Shooting under flourescent lights while on location can be a nightmare. First, the light emitted by the bulbs creates a very flat, even, and uninteresting scene. Second, each flourescent bulb gives off light at a different frequency, which can play nasty tricks on your camera’s CCD. For those of you who have been forced to shoot under flourescents, you may have noticed that the color of your footage will gradually shift from a cooler tone to a warmer tone, then back again. Ideally, it would be best to turn off all flourescents while on location and set up your own lights to ensure maximum control over the lighting situation. However, this isn’t always an option – especially if your shoot is more run-and-gun. So, how can you best control the lighting when using your own light kit isn’t always an option?
- The very first thing you want to do is set a MANUAL white balance. Don’t leave control of the color in the hands of the camera’s auto white balance function. This could make things worse and the color shift could become even more noticeable.
- Try using a minus green card for your white balance. Flourescent lights will add a green tint to your scene. White balancing off of a minus green card will negate that tint and give your scene a more natural look. However, I’ve noticed that some green cards when used with certain cameras will make the scene look a little too rosy. you may have to experiment here.
- Adjust the camera’s shutter speed to 1/120. Usually, this will sync up the camera’s shutter with the rate at which the flourescent bulbs give off light, preventing the scene from color shifting. In my experiences, this has worked well with the Canon XL-1s, Canon XL2, Panasonic DVX-100, and Panasonic HVX-200.
Those are a few tips for correcting in-camera. If you ARE able to use your own lights, here are a coupe of additional suggestions:
- If you are able to use your own lights, but are unable to turn off the overhead flourescents, be sure to add green gel to your lights to compensate for the green tint emitted by the flourescent bulbs. Then, after adding the gel, get a manual white balance.
- Invest in a Kino-Flo light bank. the flourescent bulbs in a Kino kit emit light at a constant color temperature, so you don’t have to worry about fluctuations in the color of your scene.
Following these suggestions will certainly help compensate for an unpleasant lighting situation. I would also suggest that you visit the forums at Cinematography.com for tons of useful information on camera techniques.