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Post-Processing Video Effects

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Electronic games often use various visual effects that are applied after the scene is rendered by the game engine. These are used to make the game look better or just create a particular look. Improvements in graphics rendering technology often result in particular effects being used in games to excess; witness the fashion for lens flare in games from the mid- to late 1990s.

Common effects include:

  • Lens Flare (see that entry for examples)
  • Bloom: An effect that produces fringes of light around very bright objects in the scene. While this can affect human vision in certain conditions, it is generally implemented in ways that reproduce bloom effects on camera lenses and thus it is, strictly speaking, inappropriate unless the scene is intended to be viewed through a camera. Very common in early 7th-generation video games, it was toned down or abandoned later: Contrast The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, both 7th-gen games released five years apart, to see the difference.
  • Film grain: Adds graininess to the displayed image in order to evoke the look of an older film.
  • Tone mapping: The remapping of on-screen colors into a more specific palette. (See Mood Lighting)
    • Monochrome filter: Turns the display black and white.
    • Sepia filter: Adds a brown tint to the display. Often used together with fake scratches to evoke the look of old films.
    • Other options tend to be more vivid colors, colder appearance, or something esoteric for laughs.
  • Scanlines: Give the appearance of being displayed on an old CRT monitor.
  • Cel Shading can be done this way, particularly when being done to live-action footage.
  • Motion Blur: Gives the illusion an object is moving faster than it really is, disguises screen tearing and low frame rates, and makes a game look like it's being filmed with a camera.
  • Depth of Field: The span of distance along the shot axis in which objects will be in focus.
  • Gaussian Blur: Can be applied to distant objects to disguise object pop-in, applied to edges as a cheap form of anti-aliasing, or overlaid on top of the original frame to simulate bloom.
  • Vignetting: Reducing the brightness or saturation of the corners while emphasizing and drawing interest to the center of the image. This is starting to replace bloom as the most common game effect.
  • Post-Process Antialiasing: Anti-aliasing is the process of smoothing angled lines that appear as jagged edges, also called "jaggies". In traditional antialiasing, the idea was to render the scene at a higher resolution than desired and downsample it. However, this needs powerful hardware and it became even worse as games began targeting higher and higher display resolutions. So developers started looking towards other methods. As jaggies tend to produce edges of color, post-process anti-aliasing renders allows the scene at the desired resolution, but then smooth out the edges of color instead. Most games post-2012 support some post-process antialiasing, such as FXAAnote .

Compare The Coconut Effect.


  • BioShock Infinite uses tone-mapping to a grayscale/dark mood palette when you first approach the Fraternal Order of the Raven, and keeps that tone map until you leave that portion of the map walk toward the center of the quad. It's very obvious if you look back toward the rest of Columbia while standing near the Fraternal Order entrance.
  • Oblivion using high-end system settings: Absolutely everything is bloom-ed, with no logic whatsoever to it. Lower-end systems, unable to run that much bloom (or any bloom at all), get to experience a totally different-looking game. The logic is that it covers up distracts from the flaws in the character models.
    • Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas tone it down considerably to match the post-apocalyptic setting, but it's still there. An easily found source is plasma-based weapons; both the plasma bolts they fire and the little glowy bits on the guns themselves all have bloom effects. All the Gamebryo engine games as well as Skyrim have user-made enhanced shader mods that usually have the goal of making light sources look more important in providing the actual light of an area; this usually results in the light sources giving off more intense but "smaller" bloom compared to the unmodified effect.
  • Mass Effect, Left 4 Dead and Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy all use Film grain. In Mass Effect, the effect could be turned off in the options screen. Resident Evil 5 had one that could be unlocked when the player completed the game. In Left 4 Dead, there is a graphics setting for it, but it also fades out in bright areas automatically.
  • Mass Effect uses depth of field frequently during cinematics to draw the player's attention to specific characters or points of interest. It's most obvious when it accidentally focuses on the wrong thing (e.g. focusing on the wall instead of Avina or Mira during a conversation cinematic; focusing on plants and trees instead of the Normandy in the end-game sequence for Mass Effect 3).
    • Which makes sense. When shooting on film, one needs to use more sensitive and fast film, but these stocks are grainier compared to the practically grain free stocks with lower sensitivity (that would be used when there is light).
  • All cutscenes in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth use this effect. Due to the gloomy and antiquated atmosphere of the game, it is fairly effective. In addition, the entire game had a noticeable brown tint to the graphics.
  • House of the Dead: Overkill also uses the "film grain" effect. You can change the intensity of it in the options.
  • Call of Duty 4 had unlockable sepia and monochrome filters. Applying the sepia filter in the heavily tinted level taking place after a nuclear explosion would actually turn the colours close to their normal look.
  • Several Maxis games, including both of The Sims and Spore, have cheats that add photo effects to the screen, including sepia, grain, noir (true black and white) and bloom.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is infamous for its overuse of bloom to the point where the bloom is almost blinding in certain areas.
    • An earlier game in the series, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was the first in the series to use depth-of-field effects. The depth-of-field helps to hide some of the imperfections in models and textures while adding just a bit of realism to an otherwise cartoony game. The effect may also simply be a Gaussian blur filter.
      • Early screenshots of Wind Waker HD featured almost eye-searing amounts of bloom, which was luckily toned down for the final release.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword takes depth-of-field a step further by decreasing the depth of field when the camera is locked onto something.
  • Star Fox Adventures also includes an unlockable sepia filter.
  • The Il-2 series of flight sims have some cutscenes rendered with the in-game engine where a sepia filter and artificial scratches have been added to imitate the look of a 1940s newsreel.
  • Battle Stations: Pacific has an optional "old movie" filter which add scratches and grain to cutscenes.
  • You can add a bunch of various post-processes manually in Garry's Mod
  • Day of Defeat: Source uses Film grain between a player's death and his respawn, to evoke WWII films.
  • Grand Theft Auto
    • Grand Theft Auto IV has a number of tone mapping filters applied between buildings. You can notice the entire world change colour outside as you step inside certain buildings. The Lost and Damned uses film grain wholly.
    • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has several more examples. Film grain pops up during rainfall, each region (cities and countrysides) has a different tonemap, and in hotter locations like Los Santos and Bone County's desert, there's heat distortion everywhere.
  • Battles in Persona 4 (where all battles, except for one dream sequence, take place inside a TV) have a filter applied to the picture while the player selects commands resembling a TV with poor reception.
  • Sanitarium features flashbacks with film grain effects.
  • Many of the special powers in Viewtiful Joe have film effects applied to accentuate the game's Trapped In The Movies vibe.
  • WET is specifically designed to look like a 70's movie, and therefore has a slight sepia filter, film artifacts and a couple of other random things.
  • Uncharted uses a subtle amount of bloom, which increases (as the world becomes black and white) as you take damage as a form of ambient health meter. You can also unlock several filters to turn on including black and white, sepia, grainy, and "Realistic mode" which filters everything into dirt brown and drives the bloom up to insane levels
  • ICO applies a "film grain" effect during certain scripted sequences. The European release allows enabling the effect throughout the game, if you want.
  • TimeSplitters Future Perfect features a few of these as unlockable options. One puts an "old silent movie" filter onto the gameplay, while another makes the gameplay look like an old 8-bit game. The latter is unconvincing, and neither is recommended for gameplay.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time makes heavy use of bloom, to give the game that fairy-tale glow.
  • Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter uses an ever-so-subtile static filter during most of the gameplay to give the appearance of it being viewed through an aged CRT monitor, as is fitting for the game's setting.
  • NieR. I dare you to leave a dark area into a bright area without squinting/covering your eyes because of the bloom.
  • Gears of War has various post processing filters available in the options menu.
  • Just Cause 2 subtly changes the postprocessing depending on the environment. Red is emphasized in deserts and decreased in snowy areas, and in the former distant objects are more blurry.
  • Rock Band applies film grain, tone mapping, scan lines, blurs, mirrored images, deliberate frame-rate drops, and other effects to the background only, depending on the song.
  • RollerCoaster Tycoon 3. If you have Bloom turned on during the day, you can barely see the game. This was probably done to hide the lack of detailed models, but it makes it impossible to play the game for players who don't know they can turn it off.
  • Valve Software's Source engine introduced a motion blur option in 2007, which was eventually patched into their earlier games. It's most noticeable when the player whips the camera around quickly or when it accidentally interferes with the freeze cam shots in Team Fortress 2.
  • ZombiU has a filter on the screen that makes it look as if everything is being viewed through a dirty camera lens. Which makes rather little sense and interferes with the player's vision. Given that it's a survival horror game, the latter was probably intentional.
  • PAYDAY 2 has depth of field kick in when you aim down the sights of your gun. The problem with the effect is everything around you gets really blurry while the center of the screen in front of the gun remains clear, making it hard to see enemies that are in the blurry zone. The developers added a toggle to let people turn the effect on or off.
  • Cuphead applies a film grain to help simulate the visual effects of a 1930s cartoon.
    • The Cuphead Show! does this as well (while also adding in gate weave/telecine wobble) for a similar effect.
  • Sonic Mania features two CRT filters (one "sharp" and the other "soft") to give it an authentic retro feeling, in addition to a "clean" filter that smoothens out the pixels.
  • Minecraft features plenty of shaders that could be applied with "Super secret settings" button (introduced in version 1.7.2 then removed in 1.9) or by spectating from the viewpoint of spiders (five eyes separated by blur), creepers (green filter) or Endermen (inverted colours).
  • Rodina has a "retro mode" filter which adds pixellation to the game screen. This has a practical benefit of improving the framerate as it actually shrinks the area the game draws primitives on.
  • Final Fantasy XIV uses bloom in places when needed and there's depth of field used in cutscenes. In the Mt. Gulug dungeon, the second half of the dungeon is white marble with gold accents. Originally, the white was very blinding due to the bloom, which made it difficult for players to read incoming AOE attacks from enemies. The developers heavily toned it down in a later patch by making the white more of a gray white so that the area is less blinding.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Crisis Point", the Crisis Point holomovie has a deliberate film grain effect to evoke old fashioned reel-fed theatrical movies, even including cue marks.
  • Studio Ghibli's digital films (starting with 1999's My Neighbors the Yamadas) have film grain and gate weave effects to make them resemble retro anime done on 35mm, or the 35mm prints the films would have been shown in theatres. Even their All-CGI Cartoon Earwig and the Witch has this effect applied. This also gives a Retraux effect that has become a part of Studio Ghibli's Signature Style.