Understanding chromatic aberration and why lens effects are important

Chromatic aberration, which is also known as 'color fringing', is an issue with optics that happens when a lens is unable to bring the wavelengths of color to the same focal plane, or it can be caused when they are focused at different positions in the focal plane. Read that again - you won't be the only one. Colors of light travel at a different speed when traveling through a lens and this is what causes the colored edges (red and blue or purple and green) you notice in photos or video that typically gets worse the closer you get to the edge of the frame. chromatic aberration Why is it important to recognize chromatic aberration? Chromatic aberration is something people have gotten used to seeing in photos and videos, so when it isn't present most people typically notice something is wrong. When it comes to creating 3D and integrating it into video, it is important to focus on things such as chromatic aberration and other lens effects that happen naturally. Integrating different lens effects into your work will help sell the realism and make people think it's not even CG. Paying attention to the small details will really take your work to the next level. You can see this use of chromatic aberration used in the game The Order: 1886 in our Cinematography tips for game designers. chromatic aberration Here are some different lens effects/techniques that can help you take your skills to the next level:
  • Chromatic aberration
  • Bloom
  • Light Wrap
  • Color Grading
  • Vignette
  • Lens Flare
  • Lens Distortion
  • Optical Ghosting
  • Motion Blur
  • Depth of Field
  • Lens Dust and Scratches
  • Noise and Grain
As you can see, creating the perfect render in whatever 3D modeling and rendering application that you choose is just the first step. The way to make your renders believable is to make them imperfect. Making a perfect 3D render is easy and when you stop there, it isn't believable. When a computer-generated image has no depth of field, you notice. When you look around your room you will notice that everything cannot be in focus. You tend to choose what to focus on, blurring out the things in the foreground or background. Why would we expect everything in an image to be in focus? By adding these imperfections to an image, you create a more realistic environment. Take a look at a great NUKE tutorial on Guerrilla Compositing Tactics in Maya and NUKE. The tutor takes a very simple environment and adds some of the effects talked about in this post. In doing so, the image becomes more "real". When you compare it to the original shot, the difference is astounding - and just with a few effects and a simple scene. Imagine what this could do to a very detailed image. Learn how you can implement these techniques in our Photorealistic Camera Lens Effects in NUKE tutorial to learn about the various lens effects you can add to your footage. If you aren't a NUKE user, then check out Photorealistic Camera Lens Effects in After Effects. These tutorials cover lens effects and how you can take advantage of imperfections to add realism to your projects.