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Mixed Reality Camera Settings: How to Get the Best Picture Quality

June 21, 2023
by Mike Geida, Onboarding Specialist, Varjo, Ray Stephenson, Sales Engineer, Varjo
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XR/VR tips and tricks

Mixed reality has become a popular tool in various industries, such as flight simulators, racing simulators, car design reviews, and many more. However, when using mixed reality in different environments, you may not always get a crisp picture at first. This is due to different lighting conditions, which can affect the image quality. Fortunately, in Varjo Base and Varjo Lab Tools, you can adjust camera settings on the Varjo XR-3 to ensure you always have the best possible passthrough image. In this article, we discuss the different camera settings and how to use them to get the best picture quality.

mixed reality camera settings

By default, mixed reality camera settings in Varjo Base are all set to “Automatic.” This means that the cameras will automatically adjust to the environment in which you are operating. When you focus on a more illuminated area, the camera feed will appear darker to compensate for the brighter physical environment. When focusing on a darker environment, the cameras will attempt to adjust to the dimmer lighting conditions and artificially make the camera feed look slightly brighter. Think about when you use your camera on your cell phone. When you point at the object you want to take a picture of, the camera will try to automatically adjust to give you the best picture possible. This is the same concept that is being used in Varjo’s mixed reality. However, you may find yourself in a situation where these automatic settings may need some adjustment.

Here are a few examples where camera settings can be tuned to work well for your use case.

  • In flight simulators, you may want to adjust the brightness and exposure settings to replicate the lighting conditions of different times of day or weather conditions. For example, you might want to simulate flying at night or during a storm, which would require adjustments to the exposure and brightness settings.
  • In car design reviews, you might want to adjust the sharpness and white balance settings to get a better look at the details of the car’s design. You could also adjust the flicker compensation setting to avoid flickering in the image caused by any physical displays in the car.
  • In medical training, you might want to adjust the ISO and exposure settings to replicate the lighting conditions of different clinical scenarios, such as an operating room or an emergency department. You might also want to adjust the sharpness setting to better visualize details of the human anatomy.

There are no recommended settings for specific use cases as there are many variables that can provide a different outcome. You’ll need to alter and test these settings to find what works best for your use case.

Mixed Reality Video Brightness

The Mixed Reality Video Brightness setting is a simple way to increase the brightness when running Automatic settings. If the setting is too high, the image may look washed out. On the other hand, if the setting is too low, the image may be too dark and difficult to see. This setting is only available when using Automatic settings and will become disabled once the other settings listed are manually set to a certain value.

Sharpness

The sharpness setting controls the edge definition of the image. A higher sharpness setting can make the image look clearer but can also introduce artifacts or noise. On the contrary, a lower sharpness setting can make the image look softer but can also remove some details. The Mixed Reality Sharpness setting applies a sharpening filter to the mixed reality camera view, which is helpful for cases where you want to read fine text on instrument panels, or small displays. In such cases, setting the sharpness to the maximum value of 14 will yield the sharpest text. However, it’s important to find the balance between clarity and naturalness when adjusting the sharpness setting to ensure optimal image quality.

White Balance

The white balance setting is used to adjust the color temperature of the image. If the setting is too warm, the image may have a yellowish tint. In contrast, if the setting is too cool, the image may have a bluish tint. The best way to adjust the white balance is to use a white reference card or a neutral color and adjust the setting until the image appears neutral.

Exposure

The exposure setting controls how much light is captured by the camera. If the setting is too high, the image may be overexposed and washed out. Furthermore, if the setting is too low, the image may be too dark and difficult to see. The exposure value is set at a fraction of a second, for instance 1/250 sec, which corresponds to how long a shutter is open capturing light.

Mixed reality exposure settings
Faster exposures have potential to cause flickering to be visible when looking at displays through MR passthrough video.

Setting a long exposure like 1/125 sec captures more light, yielding a brighter image, but the slower refresh can cause motion blur when the camera is moving. To improve image quality and reduce motion blur, you can add more ambient light to the room using a light source such as an LED light. This allows for a brighter image, allowing you to use a faster exposure setting, reduce ISO, or use a combination of these settings to achieve the desired results.

ISO

The ISO setting controls the camera’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO setting can capture more light; however, it may also introduce noise or grain. Conversely, a lower ISO setting can reduce noise but may require more light to capture the image. The best way to adjust the ISO is to find the balance between image quality and noise.

ISO MR Camera SettingsAdjusting the mixed reality camera settings can greatly enhance the quality of the passthrough image. The optimal settings depend on the lighting conditions and the desired image quality. By experimenting with the different camera settings, you can find the best combination to achieve the clearest and most natural image possible. Remember that there are no one-size-fits-all settings for specific use cases, so it’s important to tweak and test the settings to determine what works best for your application.

Flicker Compensation

The flicker compensation setting reduces flicker caused by artificial lighting, like fluorescent lights. This setting adjusts the camera’s shutter speed to match the frequency of the lighting, resulting in a smoother image. Flicker can also be seen with fast exposures on displays, such as an LCD display running at 60 Hz with a fast exposure like 1/250 or 1/500. In such cases, the camera exposure is much faster than the refresh rate of the display, capturing only a partial refresh of the monitor in each camera frame. This can cause the display to appear to flicker in the Mixed Reality camera view.

To mitigate this issue, flicker compensation sets the exposure to a multiple of the display’s refresh rate. For example, a 50 Hz refresh rate corresponds to an exposure of 1/100s, while a 60 Hz refresh rate corresponds to 1/120s. By using these slower exposure rates, flicker can be reduced. However, it’s important to note that slower exposure rates may introduce additional motion blur in the Mixed Reality camera view due to the longer exposure duration.

The flicker compensation setting is particularly useful when looking at illuminated displays in simulators. If you notice flickering in the image, you can adjust this setting until the flicker is no longer visible. Finding the right balance between reducing flicker and maintaining image clarity is essential for optimal viewing experience in Mixed Reality.

Note that flicker compensation can only be used when exposure time is not adjusted manually. If exposure time is set manually, flicker compensation will have no effect.

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