Since the inception of digital film technology, DOPs tried to avoid the electronic look of digital cameras. Filmmakers used various tricks to give their footage a character and organic feeling. Old anamorphic lenses became very popular for having a set of optical artifacts which partially dealt with the issue. It came to the point when renown lens manufacturers started to market their lineup’s visual imperfections as part of the unique signature look of the product.
Since CGI is notorious for its digital and sharp feel, I thought it would be great to have a virtual lens which would add some of the real life optical imperfections to a CG rendering. I decided to create a small tool called VintageLens for Fusion compositing software (another free and powerful app for VFX). VitangeLens is based on my observations and lens modifications I’ve done on some old glass. The tool was inspired by the beautiful artwork by Dylan Sisson, Pixar’s Renderman specialist. In his artwork Dylan used Renderman’s Physical Camera to simulate a photo lens. The feature adds accurate optical artifacts during render time. As an enthusiast photographer, I highly appreciate the feature. However, this method has one limitation – every time an artist wants to make an adjustment, he/she needs to rerender the whole image, and sometimes it can take hours to complete. Bringing the ‘lensing’ process into compositing gives a possibility to instantly control the effect at any stage of compositing.
VintageLens adds soft anamorphic flaring, ghosting and chromatic aberration optical artifacts. The strength of each effect is controlled by a group of sliders so it is very simple to use. Also, it has a mask input to limit the effect to a specific area. And most importantly, the tool is absolutely free. Just go to GitHub repository, read installation instructions in the readme file and download the source.
VintageLens used on the actual footage I shot on my 5d: