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Enhancing 3D Renders In Photoshop CS5
This extensive Photoshop CS5 3D tutorial, Enhancing 3D Renders in Photoshop CS5, is from PSD Magazine and authored by Digital Tutors.
When creating and rendering objects from a 3D application, artists tend to focus on making everything look perfect. 3D artists often get frustrated due to the fact that no matter how perfect they make an image look, it can still seem fake. The problem is that sometimes 3D art looks fake because it is actually too perfect! With this tutorial, Digital-Tutors will teach you how Photoshop can be used to incorporate a number “imperfections” typically found in real-world cameras, giving your renders an appearance that is much closer to that of a photograph.
Many 3D applications will render out images that are clean, crisp and devoid of any imperfections. However, when trying to render images that are absolutely photorealistic, this can be something of a disadvantage. Take a look at a photograph from any real-world camera – there are lighting artifacts, lens distortions, film noise and other flaws that are almost always present. By using Photoshop to incorporate these real-world imperfections into your 3D renders, the end result will be much more natural and much more realistic.
One of the most impactful ways of adding realism to your 3D renders is to incorporate depth-of-field. Human eyes and real-world cameras have the ability to focus on objects at a certain distance – anything in front of or behind the focal object is blurred and out of focus. Most 3D applications have the ability to simulate depth-of-field by enabling a few simple render options, but there are some major drawbacks to rendering depth-of-field effects. One drawback is the impact on rendering performance – incorporating depth-of-field effects can easily double or triple the amount of time required to render a single frame. Another drawback is a lack of control – if you are unhappy with the depth-of-field effect, you will need to make the necessary adjustments and re-render your entire image again to see the new result.
Both of these problems can be alleviated by rendering a sort of depth pass from your 3D application and using the Lens Blur filter in Photoshop to apply highly realistic depth-of-field effects almost instantaneously. A depth pass is typically a simple grayscale image with objects closest to the camera being shaded white, and gradually getting darker as they get further and further from the camera. By utilizing the Lens Blur filter and depth passes, you can create gorgeous depth-of-field effects with a much higher level of control, accuracy and speed than you could ever accomplish within a 3D app. Most 3D packages have the ability to output a depth pass – you can refer to the software documentation for your particular application for more information.
By using the Lens Blur filter in Photoshop, you can control much more than just the focal point of your image. You can also incorporate several real-world camera behaviors including bokeh. When looking at a photograph you may notice that very bright, out-of-focus areas are not simply blurred and these highlights typically have a more hexagonal shape to them. This bokeh effect is created as a result of lens distortions and the aperture shape of the camera, and is an effect that is frequently missing from 3D renders. You can adjust the Brightness and Threshold sliders in the Lens Blur filter to control which blurred pixels will receive this bokeh effect and how strong the effect will be in those areas. By mimicking the lens and aperture distortions of a real camera, it becomes much easier to “fool” the viewer into believing that your 3D render is actually a real photograph.
Image and film noise is another type of real-world imperfection that you can use to your advantage. Tiny variations in the image sensor of a digital camera or imperfections in the film stock of traditional cameras are unavoidable sources of noise for films and photographs. Photographers put a great deal of effort into minimizing the amount of noise seen in an image, but it is impossible to eliminate it completely. When you render an image from a 3D application, it is completely noise-free, which can give the image an artificial feel. By using Photoshop to introduce subtle amounts of noise into your 3D renders, you can get results that feel more like a real photograph.
Photoshop can allow us to incorporate another flaw of real-world cameras known as chromatic aberration. This effect is caused when the camera lens fails to focus different wavelengths of light to the exact same point resulting in a rainbow-like fringing of colors in certain areas of the image. Chromatic aberration is usually an undesirable effect in photography, but due to the nature of light and refractive lenses, it is almost impossible to eliminate entirely. By using the Lens Correction filter in Photoshop, you can introduce subtle chromatic aberration effects into your 3D render, adding yet another level of slight imperfection that makes it seem as though this image came from a real camera.
By using Photoshop to easily incorporate many of these very subtle imperfections into your 3D renders, you can give your images the look of an authentic photograph taken with a real camera. Your 3D application may be able to directly incorporate many of the features that you’ve discussed here, but by using Photoshop, you can perform these same functions with a much greater level of speed and flexibility.
Render a depth pass from your 3D application
Within your 3D application, you will need to render out a color pass and a depth pass. You may need to refer to the documentation for your 3D software in order to learn how this is done. This depth pass is a critical component to using the Lens Blur filter in Photoshop.
Ensure passes are 8-bit depth
Some 3D applications have the ability to render images with 8-bit, 16-bit or 32-bit color depth. Photoshop’s Lens Blur filter will only work with 8-bit images. By rendering your depth pass as something like a .TGA or .BMP image, you can ensure that is in 8-bit color depth.
Incorporate the depth pass
Within Photoshop, select your depth pass and press [Ctrl]+[A] to select the entire image, then press [Ctrl]+[C] to copy the image to the clipboard. Now select the color pass image, select the Alpha 1 channel located in the Channels tab and press [Ctrl]+[V] to paste the depth pass information into the Alpha 1 channel. By default, the Lens Blur filter will look at Alpha 1 for the depth information.
Apply the Lens Blur filter
Apply the Lens Blur by going to Filter>Blur>Lens Blur. Make sure the Depth Map Source is set to Alpha 1. You can specify the area of the image to be focused by adjusting the Blur Focal Distance slider, or by simply clicking on the area of the image that you want to be brought into focus. By adjusting the Radius slider, you can increase or decrease the overall strength of the blurring effect.
Blur the depth pass
You may notice some unusually sharp lines in certain areas of the lens blur effect. This effect can be minimized by slightly blurring the depth pass. Close the Lens Blur window, select the Alpha 1 channel containing the depth pass and go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. You can now set the Gaussian Blur to the desired level. In this example, we use a blur amount of 5 pixels. Now when you re-apply the Lens Blur Filter, the results should look much more natural.
Add bokeh highlights
Bokeh highlights can be added to the blurred portions of your image by adjusting the sliders found under the Specular Highlights section of the Lens Blur. Adjusting the Brightness slider will increase or decrease the intensity of the bokeh effect. Increasing the Threshold slider will limit the effect to only the brightest portions of your image. In my image, I have set the Brightness to 50 and the Threshold to 250.
Adjust the Lens Blur iris options
This is the area that will allow you to control the shape of the bokeh highlights. In the Shape pull-down menu, you can set the number of sides on your camera iris which will change the number of sides on your bokeh highlights. Increasing the Blade Curvature value will give bokeh highlights a more rounded appearance while the Rotation slider will allow you to change the orientation of the bokeh shape. Once you are satisfied with the blur result, press OK to apply the Lens Blur filter to your image.
Add chromatic aberration
To add realistic lens distortions to your image, go to Filter>Lens Correction. Increase the Red/Cyan Fringe slider to a positive value and set the Blue/Yellow Fringe to a negative value. The values that you decide to use will depend largely on the artistic look you are trying to achieve. Adding more aberration will give the image a much more grungy appearance. In this case, we set the Red/Cyan Fringe to -100 and set the Blue/Yellow Fringe to +100. To fix the edges of the image, set the Edge pull-down menu to Edge Extension. Press OK to exit the filter.
Apply film noise to the image
The Lens Blur filter has the ability to add noise into the blurred portions of your image, but for more realism, you may choose to add some very subtle noise effects to the entire image. Go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. Even a small amount of noise can have a significant effect on the image. This example only uses a noise amount of 2% for this render.
Introduce slight vignetting to the image
Certain cheaper lenses will sometimes allow more light to enter through the center of the lens compared to the outermost areas resulting in slightly darkened corners in the photograph. To add this vignetting effect to your render, go back to the Lens Correction filter, and set the Vignette Amount slider to a negative value in order to darken the edges of the render. Here we use an amount of -22 for the render – just enough to add a very subtle darkening effect in the corners of the render.
Chromatic aberration changes in Photoshop CS5
The chromatic aberration features discussed in step #8 have been overhauled in Photoshop CS5. Users of Photoshop CS4 and older will find this filter under Filter>Distort>Lens Correction. When introducing chromatic aberrations into an image, users of Photoshop CS4 and older will notice that the effect is much stronger compared to Photoshop CS5. In this example, we were able to achieve proper chromatic aberration effects by setting the Red/Cyan Fringe to +22 and setting the Blue/Yellow Fringe to -22.
The art of camera distortions
Many of the physical camera effects discussed in this tutorial are subject to a great amount of artistic freedom. The settings used for your own images may vary greatly depending on the resolution of your image and the particular look you are trying to achieve. In a real-world photograph, heavy amounts of noise and aberration are considered to be undesirable traits. For the most aesthetically pleasing and realistic results, it is best to use these effects sparingly – otherwise the image may look too heavily processed and artificial.
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