Let’s Make a Realistic Night Vision Effect

See the light that's hidden in the darkness.

3 min

November 14, 2022

Operation: Deli Platter

Operation: Deli Platter is a personal series of renders telling a story about border control, modern warfare and the pharmaceutical industry :)
By the end of the first act we enter night-vision mode!

The Night Vision Set-up is FREE to download on the Blauw Films store!

A still from Operation: Deli Platter of 4 special operative soldiers and a Boston Dynamics Spot on a military speedboat in the middle of the ocean. It is sunset and everyone is waving towards the camera. The still was rendered in Cinema 4D with Chaos Corona.

A still from Operation: Deli Platter of 4 special operative soldiers and a Boston Dynamics Spot on a military speedboat in the middle of the ocean. It is evening and everyone is waving towards the camera. The still was rendered in Cinema 4D with Chaos Corona.

A still from Operation: Deli Platter of 4 special operative soldiers and a Boston Dynamics Spot on a military speedboat in the middle of the ocean. It is night and everyone is waving towards the camera. The still was rendered in Cinema 4D with Chaos Corona.

A still from Operation: Deli Platter of 4 special operative soldiers and a Boston Dynamics Spot on a military speedboat in the middle of the ocean. It is night time, we're seeing through night vision and everyone is waving towards the camera. The still was rendered in Cinema 4D with Chaos Corona.
Still from Operation: Deli Platter made with Night Vision.
Rendered in Cinema 4D with Chaos Corona 8.

Most of this effect was achieved in compositing. However, some steps are required before rendering to achieve such a result accurately.

A night time still from Operation: Deli Platter with a soldier and a Boston Dynamics Spot walking against the dark blue night sky filled with stars while they have their night vision turned on.
EXT. Desolate Desert - Night
Repositioning Sniper with Spotter to a safe place to rest.

A night vision still of a sniper soldier resting in the mountains from the series Operation: Deli Platter by Blauw Films made with the Night Vision setup for Chaos Corona.
EXT. Desolate Desert - Later
Both Sniper and Spotter have trouble sleeping...

Before getting into the breakdown, here are some references for night-vision:

A still from Zero Dark Thirty of night vision soldiers.

A still from Zero Dark Thirty of night vision soldiers.
I used these references from Zero Dark Thirty to figure out what elements make up night-vision imagery.
The brightness values are more open to interpretation.

A screenshot from the Night Vision setup in Cinema 4D and Chaos Corona from Operation: Deli Platter.

Inside of Cinema 4D I placed a Corona Light in the same position as the camera. The light is aimed at the subject. We can use the light’s falloff to emphasise the night-vision effect.
This article on How Nightvision Works is a great read for anyone trying to recreate a similar effect.I’ve spotted the light at 55% (Directionality) to minimise the diffused look and emphasise the bright highlights. At this step I change the directionality based on the shot.

A raw render in 32 bit of Night vision soldiers walking through a tunnel in Operation: Deli Platter. This was rendered in Cinema 4D and Chaos Corona with a night vision setup made by Blauw Films.
The raw render is a 32-bit .exr that turned out as above. This will be taken into After Effects for compositing.

A Z-Depth pass rendered in Cinema 4D and Chaos Corona using the Night vision setup by Blauw Films for Operation: Deli Platter.
An effective technique is combining the base layer with a Z-Depth pass.
This emphasises the distance at which your night-vision is optimal.

I made use of the Blackmagic and A7SII noise prints from our Digital Camera Noise Collection!
You can play around with the intensity of the ISO you’re supposedly using in your shot.
It’s important the night vision effect reflects the environment your characters are in.

Digital Camera Noise Pack by Blauw Films for overlaying digital noise patterns in compositing.
Available for Free on our Resources Page

A noise overlay pattern of a digital camera sensor from the Blauw Films Digital Camera Noise Pack.
Blackmagic Cine Pocket Camera 3200 ISO texture.

Night-vision sensitivity works similar to the light sensitivity on digital cameras.

If you’re in a very dark environment it’s good to make the footage more noisy to achieve the required brightness.

There is also a layer of digital fireflies (both black and white) that I’ve added on top. This brings out a much rougher feel to the night-vision.
These days night-vision is available in a variety of color processes. As much as there is black and white/infrared night vision, there are also some forms of full-color night vision.
The balance of how it should look is on you :)

A digital fireflies overlay pattern of a digital camera sensor from the Blauw Films Digital Camera Noise Pack.
Digital fireflies extracted from Canon 60D in low-light scenarios.

A night-vision still from Operation: Deli Platter by Blauw Films with special operative soldiers walking through a tunnel.

A night vision still from Operation: Deli Platter with a dead soldier against a wall in a tunnel. Rendered in Cinema 4D and Chaos Corona.

Blauw Films Night Vision product thumbnail. Night Vision after effects project file set-up for photorealistic Night Vision compositing
Available for FREE on our Store!

Thank you for reading and I hope this will help you in creating your own night vision effects.
If you have tried to make a night vision effect for another renderer, we’d love to share that!

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