak enough that the light will not appear blue, but will instead give a whiter and softer daylight color temperature for the video image. A good tip to follow with this is that if the gel is limiting the light exposure in the image it is probably too strong for simple color temperature correction. Otherwise it could look light night or moonlight.