In the past I talked about the importance of lighting as well as atmosphere and how they can really make or break the overall feeling of your game or movie. Color correction is something I recently started learning about and I now realize that this small visual element is just as important as other post FX. Atmosphere in general is a very broad subject to talk about, and while it could be argued that color correction and lighting should fall under the same category, I like to think of them as separate visual elements.
I don't want to write a very long post about color correction as I am still learning proper correction techniques myself. So I am definitely no professional or anything when it comes to this subject, but from my experience I can say that it makes all the difference. I think in the past I said something about how the lighting really can control the mood, feeling and overall atmosphere of anything if it is properly done. Color correction also can have a huge impact on these areas to supplement the lighting. For example here is a scene in Unity that I made. The scene consists of a vampire, a coffin, a barn, a light and like a desert-ish type setting (this might not be the best example to use for this subject but it's all I have)
This image is just what the raw scene looks like. No color correction, no post filters or anything. It doesn't look too bad right? But it feels like it's missing something. It's missing that feeling that grabs the person's attention and makes them think that they can feel the atmosphere of the environment. That little extra immersive-ness in the game world isn't really there yet. How can this be improved? How can this specific scene be distinguished through its atmosphere from lets say another scene that's sunny but isn't taking place in a desert? The answer is the tones of the colors.
This is a lot better. The reds are brought down in the barn, the sky blends in with the rest of the environment, the yellow and orange tones are brought up a bit, everything in the scene blends in and you can still tell what everything is. This image feels hot. It feels like it has a temperature to it. The area in the image is a hot dry place. It feels more realistic than the original. Again, what is a vampire doing in the middle of the desert? I don't know. I told you this wasn't the best example and the colors or lighting might not be done perfectly or properly at all (im not a pro), but you can't really argue that the tone gives you a different feel from what the original image gave. Maybe you are getting some old-western vibes or red-dead redemption type vibes from the color corrected image?
(OMG! How dare you compare this shit to a master piece such as red-dead)
Here is another example of the same image but with different color corrections. This time, the image is doing the exact opposite of what the corrected image above is doing. While the previous example brings out yellow and oranges and looks more hot, this one has a more cool feeling. Not necessarily ice cold. Not at all, but definitely not like a harsh 105 degree burning sun type of feeling.
This image brings out different shades of blues, lights blues and grays. The sky feels like it could have a nice breeze in it.
I recently wen't back to working on my upcoming game "Samer Hills" I mentioned that I was jumping back and forth between different projects and just working on them whenever I get chance to. Back on topic, I decided to experiment a bit of color correction in some of the earlier scenes I created in the game. I was thinking about how I can improve upon on what I already created. How could I make the game world feel more believable and offer a better atmosphere? I started tweaking the lighting a bit again but didn't start noticing major differences until I played around with color correcting. The results are day and night different from what the scene originally looked like. Take a look.
The scene looks very dull here. The fog seems kinda out of place.
The greens are brought out here. This level takes place inside of a forest type environment. The color adjustment gives off that fantasy forest feeling I think. The colors are more vibrant and pop out. But maybe there is too much vibrancy for the overall atmosphere I want to create.
This is the final result. It is the color adjustment of the previous image but with an added image filter over it so it isn't too vibrant. The colors still pop-out but at the same time there is the dreadfulness in the air. This darker tone in the atmosphere.
I posted these images to the unity forums and on twitter asking people which one they preferred and most said that the color corrected image with the filter was best. I personally like the feeling it gives off too. Still might do some more tweaking. The point here is that color correction makes all the difference when you are trying to set the atmosphere of your game. Just like everything, this is more of an art so there is no right or wrong way of doing it. It all depends on what kind of feeling you want to create. You can make it fun and cheery, or sad, gloomy, dreadful, scary, horror, romantic, hot, burning hot, warm, cool, freezing, etc. This is the power of color correction.
It just sets the mood of the world you are trying to bring to life. It is a nice little extra visual element and can be incorporated into not just games but almost any visual art. Photography, videos, paintings, and so on. Color correction is important.