Production: How To Use Cool Cards

If you worked in production a few years ago then you know that color balancing along with certain artistic looks, like cool colors, was achieved in film by placing gels over lights and filters over the camera lens. While using gels over lights for color correction is still done the color correction filters for cameras have become practically obsolete. This is because digital cameras have the ability to white balance. 

What is White Balancing?

Light comes in all different colors and while your eye can automatically adjust to different conditions your camera can not. To compensate for this digital cameras have been given the ability to white balance. By white balancing you are telling the camera that this white is true white and it will base the rest of its color scheme off this white color.

White balancing is easy. All you have to do is light your set and turn your camera on. Then navigate through the camera's menu to the white balance settings. Hold a white card in front of the lens so that it catches the set's light but also fills the frame. Set the white balance and the card should appear to be pure white.

Getting Artistic

There are certain artistic looks that were once easily achieved in film by placing a filter over the lens. With digital photography you no longer need those filters. All you have to do is manipulate the white balance into a color scheme that follows the look you desire. You can do this with warm and cool cards that can be purchased at most professional photography shops.

Cool Cards

Let's say that you want to give your video a cool and icy look. One way to get there quickly is to white balance using a cool card. A cool card is a slightly orange card that you can place in front of the camera for white balancing. The orange will throw the white color off and the result will be a cool and slightly blue image.

Cool cards are sold in packages with each card having a varying intensity. If one card gives you too cool of a look you can just swap that card out for another one until you get the effect you desire.


You can place a color correction gel over a cool or warm card to produce a different effect. Experiment with different gels until you find a unique look that you wish to use for your production.

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