White Balancing Shots and Solving Common Problems

October 20, 2016

Learn how to white balance shots with mixed color temperatures. Plus, how to deal with subtle color balance issues.


How to White Balance Shots 101

We started in Part 1 learning how to white balance shots by looking at the major tools we use to accomplish that task. In this Insight we’ll be taking a quick look at the Temperature and Tint sliders commonly found in almost all post-production software.

You’ll also learn how I deal with subtle color balance issues when I’m happy with how the shadows and highlights look. Often, there’s a problem in the midtones and I have a simple solution to deal with them (using Curves).

Recapping what you’ve learned in Parts 1 & 2 of White Balancing Shots 101:

  • White Balancing mostly involves getting the Red, Green and Blue channels into proper alignment.
  • Proper RGB alignment results in neutral color elements staying neutral.
  • There are generally two types of White Balance problems: Either the RGB channels are fully out of alignment. Or the RGB channels are only out of alignment within a distinct tonal range (shadows, midtones or highlights).
  • Tools for dealing with fully misaligned RGB Channels include Offset controls and Curves. And sometimes Temp / Tint, depending on how they work in your software.
  • Tools for managing tonal range white balance issues include 3-Way Color Wheels and Curves. And sometimes Temp / Tint, depending on how they work in your software.

Introducing: Color Correction Practice Projects

This Insight also introduces you to footage you’ll be able to purchase, download and color grade in a product we’ll be releasing soon, Color Correction Practice Projects. The footage you see me using in this Insight come from our first project, In the Shadow of Giants.

Giants is a 10-minute documentary short shot in the Artists Quarter in Paris. It features three different cameras, time-lapse, CinemaDNG, .mp4 and ProRes footage. Plus, the footage is a mix of Log and Flat’ish record profiles. Giants features original music from a local Parisian.  Practice Projects provide you the opportunity to hone your skills with challenging footage that is also high-quality footage—and fun to work on. You’ll be hearing more about this very very soon.


I mention in this Insight about my previous videos on using the Temperature and Tint controls. I seemed to have mistaken the upcoming Resolve 12.5 title, which goes over this in-depth. I have not done so here in the Insights Library.

As a result, you can count on Part 3 to this series where I’ll show very specific techniques to use these controls very very efficiently. And we’ll round up some major apps to see if they implement these controls differently.


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Homepage Forums White Balancing Shots and Solving Common Problems

  • Hi Patrick, I have a question about correcting and node order when the DP shot a scene with a specific white balance to build the look in camera. If you were grading, would you do your first pass, where you correct the shot first to “proper” white balance, then after balancing all your shots, go with a second node and grade the color back in? Thanks. Been really enjoying these insights!

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Hi Grant. I’m actually going to address this in the next Insight I’ll be releasing in Part 3 of this series.

    Ideally, if your DP is building the look in camera and is using Gels for that purpose, they should expose a graycard with the Key Light, un-gelled. This way you can set your white balance to the color temp of the underlying primary illuminant of the scene. Then, when they gel the lights you’ll perfectly pick up the intended tonality from on-set.

    There have been a few jobs where I’ve graded out the onset look and then recreated it – but usually only when there’s major inconsistency between setups.

  • Willian Aleman

    Patrick, thank you for this insights series.
    I really would like to see Part 3 of this insights, where you is going to describe the approach about correcting a scene when the DoP builds an specific look using Gels in front of the camera to achieve a certain look.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve put this back on my roadmap.

  • John Moore

    sounds good 🙂

  • Jay Smith

    I’m rewatching this and there’s some great little bits of grading info that I often overlook! Any updates on Part 3?

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Yikes. I dropped the ball a 2nd time on this. It’s coming soon!

  • Willian Aleman

    Hi Patrick,

    After a year, I too am rewatching this series of insights. Is there an update to part 1 & 2 of this serie describing the approach mentioned in my first reply in reference to color balancing a scene or shot while respecting the DoP created look on-set when using filters, gels, etc; this to come up with a specific look? Similar to Blade Runner 2049, where Roger Deakins used heavy orange filters in front of the camera in some of the exterior and interior scenes of the film.

    Normally, on-set color balance is applied on camera before the filters are used, but it would be interesting to know how to deal with this in post, especially when the DoP is not around.

    I’m asking this again because “color balance” as an operation to correct a shot in the way explained in the two previous insigts can become an obstacle to the intended look of the DoP/director.

  • Vitus S

    Hi Patrick. From time to time I stumble upon shots where the white balance is completely missed during shooting. For example a completely golden/yellow flooded room during sunset, where the white balance in camera was set to 6500K and recorded in a non raw format, so the white balance is baked in the file. The result was a orange flooded image (in my case from an Arri Alexa/LOG-C/ProRes4444) .When correcting that image to be neutral I noticed, that even the suroundings seems to look ok neutral, the skin tones still were a muddy orange/brown mess.

    My question to this:
    1. Technically: Why is the image not or hardly balanceable? How does the sensor and in camera mathemetics behave to such missed whitebalance and skin tones? Is there data lost when whitebalace is off so much?
    2. How do you tackle such shots?

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