Setting The White Balance When Using The Variable ND Filter

It’s no secret that the variable ND fitted to many Sony cameras does introduce a colour shift that changes depending on how much ND you use. But the cameras are setup to add an offset to the WB as you switch the ND in or out and change the amount of ND, so in practice most people are completely unaware of this shift.
 
If you watch carefully when you engage or disengage the ND you can sometimes see a fraction of a second where the cameras electronic offset that corrects for the shift is applied just as the filter comes in. Then once the filter is in place the colours appear completely normal again.
 
So when should you white balance from a white card? With or without the ND filter in place?

You can actually white balance either with or without the ND in place. Because the camera knows exactly what offset to apply for any ND value if you change the ND it will compensate automatically and generally the compensation is very accurate. So in most cases it doesn’t really matter whether the ND filter is in place or not.
 
However, my personal recommendation is where possible to white balance with the camera setup as it will be when you are taking your footage. This should then eliminate any small errors or differences that may creep in if you do change the ND or switch the ND in or out.
 
But I wouldn’t be too concerned if you do have to do a WB at one ND level and then change the ND for whatever reason. The in camera compensation is extremely good and you would only ever really be able to see any difference if you start doing careful like for like, side by side, split screen direct comparisons. It’s certainly highly unlikely that you or your audience would ever notice any difference in normal real world applications.
 
You will often see greater colour shifts if you add external ND filters or swap between different lenses, so treat the internal ND as you would any other ND filter and WB with your lens, filters and everything else as it will be when taking the footage. I think one of the truly remarkable things about the variable ND filter is just how consistent the output of the camera is across such a wide range of ND.

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