What is color temperature and why is it important?
The Kelvin color temperature scale.
“All the light we see lives in a color spectrum between orange and blue with tints of green and magenta,” says cinematographer Mike Leonard. The Kelvin scale is used to measure the color temperature of a light source.
The lower temperatures correspond to red, orange, and yellow colors: the warmer spectrum. Higher temperatures correspond to blue or cooler colors. “When we refer to white balance in cameras, we’re actually referring to what color temperature will make white look white, as opposed to having a blue or orange tint to it,” says Leonard.
Different camera settings for indoor vs. outdoor filming.
Tungsten white balance.
Daylight white balance.
How to gauge color temperature for your shots.
Using color temperature in post-production editing.
What is color correction?
What is color grading?
Color grading is the artistic counterpart to the science of color correction. Once you have balanced values, you can make subjective choices to alter the color of the light to your liking. Along with temperature, you can tweak chromaticity, otherwise known as hue and saturation, to produce a stylized aesthetic or mood. “Maybe you want a scene to feel warmer because it’s an emotional scene, or you want to match the orange glow of golden hour. In these cases, you might dial down your color temperature for warmer colors,” says Leonard.
Different color temperatures correspond to different moods and environments. As a filmmaker, it’s important to know the aesthetic effects that different lighting applications will have on your video. Fluorescent lights and bright white CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) or halogen bulbs work well in sterile, professional settings due to their cooler color temperatures. But light sources with warm colors, such as fire, incandescent bulbs, or sunset, connote nostalgia and warmth due to their lower Kelvin temperatures.
Gaining confidence with color temperature.
However you choose to go about the color rendering process, it starts with a balanced color temperature. Knowing the science behind color temperature will help you get the results you want when you’re ready to get creative with editing your video.
For hands-on practice, learn the steps of color correction in Adobe Premiere Pro. The more you work with different scenes in editing software, the faster you’ll get at balancing color temperatures and making the right calls in-camera.
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