Learn How to Read 6 Different Scopes to Ensure Proper Exposure and Color Balance

You can't always trust your eyes to expose your image. That's where scopes come in.

You can brag about your 20/20 vision all you want; scopes are still the most dependable way to get correct information about your image's brightness and color. However, if you've ever looked at a histogram or waveform and thought, "Yeah, I didn't need to be a filmmaker anyway," don't take off your khaki multi-pocket director's vest quite yet. This video by B&H teaches you how to read 6 different scopes, including zebras, false color, and RGB parades so you won't have to rely on a monitor or your perfect visual acuity ever again.

The scopes mentioned in the video are:

  • Histogram: a bar graph that displays luminance (brightness), with "0" being pure black and "255" being pure white
  • Zebra: a striped overlay that corresponds to a certain luminance range
  • Waveform: displays luminance with IRE values
  • False color: specific colors correspond to certain IRE ranges
  • RGB parade: essentially a post-production waveform that measures saturation instead of luminance
  • Vectorscope: laid out like a color wheel to precisely measure saturation, important for matching color between shots

The main takeaway of the video, other than learning how to read each of these scopes, is that the only reliable way to know what your images actually look like is by reading precisely measured data from a scope. There are too many factors that can cause your eyes or a monitor to provide poor information, like the sun causing a glare on your monitor screen, failing to properly calibrate your monitor, or just simply not being a great judge of what a good exposure looks like.

Scopes may look a little intimidating and complicated, but once you get the hang of how to read them they'll become one of the most important tools you use on set.      

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Absolutely true. Two other things to think about: (1) many people wonder whether it's worth it to get an external recorder for their camera. If their camera doesn't have good on-board scopes and the external recorder does have good scopes, one can record better video not only because of 4:2:2 recording vs. 4:2:0 recording or because of ProRes HQ recording vs. H.264 recording, but because the scopes allow one to more accurately capture the correct exposure. And (2) If you are recording in LOG or some such, you either need LOG-aware scopes or a system that allows you to measure LOG through a LUT...again something that external recorders often provide that is usually lacking with built-in tools.

November 24, 2016 at 5:19AM, Edited November 24, 5:19AM