Chromatic aberration (CA) is the distortion that creates an outline of unwanted colors along edges in an image. AKA “color fringing”, it often appears in metallic areas where a contrast between light and dark objects is present, such as shadows and a bright light source. Color aberration causes different colors along an object’s edge, especially when it’s a large image we’re talking about.
The failure of a camera to focus on different wavelengths in the same focal point may lead to different color fringing, such as red-green, magenta-purple, or red-green. That’s because of the refractive lens of the glass which is making it difficult for lenses to focus on each hue on the focal plane.
What Is Chromatic Aberration In Games
What is chromatic aberration in games? Chromatic aberration, or CA, is an effect caused by the refraction of light in a camera lens. Essentially, it’s when a lens can’t focus all the colors on one point, causing a slight color shift at the edges of some objects, depending on the brightness of that object.
In photography, chromatic aberration is a natural effect that occurs depending on the type and quality of the lens used. Since it doesn’t occur naturally in video games per se, many developers will simply use a simulation of the effect instead.
But why is it used in games in the first place?
Chromatic aberration is unique to camera lenses, which are not typically found in video games. The camera you control in the game doesn’t distort or refract light like real cameras; there’s no “lens” to refract light in the first place, so why use one?
Adding chromatic aberration makes the game look like it was shot with a camera. These days developers or publishers want certain cinematic effects in their games that make the production value appear higher than it is (I’m looking at you, widescreen format) and potentially add more weight to certain scenes.
What does chromatic aberration do in video games?
Chromatic aberration is a video game term used to describe the appearance of fringes of color on an object.
Video games use chromatic aberration to create more realistic images for players.
Some people may think that adding chromatic aberration to a video game makes it look more “cinematic”.
The game feels like looking from behind a broken camera.
This makes sense for a certain type of game, such as horror games.
Horror games, in particular, can benefit from certain levels of chromatic aberration, as it makes the game feel rougher. It evokes images of old VCRs or old movie cameras that create an atmosphere and excitement for horror-themed games.
2 Types Of Chromatic Aberration
Axial – AKA ‘bokeh infringing,” is the change in the length of the light’s wavelength. In contrast, lateral chromatic aberration can be more noticeable at stopping the subject’s periphery because of the changes in light hues. Because of the variances of the focal point, axial chromatic aberration can be blurred in front and behind the focus position. You can see it at the edges of very bright areas within a photo.
Lateral – This is the one that causes color fringing, and is only visible at the images’ margins.
Note that combining multiple lenses can help reduce lateral chromatic aberration, although it can still be unavoidable. Some lenses can have complex CA that blends red and cyan, as well as blue and yellow. You can reduce it by the use of low-dispersion ED glasses.
Main Causes Of Color Fringing
Chromatic aberration happens when lenses function as a spectrum, bending and splitting light that passes thru it. One must remember that light is made up of wavelengths. It just so happens that our camera can detect the combined colors of light. The lens must make sure that color wavelengths must reach the same spot on the sensor.
It may appear straightforward in hindsight, but different wavelengths impact your lens constantly, and each wavelength reacts differently, depending on the kind of lens glass being used. Sadly, this is where chromatic aberration also shows up. There are some factors, like the kind of lens or the glass being used that can create chromatic aberration in images.
That’s why don’t need to have a professional camera to avoid such a thing. That’s because all lenses suffer from a chromatic aberration in some form or another, which can be a deal-breaker sometimes.
Fixing & Avoiding CA
Fortunately, you can avoid this to make your shoot look much truer to life by doing the following:
Avoiding Chromatic Aberration (CA)- Try Shooting At a Narrower Aperture!
When using the cheap lens, professionals recommend shooting at a higher f-stop. For instance, shooting at a low-grade lens wide open increases the chances of chromatic aberration. But if you use a flash, a smaller aperture, a higher ISO, or slow down the shutter speed, that will work.
Optimize Your Focal Plane To Reduce CA
Wider-angle lenses with short focal lengths are most prone to encountering fringing. For instance, shooting at 18mm increases the chances to encounter chromatic aberration due to the extremities of the focal lens. But shooting at a medium focal length, let’s say about 30mm when using 18–55-millimeter lens should help.
Bringing Your Subject To The Center
The margins of the frame are where chromatic aberrations are most visible. So, if you position your subject at the center, you’ll often have little to no chromatic aberration at all.
Although there may still be bits of chromatic aberrations along the edges, you can just clip it out. If you need to preserve every pixel in a large photo, you should really remember these tips above. On the other hand, trimming shouldn’t be a problem if you just intend your photo to be small.
How demanding is Chromatic Aberration?
Essentially it’s just a cinematic effect just like the screen size or vignettes. This means it is purely out of personal preference. Whether you want to enable it or not, there is little to no performance impact. If we’re trying to stretch here and I mean stretching, you might be able to save an extra frame, if that’s the case.
Is it worth turning on chromatic aberration?
Chromatic aberration is mainly due to personal taste. The most important question to ask yourself is: do I want my game to look like I’m looking at it through a camera lens? It will make your game look more “cinematic”, but is that something you want in your game of killer bunnies shooting rainbows at unicorns? Maybe in your grim crime detective story or photo-realistic horror game. Again, though, it all depends on personal preference.
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