Realistic Lens Flares

When technology and art intersect, it's often the case that those who know how have no idea why, and those who know why have no idea how.

I can’t stop thinking about this SIGGRAPH video. It shows realistic lens flares being computed in real time using a sparse ray tracing technique. There are some lens artifacts shown here of a complexity and beauty that I’ve never seen faked convincingly before.

Lens flare is caused by light passing through a photographic lens system in an unintended way. Often considered a degrading artifact, it has become a crucial component for realistic imagery and an artistic means that can even lead to an increased perceived brightness.

“Increased perceived brightness?” That was the best sales pitch you could give on why being able to synthesize realistic lens flares is worthwhile?

What you meant to say was "increased awesomeness."

Lens flares are awesome because they are fricking crazy. They are organic, but completely unreal. They increase the veil of unreality between the audience and the movie. They are beautiful. They are tiny imperfections magnified by orders of magnitude. They are aliens. And scary buildings. And first kisses. We give them sound effects and music cues. They make movies bigger than life because they have nothing to do with life.

And I want yours, Hullin et al..

In the Vimeo comments the poster said:

Anamorphic optics are currently not supported, but this is not a principal limitation of the rendering scheme.

If they had put anamorphic examples in this video I think I’d be standing on their lawn with a boom box right now.

Physically-Based Real-Time Lens Flare Rendering — Hullin, Eisemann, Seidel, Lee