Natural Metamers

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Final version published as: 

Drew, M.S., and Funt, B.V. "Natural Metamers," CVGIP: Image Understanding 56(2) (1992), 139-151.

Date created: 

Given only a color camera's RGB measurement of a complete color signal spectrum, how can the spectrum be estimated? We propose and test a new method that answers this question and recovers an approximating spectrum. Although this approximation has intrinsic interest, our main focus is on using it to generate tristimulus values for color reproduction. In essence, this provides a new method of converting color camera signals to tristimulus coordinates, because a spectrum defines a unique point in tristimulus coordinates. Color reproduction is founded on producing spectra that are metamers to those appearing in the original scene. Once a spectrum's tristimulus coordinates are known, generating a metamer is a well defined problem. Unfortunately, most color cameras cannot produce the necessary tristimulus coordinates directly because their color separation filters are not related by a linear transformation to the human color-matching functions. Color cameras are more likely to reproduce colors that look correct to the camera than to a human observer. Conversion from camera RGB triples to tristimulus values will always involve some type of estimation procedure unless cameras are redesigned. We compare the accuracy of our conversion strategy to that of one based on Horn's work on the exact reproduction of colored images. Our new method relies on expressing the color signal spectrum in terms of a linear combination of basis functions. The results show that a principal component analysis in color-signal space yields the best basis for our purposes, since using it leads to the most “natural” color signal spectrum that is statistically likely to have generated a given camera signal.

Document type: 
Rights remain with the authors.
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)