Art Adams at ProVideo Coalition wrote a nice short article about White Balancing.
Obviously I can’t carry a chip chart and a vectorscope when going out there and shooting, let alone own them, so I’ll essentially retain one simpler advice in Art’s experience – quote:
“If the shot works on either daylight or tungsten preset, that’s where I stay–because those results are the most predictable without a monitor, as long as I’ve viewed them in advance and found them acceptable.”
Okay! Sounds exactly like I did here! I checked the OUTDOOR WB preset in advance, determined what custom Picture Profile adjustment would make it closest to what I like best, and voilà – colors are much more predictable and gorgeous now with my FX7.
We often learn things the hard way (like ruined footage), and after that it’s really nice to read one of the experts confirming this WB preset stuff.
Here comes the conclusion of my quest about getting colors right when shooting outdoors with the HDR-FX7E. After so many tests and color woes, the solution is so simple that – I think – it now calls for a comprehensive summary in one single post:
- First I had noticed that the green of trees and grass sometimes appears a bit yellow when shooting with default settings – that includes using Auto White Balance. So I studied the various color settings that are available in the FX7, and came up with a proposed picture profile tweak in Part 1 – Improving the color green with custom Picture Profiles.
- Then I tested different picture profiles with AWB in Part 2 – Tweaking Auto White Balance. This showed that picture profiles like WB Shift -1 / Color Level +1 do improve the color green a bit with a color balance closer to neutral. As a side tip, I also showed how a Gray Scale can help equalize colors between shots in adverse conditions. But in the end, it appeared that picture profile tweaks are no match for the wild behavior of Auto White Balance, which can cause random yellow casts to various extents – sometimes slight, sometimes quite severe – and a nightmare when trying to match colors in post. A better, repeatable solution was needed.
- How about Manual White Balance? Part 3 – Unreliable Manual White Balance showed that it also causes random red casts, and therefore cannot be trusted. Too bad for such a costly, sophisticated, 3-sensor camcorder.
- Part 4 – Testing the OUTDOOR White Balance preset finally showed that the OUTDOOR WB preset is the best candidate for securing faithful colors and a neutral outdoors color balance.
- On to a real-life test in the countryside: Part 5 – Comparison of OUTDOOR preset vs. Auto White Balance demonstrates the superiority of OUTDOOR WB over Auto WB. I also show that changing the ‘AWB SENS’ menu setting from the default ‘Intelligent’ to the value ‘Low’ seems to improve AWB behavior by reducing yellow color cast when that happens.
- And for anyone who would need further convincing, Part 6 – More AWB yellow evil examples!
Many thanks to klenkfilm and 2mnyHCs of Sony HDV Info .com who gave this OUTDOOR preset tip and warned against using AWB (thread: FX7 and white balance: what is your opinion?). After all, AWB did a fair job on the HDR-HC3, and choosing a fixed preset instead seemed to go against the very nature of outdoors shooting where the color of light always seems to change ever so subtly. So why try to outsmart the machine’s auto program in the first place, that’s what I had first thought!
Anyway, whatever the cause of this AWB behavior, whatever the reason for that wicked ‘AWB SENS’ feature, there’s now a simple solution for best colors when shooting outdoors.
So here is my final complete recommendation for shooting outdoors with the HDR-FX7E (custom picture profile and other settings):
- Regarding colors: OUTDOOR WB preset, WB Shift -1, Color Level +1. Maybe also set ‘AWB SENS’ to ‘Low’ in case you would still need an emergency temporary switch to AWB.
- Regarding sharpness: Sharpness 6, ‘AT IRIS LMT’ set to f5.6 while trying to keep iris around f4 as much as possible, and avoid full zoom-out (keep a slight zoom-in instead).
End of this quest, summer is vacation time – everybody move out there and record great memories!
For anyone who would need further convincing, here are a few more examples of the random yellow evils caused by Auto White Balance.
Continue reading Colors with the HDR-FX7 (part 6), More AWB yellow evil examples!
Based on previous tests and the growing feeling that something really is wrong with Auto White Balance, now is time for a real-life comparison of the OUTDOOR WB preset vs. AWB. A short trip to the remote countryside was a nice opportunity to check everything in a real-life outdoors situation, and get a final answer to the question which triggered this whole quest: how can we best capture the true colors of trees and grass, especially in these early days of spring, and avoid yellow casts…
Continue reading Colors with the HDR-FX7 (part 5), Comparison of OUTDOOR preset vs. Auto White Balance
Okay, for shooting outdoors Auto White Balance seemed the obvious choice with such sophisticated camcorder – why do things the complicated way when you can keep them simple? – and it gets randomly yellow instead under bright sunlight.
Then Manual WB looked like the ‘pro’ feature that would get colors right, but it can turn everything red without warning.
Finally there’s that OUTDOOR preset which seems so questionable that I never tried it before: outdoor light conditions are so diverse, how could it be possible that one single preset would fit them all? Well, against all odds OUTDOOR WB turns out to be the simplest, most effective solution with outstanding results.
Continue reading Colors with the HDR-FX7 (part 4), Testing the OUTDOOR White Balance preset
Searching for better settings than Automatic White Balance (AWB) in outdoors situations, I tested Manual WB earlier this year. Surprisingly, it can also have some random results (to various extents), making it very risky unless you really, really have no better option.
Continue reading Colors with the HDR-FX7 (part 3), Unreliable Manual White Balance
In continuation to my previous post (Colors with the HDR-FX7 (part 1) – Improving the color green with custom Picture Profiles), here are the full results of practical field tests towards tweaking the AWB for better greens and a more pleasant image with the HDR-FX7.
The bottom-line is:
- Setting a Picture Profile with WB Shift -1 and Color Level +1 or even -2/+1 gives much nicer colors.
- Using a 3-step gray card also seems a quick and handy way to help secure the capture of consistent, reliable colors. However further caution and adjustments may be necessary because – a surprising observation – aiming at fully neutral white would be incorrect, yielding a noticeable overall yellow cast whereas the consumer’s eye instead seems to prefer some measure of blue in the color white.
- In the end however, AWB turns out to be too unpredictable on the HDR-FX7 and a big No-No unless you’re ready to spend considerable time color-correcting in post.
Continue reading Colors with the HDR-FX7 (part 2), Tweaking Auto White Balance
This whole quest started as I realized that color balance is often wrong with the HDR-FX7 when shooting outdoors under the bright sun: sometimes the color green has a strange look with Auto White Balance, a slight-to-severe warm yellow cast under the sunlight.
So I investigated the color settings that are available within custom Picture Profiles, with the purpose of fixing the color green – or as some might say, making green closer to consumerish tastes.
Continue reading Colors with the HDR-FX7 (part 1), Improving the color green with custom Picture Profiles