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In Depth: What in the Heck is Bokeh?

What in the heck is bokeh?

What is bokeh and how is it pronounced?

Bokeh /bōˈkā/ is derived from the Japanese word “boke”, which means “blur” or “haze” [Wikipedia: Bokeh]

The dictionary definition of bokeh is the aesthetical visual quality of the blur or out-of-focus areas of a photographic image with a narrow depth of field or taken with a particular lens. The blur effect looks especially nice on lights and reflections. You’ve seen this effect hundreds of times before. I know you have. I see it when I’m squinting my eyes while looking at lights a night.

Featured image credit: Todd Diemer@todd_diemer

Why do you want this depth of field effect? 

Well, it just looks pretty! Not only that, it focuses your viewer’s attention on your subject.

In post-production, you can use a Lens Blur effect to simulate a bokeh effect. You can make it in your own eyes squinting your eyes, causing blurs through your eyelashes to all of the lights and reflections. This works best on a dark rainy night with lots of lights and reflections.

BOKEH explained in intense detail

Tony & Chelsea Northrup tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Bokeh, and talk about the pronunciation.

So, how do you pronounce it? It seems a lot like the GIF debate to me. Below, listen to how it’s pronounced in the original Japanese.

I really don’t care, personally. Pronounce it how you like it. I won’t correct you.

Let’s See a Few Examples of Bokeh

Below are some examples of bokeh on footage with lights and reflections.

How to Create Bokeh in Post

Adding bokeh in post can add a bit of pizazz to transitions, wedding videos, holiday spots, and more. Luckily, there are several ways to create bokeh in After Effects and other hosts.

Camera Lens Blur | Effects of After Effects

First, is the Camera Lens Blur effect, which comes with After Effects. You can also create a faux depth of field bokeh depth effect by enabling Depth of Field in After Effects and adjusting the Blur Radius settings. Jake In Motion does a great job of explaining this plugin.

Frischluft Lenscare

Lenscare, a long-time favorite plugin of After Effects users, creates gorgeous depth-of-field effects. It gives users lots of options and renders extremely high-quality blurs.

Frischluft Lenscare is available as plugins for Adobe After Effects/Premiere Pro, OFX (Fusion,) and Photoshop. Keep scrolling for a couple of tutorials that utilize Lenscare along with other tools like Cinema 4D, Redshift, and ReelSmart Motion Blur.

Frischluft Lenscare AEFrischluft Lenscare AE

Give your footage breathtakingly realistic depth of field and focus effects

Frischluft Lenscare AE physically-based algorithms blur pixels based on their depth value, so you can add high-quality camera blurs to your 3D footage in 2D post-processing without the extensive render times you’d experience in your 3D app. If you need to add some spectacular lens work to your post-production workflow, Lenscare’s results are unequaled.

Learn MoreTry Frischluft Lenscare AE for free!

Depth Passes Made Easy + Frischluft Lenscare and Camera Lens Blur

Joren Kandel from The Pixel Lab shows you an easier workflow to set up depth passes in Cinema 4D and bring them into After Effects. If you do them in After Effects, the render is much faster and it’s not baked into your Cinema 4D render.

Rowbyte Fast Bokeh Pro for After Effects or OFX

If you’re looking for something super fast and easy, check out Rowbyte Fast Bokeh Pro. There is also a version for OpenFX that works with Fusion Studio and DaVinci Resolve.

Rowbyte Fast Bokeh ProRowbyte Fast Bokeh Pro

Creates a smooth Depth of Field bokeh blur using a Depth Map.

It’s very fast, handles edges properly, and is easy to use. Fast Bokeh v2 comes with some great new features like Custom Image Bokeh Shapes, Zone Control and most importantly GPU Acceleration using modern technologies like Metal/Compute.

Learn MoreTry Rowbyte Fast Bokeh Pro for free!

Create Realistic Bokeh in Redshift | Greyscalegorilla Training

In May 2022, Greyscalegorilla added Bokeh Maps to Greyscalegorilla Plus. Chad Ashley explains how to use them.

Greyscalegorilla PlusGreyscalegorilla Plus

Step up your 3D career.

Plus gives you what you need to create beautiful renders in less time. Learn how you can get over $10,000 of Pro Training, Material Collections, and Plugins $399 per year. Plus gives you everything you need to step up your 3D career. Create beautiful renders in less time with Award-Winning Plugins, High Rez Materials, Pro Training and more.

Learn More

Redshift & Cinema 4D | Understanding Depth of Field and Bokeh

One more, this one from Mograph Plus.

Boris Sapphire S_BokehLights

This plug-in generates random, defocused lights that move around the screen. You can find it in the Sapphire Lighting effects submenu.

Sapphire S_BokehLights in the Sapphire Preset Browser
Sapphire S_BokehLights in the Sapphire Preset Browser

Boris FX Sapphire Perpetual LicenseBoris FX Sapphire Perpetual License

Ultra Speeds, Ultra Creativity, Ultra Power. Download a free trial today!

Sapphire plugins let you create stunning organic looks unmatched by any host native effect tools. Key features include over 270 effects and 3000+ presets, a powerful Effect and Transition Builder, and integrated tracking and masking with the Academy Award-winning Mocha. Sapphire’s superior image quality, control, and render speed offers massive time-savings — allowing creatives to focus on what matters most, delivering an impact that keeps audiences coming back.

Learn MoreTry Boris FX Sapphire Perpetual License for free!

Boris FX Sapphire Annual SubscriptionBoris FX Sapphire Annual Subscription

Ultra Speeds, Ultra Creativity, Ultra Power. Download a free trial today!

Sapphire plugins let you create stunning organic looks unmatched by any host native effect tools. Key features include over 270 effects and 3000+ presets, a powerful Effect and Transition Builder, and integrated tracking and masking with the Academy Award-winning Mocha. Sapphire’s superior image quality, control, and render speed offers massive time-savings — allowing creatives to focus on what matters most, delivering an impact that keeps audiences coming back.

Learn MoreTry Boris FX Sapphire Annual Subscription for free!

Boris Continuum BCC Fast Lens Blur

BCC Fast Lens Blur gives really lovely bokeh shape effects. It’s easy to use and extremely fast, with 100% GPU accelerated replacement for their older version of the filter.

BCC Fast Lens Blur uses OpenCL to emulate a lens blur defocus/rack focus effect where out of focus highlights of an image clip take on the shape of the lens diaphragm. When a lens is used at its maximum aperture (fully open / set to the smallest f stop number) the out of focus highlights are typically in the shape of a circle, however, when the lens is stopped down (set to something other than the smallest f stop number) the blades inside the lens shape the out of focus highlights into multi-sided shapes. This filter includes a pop-up that can be used to match the different looks that can be achieved in the physical world based on the lens aperture setting. This pleasing optical result is referred to in photographic terms as Bokeh.

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Here are the effect controls for BCC Fast Lens Blur, in After Effects.
Here are the effect controls for BCC Fast Lens Blur, in After Effects.

Boris FX Continuum Annual SubscriptionBoris FX Continuum Annual Subscription

The Swiss Army Knife of Plugins

Meeting tight turnarounds just got easier. The post-production industry’s most complete plugin collection delivers nearly 350 creative effects in 20 categories, 4000+ presets, built-in Academy Award-winning Mocha planar tracking and masking, a Beat Reactor that drives VFX to music, and the FX Browser. Busy editors and artists rely on Continuum to get the job done.

Learn MoreTry Boris FX Continuum Annual Subscription for free!

Boris FX Continuum Perpetual LicenseBoris FX Continuum Perpetual License

The Swiss Army Knife of Plugins

Meeting tight turnarounds just got easier. The post-production industry’s most complete plugin collection delivers nearly 350 creative effects in 20 categories, 4000+ presets, built-in Academy Award-winning Mocha planar tracking and masking, a Beat Reactor that drives VFX to music, and the FX Browser. Busy editors and artists rely on Continuum to get the job done.

Learn MoreTry Boris FX Continuum Perpetual License for free!

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Posted by Michele Yamazaki