August 17, 2022

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Recreate the unique look of unobtainable Aerochrome film

Recreate the unique look of unobtainable Aerochrome film

Have you heard of Aerochrome? It is a unique type of color infrared film, originally created for the US military and designed for surveillance aircraft. Aerochrome film images show trees and other plants in bright red and pink hues, creating images unlike anything else.

The modified method of trichromatic imaging is the key behind recreating the unique look of Aerochrome. Click to enlarge.

Unfortunately, Aerochrome hasn’t been manufactured in over a decade. What adventurous hacker has a passion for this unobtainable movie to do? [Joshua] Determined to recreate it as best he couldAnd the results look great!

Aerochrome film is completely different from ordinary film. It is sensitive to infrared, and images taken with it produce a kind of false color image that shows infrared as red, red visible as green, and green as blue. The result is a fuzzy-looking image like the one you see in the title image above. Healthy vegetation is clearly highlighted, and everything else? Well, it actually looks pretty normal, all things considered.

Why does this happen? That’s because green, leafy plants strongly absorb visible light for photosynthesis, yet also strongly reflect near infrared. This is the same principle behind the Standard Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), a method used since the 1970s to measure live green plants, mostly from satellite images.

Aerochrome may be out of production, but black and white infrared film is still available. [Joshua] He found that he could recreate the Aerochrome effect while adapting trichromatic photography: the process of capturing three identical black and white images, each using a different color filter. When combined, the three images (which act as three separate color channels) produce a color image.

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To reproduce Aerochrome, [Joshua] It takes three monochrome images with its infrared film, each with a different color filter chosen to match the spectral sensitivities of the original product. The result is an absolutely stunning reproduction of Aerochrome!

But this method has some shortcomings. [Joshua] He found it annoying to fiddle with the filters between trying to take three identical photos, and the film and filters didn’t quite match the spectral sensitivities of the original Aerochrome. He also found it difficult to project the correct exposure; Since most light meters measure visible light and not infrared, exposure settings were out of reach. But the results seem very real, so he considers it a success.

we loved [Joshua]’s DIY wigglecamWe are glad to see the work he did to recreate an authentic Aerochrome. Amazing work.