The goal of every videographer is not only to satisfy, but to please their
client. What ends up on tape, as well as what they see in the field, is very important. While
camera set up is crucial, it can be just as important to have a properly set up field
monitor. Monitors are often used as a tool to make lighting and color judgements.
Unfortunately, monitors are the weakest link in determining actual camera look.
Professional and broadcast monitors are often set up to the SMPTE 6,500K color standard. There are
two problems with this, however. First is that not every one perceives colors the same way and
second, the average person views this set up as being slightly green. Before judging any color
video, you must first start with a monochrome picture that has no hint of color in both your and
your client's eyes. Only when the monochrome looks right and the color level and hue are calibrated
can you make accurate camera color determinations.
On most quality field monitors the controls for setting the monochrome picture are front mounted
and they're not that difficult to adjust. They are labeled RGB BIAS for adjusting the dark areas,
and RGB GAIN for setting the bright areas. Using a monochrome signal with good black to white
transitions such as a gray scale chip chart and by turning chroma level to minimum, you can then
for example turn down green gain if the picture has a greenish tint. It's just a matter of painting
the picture with the different controls until you are satisfied that the picture is truly black and
white. If you feel insecure about making adjustments, make note of control positions before
starting. That way you can get back to where you started and begin again.
Once satisfied with the black and white picture, you can then calibrate the color level and
hue. Apple.com has a very good step by step explanation on how to properly calibrate your
monitor Click here. Brightness and picture (contrast) adjustments vary with
ambient room light, and shoiuld be set to get a good picture that is just bright enough for room
If you depend upon camera preset gains heavily, it's a good idea to check camera preset gain
calibration frequently because they tend to drift with time. Using an open faced light with an new
3,200K bulb, auto white on a gray scale chart or monochrome picture then compare this white balance
with preset using a waveform monitor, vectorscope, or recently set up color monitor. There should
be little or no color difference. While color temperature can differ with lamps and line voltage,
you can often detect picture color drift in the wrong directions, such as green or blue. If you do
not have access to a vectorscope, you can detect drift direction by increasing color level control
on your monitor. If there is any color in the picture, it will get amplified and will easily show
that your preset has drifted. With a correct camera white balance, there should be little or no
color in the gray scale picture while turning chroma level from minimum to normal.
By having both a camera that is set to a known standard and a monitor that is set up properly, you
can then be able to make accurate color and lighting decisions that producers will like. With those
videographers depending upon preset and seldom ever using auto white, the 3,200K open face lamp
standard works out well because when using diffusion, soft lights, and fresnel lamps, your picture
tends to warm up, which everyone seems to love.
Getting to know and trust your monitor and camera, will make your shoots go more smoothly, and give
you the secure feeling that what's on tape is the best quality you and your gear can