Testing limits on matte surface color perception in three-dimensional scenes with complex light fields

K. Doerschner, H. Boyaci, L. T. Maloney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated limits on the human visual system's ability to discount directional variation in complex lights field when estimating Lambertian surface color. Directional variation in the light field was represented in the frequency domain using spherical harmonics. The bidirectional reflectance distribution function of a Lambertian surface acts as a low-pass filter on directional variation in the light field. Consequently, the visual system needs to discount only the low-pass component of the incident light corresponding to the first nine terms of a spherical harmonics expansion [Basri, R., Jacobs, D. (2001). Lambertian reflectance and linear subspaces. In: International Conference on Computer Vision II, pp. 383-390; Ramamoorthi, R., Hanrahan, P., (2001). An efficient representation for irradiance environment maps. SIGGRAPH 01. New York: ACM Press, pp. 497-500] to accurately estimate surface color. We test experimentally whether the visual system discounts directional variation in the light field up to this physical limit. Our results are consistent with the claim that the visual system can compensate for all of the complexity in the light field that affects the appearance of Lambertian surfaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3409-3423
Number of pages15
JournalVision research
Issue number28
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Color constancy
  • Directional variability
  • Light field
  • Matte surface color perception
  • Spatial frequency
  • Spherical harmonics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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