What Is Post-Processing in Video Games?

PC gaming
PC gaming

Properly establishing color tones and lighting in a game is as necessary to its success as the gameplay itself. A game with stunning graphics will entice players to buy it and make the game a more enjoyable experience overall, with post-processing playing a part in that too.

Post-processing allows for helpful screen effects to alter the game’s graphics. This improves the visual aspects of the game and makes the images more life-like and vivid.


Post-Processing Explained

Post-processing applies filters and effects to a game’s images. It’s applied at the end of shading, meaning a game will render the images, and before the images are sent to the monitor, a separate rendering process will occur to enhance the original image, allowing effects and filters to be applied directly onto it.

Post-processing fine-tunes the renders, making the game’s graphics more authentic and even changing the scene’s mood. Whether the graphics are cartoon or realistic, post-processing allows them to reach their full potential.

Overall, post-processing changes a game’s graphics for the better.


Different Effects Related to Post-Processing

Game developers strive to create games with visually stunning graphics that bring their creations to life. There are several effects grouped into post-processing that allow developers to achieve this. These effects are applied in a specific order, starting with SSR and ending with Grain:

  1. Screen Space Reflections (SSR): allow for the reflections of objects to be shown in real-time.
  2. Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO): determines how much ambient lighting an object is exposed to.
  3. Depth of Field (DoF): simulates distance by blurring far away scenery.
  4. Bloom: produces brighter, slightly blurry points of light
  5. Chromatic Aberrations: create light spectrums around objects and are useful in intoxicated scenarios.
  6. Color Balance: allow color tint to be adjusted.
  7. Tone mapping: modifies the image’s contrast, brightness, saturation, and exposure.
  8. Vignette: darkens the edge of the screen, highlighting the center.
  9. Temporal Anti-Aliasing (TAA): reduces aliasing when an object is moving.
  10. Sharpen: enhance the definition of the model, revealing more details.
  11. Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing (FXAA): smooths edges and reduces pixelation.
  12. Supersampling: averages colors of nearby pixels to improve edges.
  13. Grain: simulates film grain and helps models to appear less synthetic.

Vignette can happen at two different points in post-processing, being eighth or twelfth, depending on background and other applied effects.


Does Post-Processing Affect FPS?

Post-processing improves the general visual quality and is performed after a game’s rendering is completed. It has a rather high impact on FPS when maxed out but provides a fairly minimal effect on the visuals compared to lower settings.

Many gamers prefer to keep the post-processing setting low, with medium sometimes being an option, too. A lower post-processing setting allows for better FPS with very little compromise to the graphics quality compared to a higher setting. Unfortunately, the post-processing setting affects all of the visual effects mentioned above, so it’s all or nothing when adjusting the setting levels.

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