How to take better screenshots in Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC)
Taking screenshots in Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC) is a rabbit hole. You can take a simple screenshot, or you can create a work of art. However, as with most things in ACC, it is not explained in the game itself. Leading many to miss out on the more intricate workings of the intelligent systems created by the developers.
Well, fear not, as I will dive into this rabbit hole for you, so you too can create works of art!
In this guide, you’ll find a number of options from which you can profit. Click below to jump to the part which interests you most;
- Checking your Steam presets
- Creating the replay file
- Graphical settings
- Using depth of field
- Using motion blur
- Using post-processing
Checking your Steam presets
Before you start taking screenshots, you need to make sure Steam doesn’t compress the quality of the shot you take.
You can make sure you get the highest quality screenshots by opening settings by clicking steam in the top right of the window. In the tab In-Game, you’ll find a checkbox for Save an uncompressed copy.
Make sure this checkbox is checked. Also, take note of the Screenshot shortcut keys found above, you’ll be using the said button to take your screenshots – a lot.
Having done this, it’s time to boot Assetto Corsa Competizione.
Creating the replay file
Step 1 is to pick any car you want and take it to the racetrack of your choice. You can change the time of day or set a custom weather type to get the setting you want. For instance, a sunrise over Mount Panorama, like I used in the example below.
The next step is to simply drive the car around the track. If you want to take screenshots of a particular part of the track, you can stop driving once you reach that spot. I always finish the lap, so I can look for alternative spots from which I can take a screenshot.
Next, you’ll want to open the replay. You can either start taking screenshots then and there, or you can save the replay and exit the session. The latter option allows for two benefits:
- You will be able to revisit the replay at a later moment if you are left unsatisfied with your screenshots, and
- You can tweak the graphics settings (set everything to its highest setting) and you can change exposure, contrast, saturation and colour tone.
In general, you’ll want to turn your graphical settings up to eleven. There are a few things worth pointing out:
- Enable motion blur. This is important later.
- Make sure you don’t use FXAA anti-aliasing. This AA-mode is light on resources, but leaves a lot of negative effects on the screenshot.
Another thing of note here is that you can set custom lighting effects by scrolling down to ‘Image customization’, as seen in the picture below.
A few pointers to what this all means:
- Saturation means how intense the colors are. 100% is normal. Lower, the colors would look more faded. Higher, the color intensity is increased.
- White balance can be cold (more blue-ish colors), neutral, or warm (more yellow/red-ish colours).
- Image contrast increases the difference between light and dark. Higher values give darker shadows but also lighter highlights.
- Exposure gain denotes how much light is shown, akin to most Gamma-settings in games.
There is no right way to set these values, just fiddle around with it until you find what works. I find that I often need to change these settings anyway when taking screenshots a dusk/dawn, noon, or at night anyway.
A good tip here is to create presets of results you find work well in certain settings, and give those presets a name that reflects which time of day or with which weather setting they work well so you can quickly switch between presets.
Using depth of field
Depth of field is a powerful tool for taking better screenshots. However, getting the right depth of field in ACC is not just a matter of flicking a switch.
Instead, the depth of field option in Assetto Corsa Competizione mimics how real-world cameras would achieve it. There’s a lot of thought put into the system, but if you are unfamiliar with how a camera operates, it can be a daunting task to get the correct settings for your screenshot.
Firstly, you can only use depth of field using the free cam. You can enable free cam by hitting F7 on your keyboard. Second, you can open the camera options by pressing your middle mouse button. Then you need to select the ‘depth of field’ tab on the top part of the Cinema HUD (figure 4, right) and toggle ‘depth effect’ to ‘enabled’ (figure 5, bottom left).
Your next step will be to set the aperture. Stock it is set to an Aperture to f/16.0. In photography, the aperture dictates how widely the lens blades are opened and thus how much light enters the sensor. The smaller the number, the bigger the opening (see: example).
In ACC however, the amount of light is constant. But it does dictate how much depth of field there is. I prefer setting it to f/2.0, because the minimum setting gives – in my opinion – too much blur, whereas higher f-values will give too little.
Next, select the focus distance. For most situations, you’ll want to toggle the first option from ‘near’ to ‘far’, unless you want to make close-up shots like this.
Select a distance that is a bit further away. However, this distance will be changed later on to get the final shot, so just pick something that’s workable, like 50 meters.
Now we need to select the focal length. This dictates how much zoom you use. My own DSLR camera came with a kit lens which has a range between 18 and 140 mm. However, many professional sports photographers have zoom lenses that go over 300mm.
Which setting you use here is up to your taste, or what you want to accomplish. A low focal length (lower than stock 11.8mm) will create more of a fish-eye effect. This is great if you want to show a dramatic duel between cars.
However, if you want to take screenshots that show the beauty of ACC, I suggest you set a focal length of 60 to 100mm.
The higher you set the focal length, the shallower your focal area becomes. Are you satisfied with your focal length (figure 8, left)? Now would be a good time to set the final scene for your screenshot. You can freely reposition your camera using your mouse and the arrow keys (figure 9, top right).
These changes do mean you will have to re-set your focus distance. There is no right setting because it is all dependent on your scene. Just fiddle around with it until the part of the picture which you want to focus on is in focus.
When you are satisfied with your scene, there’s only 3 things left to do. First, close the Cinema HUD by clicking your middle mouse button again, and second hit your screenshot button (which is F12 standard).
Thirdly, go to where you set your save location and enjoy the result.
Using motion blur
Motion blur in ACC is only generated when there’s motion. To make your shot more dynamic, you can use motion blur. In order to incorporate it in your screenshot, you need to take it when the replay is playing. Just rewind the camera by clinking on the rewind button once, and hit your screenshot button once the replay has hit the spot you wish to have in your screenshot.
Please note: If you want to have the track stationary but the car motion blurred, deselect the “follow car” option under the camera controls tab in the Cinema HUD.
Once you’ve got the screenshot the way you want it, you can further enhance it with post-processing. Compare this to using Instagram filters. You can go as nuts as you want, but in my experience, less is always more.
I personally use Photoshop to alter my screenshots subtly, but you can use less costly alternatives all the same. A free alternative would be GIMP.
Things I like to change are the color balance and the brightness/contrast to create a little bit more vibrant shot, depending on the base image. There’s not a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do it, just follow your heart.
I also like to add a vignette to create a bit more depth in the picture. I paint a black layer on top of the screenshot, and remove the center part with the eraser tool. I set the layer option to ‘soft light’, so it increases the color contrast on the edges. Don’t know how to do it yourself? Use this pre-made vignette and paste it on top of your screenshot. You only need to set the layer options yourself.
I also like to add a little bit of film grain to the picture, so it looks more like it is a print. Just for a bit of realism. If done well, it also hides some imperfections and artifacts from the game in the final shot. You can use this pre-made film grain resource to paste on top of your picture. I set the layer options for this layer to ‘soft light’ as well, and I lower the opacity to 10-20% as to not make it too thick.
A final thing you could do is change the aspect ration of your picture, depending on where you intend to post it. The standard aspect ratio is set to your monitor’s aspect ratio, which is most often 16:9. However, you could also change it to 4:3 (as seen below in figure 18) or even 1:1 to get more square shots.
There are many more ways in which you can alter your screenshot and I encourage you to experiment to find the way you like it. However, above is the final result of how I would do it.
Questions and Answers
This is it for this write-up. I imagine there are still many holes left to fill in this how-to. If anything remains unclear, or if you need help with anything, you can leave a comment below and I will respond in a timely manner if able. Or you can reach out to me on Reddit, Twitter and Instagram. I also occasionally post videos on my youtube-channel if I find the time to do so.