Color from Black and White

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

Funt, B., and Ho, J. "Color from Black and White," International Journal of Computer Vision 3 (1989), 109-117.

Date created: 

Color constancy can be achieved by analyzing the chromatic aberration in an image. Chromatic aberration spatially separates light of different wavelengths and this allows the spectral power distribution of the light to be extracted. This is more information about the light than is registered by the cones of the human visual system or by a color television camera; and, using it, we show how color constancy, the separation of reflectance from illumination, can be achieved. As examples, we consider grey-level images of (a) a colored dot under unknown illumination, and (b) an edge between two differently colored regions under unknown illumination. Our first result is that in principle we can determine completely the spectral power distribution of the reflected light from the dot or, in the case of the color edge, the difference in the spectral power distributions of the light from the two regions. By employing a finite-dimensional linear model of illumination and surface reflectance, we obtain our second result, which is that the spectrum of the reflected light can be uniquely decomposed into a component due to the illuminant and another component due to the surface reflectance. This decomposition provides the complete spectral reflectance function, and hence color, of the surface as well as the spectral power distribution of the illuminant. Up to the limit of the accuracy of the finite-dimensional model, this effectively solves the color constancy problem.

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