Understanding White Balance

L'eau De Colette
Clearly visible is a tungsten light source. With a correctly balanced camera, the image is still neutral and white.

Understanding colour temperatures can be simple once you get your head around it. I'll break down the basics of what colour temperature is, how to white balance to your creative advantage and briefly cover different colour temperature filters and gels.

Let’s remind ourselves of the three most common temperatures you’re likely to encounter.
3200K - Tungsten (typically perceived as warm light)
4400K - Fluorescent (mix of tungsten and daylight)
5600K - Daylight (typically perceived as cool light)
Bear in mind that there will be occasions where the temperature exceeds either end of this range. Candlelight or fire for instance is very warm, with a white balance somwehere around 2000K. Different times of day can be much cooler and exceed 7000K.

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Thermal imaging in Film and TV

Person through a thermal camera

In 1987, audiences were wowed by Predator; not just because of the muscled cast, gratuitous violence and cheesy one-liners, but for the special effects: the eponymous antagonists' technology - invisibility and thermal vision. Whilst invisibility is not yet possible, thermal imaging is not only real but is growing in popularity: in more recent years it has been notably featured in Sicario and Planet Earth II.

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