Ray Tracing News

"Light Makes Right"

July 6, 1994

Volume 7, Number 3

Compiled by Eric Haines [email protected] . Opinions expressed are mine.

All contents are copyright (c) 1994, all rights reserved by the individual authors

Archive locations: anonymous FTP at ftp://ftp-graphics.stanford.edu/pub/Graphics/RTNews/,
wuarchive.wustl.edu:/graphics/graphics/RTNews, and many others.

You may also want to check out the Ray Tracing News issue guide and the ray tracing FAQ.



This issue is one of perhaps three to five I'm planning to get out in July, as I try to clean out the backlog before SIGGRAPH. This issue is focussed on SIGGRAPH and other conferences, theory and algorithms, things like that. The next issue will be more hobbyist oriented (it may be out as soon as tomorrow). I also hope to create a commercial product review issue - nothing formal, mostly ravings from the nets. Anyway, this issue brings me partially up to date to April 20th of the backlog...

So, why continue editing and writing for the Ray Tracing News now that the Usenet group comp.graphics.raytracing exists? Mostly for the reason anything gets editing - content and form. 90% the Usenet group traffic is "where do I find?" and "how do I make?" type questions, which is just fine for a newsgroup, but not something you want to save around. I see the purpose of the Ray Tracing News as gathering information which is useful to researchers, graphics artists, and hobbyists: resources, theory, and general algorithms (vs. ray tracer specific operations). Also, there is interesting traffic which concerns ray tracing and rendering in general (of which I catch but a small whiff with my automated keywords searchers [see RTNv7n2]) in many other newsgroups. By the way, if you want to start a flame-war, strongly assert on alt.games.doom that Doom uses/does not use ray casting to determine wall visibility (I never did figure out if anyone had the right answer on that one).

I suspect, given the massive influx of new Usenet users and whatnot, that we'll see more and more edited (vs. moderated newsgroups) material over time. Newsgroups are starting to get overwhelming, and I personally can't keep up. I know that there are many who read the RT News but don't follow Usenet because of the low signal-to-noise ratio. It's mostly a labor of love for me (also, I like to organize this stuff for my own use), but once the infrastructure and standards exist for person-to-person electronic cash transfers via email, expect an explosion of edited material for sale for pennies. Ahhh, nah, I'm just dreaming - the InfoBahn is really meant for Gilligan's Island reruns on demand, right?

SIGGRAPH stuff: be sure to check out the "Technical Sketches" sessions, which are new this year. These presentations are short, informal talks about work in progress. For example, Nicholas Wilt will discuss the advantages (and pitfalls) he found in working with C++ in creating his object oriented ray tracer (see the review of his book in RTNv7n2).

back to contents

Ray Tracing Roundtable at SIGGRAPH '94, by Eric Haines

You're invited! If you're at SIGGRAPH this year, come to the Ray Tracing Roundtable. It's on Thursday at 5:15 pm (actually, we have the room from 5 to 7, so you can show up early) at the Clarion Hotel (next to the convention center, acc. to the map) in Salon 14 (a swell room name, combining the Romantic imagery of a literary salon with a number). What do we do there? We schmooze until the papers reception starts at 7 pm. Essentially, it's a place to put names with faces and meet like-minded people. Sadly, the swimsuit and pie-eating contests are canceled this year. Otherwise, it'll be pretty much the same as the last N years, where N > 5: we go around the room and introduce ourselves, then things break up and we talk. So, to summarize:

        Time:  Thursday at 5:15-6:15 pm or so
        Place:  Clarion Hotel, Salon 14

Since ray tracing research is essentially dead (except for some of those parallel and volume rendering guys), I expect a lot of discussion about whether Wired or Mondo 2000 is the most retina-damaging. Seriously, now that ray-tracing has become a mainstream computer graphics artist and hobbyist oriented activity, I'll be interested to see who shows up and what people are doing nowadays. Me, I haven't traced my own rays in perhaps two years (though am planning to soon) and am more interested in texturing and GUI issues, so show up if you're interested in 3D rendering and interaction in general.

back to contents

Books at SIGGRAPH '94, by Eric Haines

This SIGGRAPH promises to have a bunch of great books coming out. Graphics Gems IV is already out, of course, and has some wonderful subtly useful bits of information. I'm particularly glad to see Ken Shoemake's articles about Arcball [a great GUI technique of rotating objects or the view] and about matrix decomposition [sometimes valuable for animation and other things]. These topics were covered by him in Graphics Interface back in 1992, but the truth is that unless it's in SIGGRAPH it tends to get ignored.

Another book which has come out this year is Programming for Graphics Files in C and C++, by John Levine, J. Wiley, 1994. It's interesting to compare with Graphics File Formats by Kay and Levine, McGraw-Hill, 1992. You'd think the newer volume would be better in all respects, since the same author is involved in each. I used both of these recently for writing a Targa output routine, and they're fairly different. The newer volume is code oriented, with text mostly there as comments for the code, while the older spent time explaining the file format more thoroughly. For example, color maps and the 2.0 Targa format are explained in the earlier book but not in the latter because no code is given to interpret these. I am also unimpressed by the quality of the code given (as proof: the compute_runlengths() routine on page 212 spends a lot of time setting runlength[col] = 0 and checking this on pages 209-210, which is not necessary, since the runlengths accessed by writetga() will always be non-zero).

Francois Sillion and Claude Puech's book on radiosity, Radiosity and Global Illumination, from Morgan-Kaufmann (approx 250 pages, ISBN 1-55860-277-1, $49.95), will be out at SIGGRAPH. I glanced through the early version at last year's SIGGRAPH, and it should be of comparable quality to Cohen and Wallace's Radiosity and Realistic Image Synthesis (Academic Press), released at last year's SIGGRAPH.

Ian Ashdown's book on making radiosity practical, Radiosity: A Programmer's Perspective, from John Wiley & Sons, should sell well. It's the first book of its kind, and should help put to rest those arguments about how radiosity is too complex or too slow. See the separate article in this issue for a quick rundown by the author.

Another practical book, this time for GUI programmers and users, is The Inventor Mentor, by Josie Wernecke, from Addison-Wesley. It's for SGI's OpenInventor object-oriented system for creating graphics applications. From all reports OpenInventor is a nice development system, and even if you're not using SGI's it's got some good methods for 3D manipulation, etc. (though I wish they had used Arcball, which is wonderful).

David Ebert is the editor and an author of the forthcoming book Texturing and Modeling: A Procedural Approach, from Academic Press. The co-authors are Ken Musgrave, Darwyn Peachey, Ken Perlin, and Steve Worley. Another good title for this book might have been "A Bunch of Guys Playing with Noise"; much of its focus is on using the noise function in many different ways for making everything from smoke to mountains. The focus is mostly on inorganic substances; there is a little about, say, evolutionary procedural systems such as L-systems. Which is fine: there's a lot of great in-depth material here for people using procedural functions for texturing. Particularly useful (at least for me) were Worley's and Peachey's sections on how to avoid various problems (e.g. patterning, aliasing), how to make the noise function fast, and how to expose parameters controlling designed textures to the naive user. There is plenty of pseudo-code from all of the authors, who pass on their tips and tricks in a straightforward fashion. This book will be used as part of their course at SIGGRAPH.

Another book which just came out is Photorealistic Rendering in Computer Graphics, edited by Pere Brunet and Frederik Jansen, Springer Verlag. This is the proceedings of the Second Eurographics Workshop on Rendering. This conference happened way back in 1991, but I'm happy to see the proceedings made it to the light of day (partly for personal reasons, I admit: I'm happy to see my shaft culling paper not disappearing forever). There are papers by Sillion, Ward, Shirley, Kirk and Arvo, and many others. There are other lesser known authors who have done some interesting work. For example, Christophe Schlick's paper on "An Adaptive Sampling Technique for Multidimensional Integration by Ray-Tracing" looks like a good way to go for doing Monte Carlo type rendering adaptively. Brigitta Lange's article on "The Simulation of Radiant Light Transfer with Stochastic Ray-Tracing" is an in-depth treatment of implementing Kajiya's Rendering Equation techniques. Anyway, browse through it and convince someone else to buy it (Springer-Verlag books tend to be pricey).

If you're looking for a book on CG (computational geometry, that is), consider Computational Geometry in C, by Joseph O'Rourke (see the table of contents listing in this issue for more information), which came out in January. For example, here at 3D/Eye a co-worker found it helpful in designing a robust polygon tessellator. His comments are "a good book; full of tricks".

Don Hearn and Pauline Baker's Computer Graphics is now in its second edition (652 pages, Prentice Hall, $61.00, ISBN 013-161530-0). This edition is a major rewrite, bringing the book up to date with the latest research. It's also the first computer graphics textbook that (gasp!) actually has color pictures integrated into the text, instead of plates. I've paged through it and it looks like a reasonable beginner/intermediate textbook on the subject, and is definitely user friendly. Fragments of code in Pascal are used throughout to explain algorithms, so the book has a hands-on, practical feel to it.

The book that I think is the most important new work at SIGGRAPH '94 won't be there, and won't be a book; it'll be out come October, it'll be two volumes (it weighs in at 1400 pages), and I would guess there will be a mock-up or somesuch on display. It's Andrew Glassner's Principles of Digital Image Synthesis, from Morgan-Kaufmann. This book is focussed on the theory of computer graphics (yes, the field is indeed more than just hacks and tricks). The science of perception, of sampling and filtering, of how materials interact with light, and all sorts of other topics are covered. It's certainly not light reading, but it does our field a great service. Glassner does all the wading into dusty tomes on everything from Monte Carlo theory to the Kubelka-Munk pigment model to, well, you name it, and pulls out and explains the parts that are relevant to computer graphics (and also notes the parts that might be relevant but are currently unexplored). There are many figures and graphs throughout. The book does *not* discuss efficient rendering algorithms per se; there are no implementation information for hidden surface renderers, ray tracing, quick filtering, etc. The reason is simple: such algorithms are well covered by many other texts, and what methods are popular changes over time. The scientific theory specific to computer graphics is scattered over a wide number of disciplines, the foundations of theory do not change (much) over time, and to date there has been no unified presentation of this material. Now there is, and I think this book is a historic step in making computer graphics accepted as an discipline in its own right.

back to contents

Radiosity: A Programmer's Perspective, by Ian Ashdown ([email protected])

[This should give you an idea of the sort of book this is. - EAH]

Title:                  Radiosity: A Programmer's Perspective
Author:                 Ian Ashdown
Publisher:              John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Publication Date:       Summer '94 (in time for SIGGRAPH)

Part I          Radiosity Models Light
Chapter 1       Measuring Light
Chapter 2       Radiosity Theory

Part II         Tools of the Trade
Chapter 3       Building an Environment
Chapter 4       A Viewing System

Part III        Radiosity and Realism
Chapter 5       Form Factor Determination
Chapter 6       Solving the Radiosity Equation
Chapter 7       Meshing Strategies
Chapter 8       Looking to the Future

Appendix A      Photometric and Radiometric Definitions
Appendix B      Eigenvector Radiosity
Appendix C      Memory Management Issues
Appendix D      Color Quantization Techniques
Appendix E      AutoCAD DXF File Format

The 512-page book will include 7,500+ lines of documented C++ source code for a fully functional and mostly platform-independent radiosity renderer. Approximately 1,200 lines of C and C++ are used to provide a user interface for Microsoft Windows in 16-bit and 32-bit versions (Windows 3.1 and Win32/Windows NT).

I make it very clear in my book that the industry bible is "Radiosity and Realistic Image Synthesis". What I have attempted to provide is an inexpensive ($40) radiosity testbed for personal desktop computers. In it I have implemented a standalone 3-D viewing system with Gouraud shading, color dithering, gamma correction and so forth (Chapters 3 and 4), a review of form factor determination methods and three implementations (hemi-cube, cubic tetrahedron and ray casting), a review of iterative techniques for solving the radiosity equation (with an implementation of progressive refinement radiosity, including the ambient lighting term and positive overshooting), meshing techniques (with an adaptive subdivision implementation), and a review of other radiosity techniques. Despite the title, the underlying mathematics are complete and self-contained.

back to contents

Computational Geometry in C, by Joseph O'Rourke ([email protected])

346+xi pages, 228 exercises, 200 figures, 219 references

Cambridge University Press
ISBN 0-521-44592-2/Pb \$24.95,
ISBN 0-521-44034-3/Hc \$49.95.
Cambridge University Press,
40 West 20th Street,
New York, NY 10011-4211.

Chapter titles:
        1. Polygon triangulation
        2. Polygon partitioning
        3. Convex hulls in two dimensions
        4. Convex hulls in three dimensions
        5. Voronoi diagrams
        6. Arrangements
        7. Search and intersection
        8. Motion planning
        9. Additional topics

back to contents

Simple Databases Available For Rendering (Global Illumination), by Peter Shirley ([email protected])

Hello fellow global illumination fans. This is a note about some simple databases to test rendering that I have put together. They are in the spirit of (but not quite as neat as) the ray tracing test scenes put together by Eric Haines. They are greyscale and diffuse and mostly quadrilaterals, so expect something designed for ease of use in arbitrary renderers. Anyway, if you use them and experience any problems, please let me know by email.


Some sample databases for rendering calculations are available by anonymous ftp. There are eleven scenes each with a sample image from a particular viewpoint. Ten of the scenes have all quadrilaterals, and one also has a sphere. The scenes are achromatic. Nine are all diffuse, one has a specular surfaces, and one has a glass object.

The scenes range in complexity from an empty room with six quadrilaterals, to a 100 room scene with 41800 quadrilaterals.

More scenes may be supplied later. If you want other types of scenes or need help converting our geom files to your own format, contact Peter Shirley at [email protected].

The data is available via anonymous ftp at moose.cs.indiana.edu ( in pub/RW5. This directory contains a README file and several subdirectories (one of which has compressed tar files for the other directories).


There has been an addition of two sample density volumes (128^3 and 64^3) to the databases Georgios Sakas and I have prepared for the 5th Eurographics Workshop in Rendering to held in Darmstadt, Germany on 13-15 June, 1994 (The deadline for paper submission is 5 April, 1994).

back to contents

Radiance Version 2.4 Available, by Greg Ward ([email protected])

Radiance version 2.4 is now available for downloading by anonymous ftp from hobbes.lbl.gov ( in Berkeley, California and soon will be available from nestor.epfl.ch ( in Lausanne, Switzerland. If you do not have access to ftp, you may request the software on 60 Mbyte 1/4 inch tape cartridge.

Relatively little has changed in the 6 months since our last release. We have added a couple of new CAD translators, one for Wavefront and one for an intermediate T-mesh data format.

The main reason for creating this release is to take advantage of an opportunity to put the software on this year's Siggraph CD-ROM. If you have release 2.3 already and don't use it much, you may want to wait until the CD-ROM comes out to install 2.4, and read the new systems paper on Radiance at the same time.

In a related announcement, we now have some Radiance HTML documents on hobbes for those of you using Mosaic (or its equivalent). The URL is:


back to contents

Faster Ray-Torus Intersection, by Eric Haines

>Would like to know if anyone can offer tips/algorithm for solving for
>intersection of a ray and a torus. I have generated a 4th order
>polynomial from torus equation and ray parametric eqns. Got a solution
>method for a cubic from Numerical Recipes in C and can use it in the
>method for 4th order eqns shown in CRC handbook.
>Just wondered if there's an easier and/or faster way.

This is exactly what I did. Just wait until you run into those imprecision problems...

Anyway, using the closed form approach you outline seems the way to go. My only addition was to add a very bounding "box" test for the torus. Using Van Wijk's method (in an ACM TOG article and in his thesis) for testing a ray against a surface of revolution, you can derive a simple quadric test which gives a very close bounding volume, essentially it bounds the torus with a rectangle around the cross section which is swept around - imagine a squared off tire being the bounding box. The advantage here is just that you don't have to do the whole 4th order shebang - the 2nd order surface can be tested very efficiently using Van Wijk's method of classification; then if you hit you need to do the whole test. This method is lots better for tori with a large interior radius vs. bounding boxes, as the method properly says a lot of the rays passing through the ring are misses and so saves on testing. I haven't done a formal analysis, though.

back to contents

RAT PACK: Free Ray Tracing Research Software, by Tom Wilson ([email protected])

Very soon I will have the next release of RAT ready for release. RAT is a RAy Tracing PACKage which is useful in research environments. This means that if you're looking for a pretty picture generator, you're not going to want this software. However, if you want to test accelerators or otherwise steal ray tracing code, you might want the package. The package has enormous improvements over the last release, but it's still far from awesome (if you take 3 and add 10 to it, it is still much less than 100 8-).

I've started working on a Mac version, but there are two things preventing me from finishing it before the release: (1) my Mac has no FPU and I have no desire to wait weeks for images to be generated, and (2) making all the Mac-like features (pull-down menus, etc.) is going to take some time. However, the release will come with Think C projects to at least build the code. If the user has an FPU then the code can be compiled with that option turned on. Many readability/usability improvements have been made.

I've had one person add an accelerator to the package in the past and that should be even easier now. I intend to add Kirk/Arvo's scheme and Ohta's scheme in the near future, but I've been saying that for a while.

I will NOT be posting the package to c.g or putting it at an ftp site. You can request it via e-mail. When it is ready I will mail it out to my mailing list. For more info (like the README from the last release, etc.), send e-mail.

back to contents

Light Beams Tricks, by Chris Thornborrow ([email protected])

[email protected] writes:
> I'm interested in simulating light-beam effects using POV-Ray.
> This would be something that looked like a search-light, or
> a starburst.

In general, this isn't an easy problem to solve if you can see the beam from any angle and a full solution involves integrating over the light reflected by particles encountered by the ray through the beam. Sometimes, just a constant, scaled by the distance traveled through the beam will work if you are at right angles to the trajectory of the beam. As an undergrad I solved for spheres of light (lamps in fog), cones of light (headlights) and quadrilateral cross section cones (beams from a window).

Depending on the quality you are looking for, simply using a single flat polygon at 90 degrees to the viewer with appropriately chosen intensities of colour (less at the spread out end) and transparency will give a passable effect.

back to contents

On-Line Ray Tracing Bibliography, by Ian Grimstead ([email protected])

This is to announce the availability on the Web of an On-Line Ray Tracing Bibliography. It is divided into appropriate sections, and includes many abstracts from the papers it holds.

The references were taken from Tom Wilson's collection of articles, whom I thank & credit him for his hard work.

The site is now stable, but updates will not commence until the pages have been fully tested.

The address of the site is:


To view & use the bibliography, you require an html viewer such as Mosaic or Lynx. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, ask your sys admin about Mosaic; if they don't know, then get them to acquire the software via archie!

This software enables you to view hyper text pages (including pictures, animation, sounds) distributed around the World Wide Web, and to link into ftp, gopher and news servers.

back to contents

Polynomials, by Han-Wen Nienhuys ([email protected])

Algebraic sufaces are nasty shapes. They're kind of slow, and they suffer from surface acne: Rays P + t*D spawned off an algebraic, always have an intersection at t = 0. Due to numerical inaccuracies, we often find t which are small, but bigger than our current tolerance. This produces phantom shadows, digital zits and and more unwanted effects.

If we could prevent this from happening, then 4th order algebraic shapes don't need accurate but slow root finders such as Sturm sequences. So our problem is how to filter zeros of polynomials p(t) = 0 if t = 0? First we need to know what will the consequences be for a polynomial p(t), if it has an intersection at t = 0. The anwer is simple, it will look like:

 p(t) = a_1*t + a_2 * t^2 + ... + a_n*t^n

Because p(t) = 0 is a raytracing equation we know that the intersection at t = 0 is useless anyway, so we might just as well discard it, giving

 p_2(t) = a_1 + a_2 * t + ... + a_n*t^n-1

as a result. This will give the same results as p(t) = 0. This kills two birds with one stone. By throwing away the intersection at t = 0, we eliminate noise, and at the same time reduce the order of the equation. The intersection will now also be cheaper!

Still, there is a small caveat, due to inaccuracies, the polynomial is more likely to be

  p(t) = a_0 + a_1 * t + ...

And p(E) = 0 from a small E, |E| < TOLERANCE <<1.
|E| < TOLERANCE <<1, we find that

  0 = p(E) = a_0 + a_1 * E + O(|E|^2)   (E -> 0)

the expression O(|E|^2) means: smaller than some constant multiplied by |E|^2, if E tends to 0. In other words, it can be neglected. Then approximately

  E = -(a_0 / a_1), and |a_0/a_1|  < TOLERANCE

holds. The converse is also true, ie if |a_0/a_1| < TOLERANCE <<1 then p(E) = 0 for a small E, |E| < TOLERANCE.

So we can strip a_0, and lessen the degree of p(t) if

  (a_0 / a_1) < TOLERANCE.

Caveat: if the result of evaluating an algebraic P(x,y,z) with (x,y,z) = P + t*D, has a large error, then this will fail, the resulting polynomial could have a zero at some t, |t| > TOLERANCE.

Experimental results

I implemented it in Rayce, and it does work, but not as good as I had wished. I've tried a zoomed in version of papercl.r (A remake of the Cook/Carpenter/Porter paperclip; it contains three torii). This filtering mechanism eliminated phantom shadows at the edges of the torii.

back to contents

Shadow Caching Observation, by Han-Wen Nienhuys ([email protected])

Shadow caching is a useful way for quickly determining whether an intersection will be in a shadow. This is the idea: one object that blocks light is enough to have a shadow at an intersection point. So each time you find an object that blocks a ray, store it, and test this object the first thing at the next shadowray. Because second level rays are different from first level rays, the shadow rays spawned off their intersection point are different. Therefore it seems a good idea to have a cache for each recursion level and each lightsource.

On the other hand, a quick survey of the raytracers on my harddisk revealed that PoV and Rayshade cache only one object per lightsource. MTV and Art have a cache for each level. Nobody seems do make a distinction between reflected and refracted rays. Let me explain: if a recursion-level 1 intersection could be from an eyeray that is refracted, or an eyeray which has been reflected. Since the reflected and refracted rays will have entirely different directions, their respective intersection points, and hence the blocking objects for a given lightsource, will usually be different.

The solution: instead of passing the recursion depth to the recursive function trace(), pass a tree, which looks like:

  struct Tree {
    struct Tree *reflect_tree, reflact_tree;
    int recursion;
    object **shadow_cache

shadow_cache is an array with a pointer to the last blocking object for each lightsource.

  shade (Tree *t, ...)
    if (reflection) {
      [set up reflection ray]
      color = trace (t->reflected, ...);

I've implemented this in Rayce, and for scenes with both refraction and reflection, it doubles the number of cache hits.

[Interesting to me - I implemented essentially the same thing for our commercial ray tracer, assuming it would be a win for minimal extra memory, but never tested it out to see whether the improvement was noticeable. - EAH]

back to contents

Small Comment on GGems III bsp.c, by Han-Wen Nienhuys ([email protected])

I've adapted Graphics Gems III's BSP code for use in Rayce, and I have a small remark. Although most of the code was inefficient because it had to be educational and understandable, the authors forgot a simple optimization. It will make the code even simpler. Change:

    if ( RayObjIntersect(ray, currentNode->members, obj, distance) ) {
        PointAtDistance(ray, distance, &p);
        if (PointInNode(currentNode, p))
            return TRUE;


    if ( RayObjIntersect(ray, currentNode->members,obj, distance)) {

        /* intersection in currentnode ? */
        if (distance > min && distance <  max) {
          return TRUE;

This saves 10 floating point operations, and 2 function calls.

Kirk and Arvo limited the recursion depth of the tree by setting a hard coded limit at 49. It makes more sense to determine the depth of the bintree from the object database. I've tweaked the subdivide() procedure to stop subdividing a node, if subdivision has no effect. This has two pros:

1. The depth doesn't have an arbitrary limit.

2. If all objects of a node overlap, then the subdivision won't help, if you'd continue subdivision, the tracing will take extra time.

back to contents

Fogsources, by Han-Wen Nienhuys ([email protected])

Yesterday, I was riding my bicycle at night, and I was thinking of how to raytrace my surroundings. It was a bit foggy, and the light of the streetlights was scattered in a beautiful glowing haze. While riding, I came up with a method to model these foggy lights. This method should also be good for modelling the "neon", that some folks on PCGNet want to do with PoV.

So let I = I(d) be the intensity at a certain point, which has distance d from the lightsource. What's happening in the fog? The mist of water drops scatters the light. If a drop is further away from a lightsource, then it will receive less light from the lightsource. Therefore I(d) should be a decreasing function. The total amount of light that a ray will encounter on its way from its origin P to its intersection point P + D*e, is

   | I( distance(lightsource, P + t*D) ) dt

This isn't really correct, we're neglecting the fact that the light which is reflected from a drop in our direction will also be attenuated when traveling from the drop to our eyes.

For actual implementation, we need to know distance explicitly. Let's first derive that one. Let (,) denote a dotproduct

 P --------X-------------------------------------> P + e * D

           ^--  P + t * D

P   = origin of ray
D   = direction of ray
X   = a point on the ray described by P + t*D
L   = lightsource
d_0 = the closest the ray can get to L.
e   = endpoint of the ray, the first intersection

We have:

 distance ^ 2  =  (P - L + t*D, P - L + t*D)

On the other hand, the distance would be easy to calculate, if we knew d_0, shortest distance between the ray and the light. By setting the derivative of the formula above to 0, we find:

  t_0 =  - (P-L, D)/(D, D).

>From this you can calculate d_0, and the distance is found, by simply using

  distance^2 = d(t) ^2 =  d_0 ^ 2 + ( (t - t_0)*|D| ) ^2

For simplicity, let's assume |D| = 1, then the above formula reduces to

  d(t) ^ 2 = d_0 ^ + (t - t_0)^2.

All we have to do now is choosing an intensity function I(d). I propose this one: I(d) = 1/d^2, because it will give a simple formula. A physically more correct one would be I(d) = exp(-cd)/d^2, for a given constant c. The exp() is there, because intensity decreases exponentially with distance due to absorption. The ^2 is there because light falls of at 1/r^2 in a 3 dimensional perfectly transmitting medium. However, calculation would involve a not-so-nice integral, which I didn't want to integrate (and probably can't be found explicitly).

However, if we set I = 1/d^2, then we get:

          /         d t
light =   |  ------------------  =
          /  (t - t0)^2 + d_0^2

This is an easy integral: substitute k := t - t0, substitute x := k/d_0, and you the anwer you finally get is:

  ( atan((e-t0)/d_0) - atan((-t0)/d_0 ) )/ d_0.

I will probably implement this in my raytracer, but I am not sure when. [he did, see below. -EAH]

back to contents

The Rayce Ray Tracer, by Han-Wen Nienhuys ([email protected])

[The above articles all went into Han-Wen's ray tracer, below. Also, note that Rayfmt sounds generally useful, i.e. could be used with POV-ray, I think. -EAH]

Rayce 2.8, the newest version of my raytracer is available now.


Rayce is a raytracer I've written to find out how raytracing works. It's written for purely educational purposes. If you want to make neat pictures, use PoV or Vivid instead. Oh, by the way, "educational" means "for my education", but you could use it in a C.G. class too. It wouldn't make a very good example, though, I am afraid. Most of the design and implementation is my own, our university library's copy of "An intro to Ray Tracing" hasn't been available for some time, so I was on my own, while programming Rayce.

Still, Rayce has been expanded very much, and I plan to incorporate a lot of weird and new stuff into it.

   What features does Rayce have?

   - Rayce supports these primitives:  sphere, quadric, plane, lightsource,
     box, torus, algebraic, superquadric, polygon, triangle, disc
   - It has these non-primitives: composite, translational extrusion, CSG
   - Rayce has distribution raytracing for rendering penumbra, motion blur,
     gloss and translucency.
   - Rayce has multiple efficiency schemes (well :-): manual bounding
     hierarchies or recursive bintree traversal.
   - The sources are GPL-ed, and they're portably written ANSI C.
   - Debugging facilities
   - A POV like input language
   - Imagemaps
   What important features are still missing?
   - Solid texturing
   - Bumpmaps
   - Serious anti aliasing.
   - Support for these primitives
        * Heightfield
        * Bezierpatches
        * Cones
        * Blob

Newities in version 2.8
        * bg.c: fogsource
        * csg.c: limited CSG intersection autobounding (gives a nice speed
        increase compared to PoV on some scenes, luchter.r :)
        * added rayfmt (raytrace scene formatter) to distribution
        * shade.c: directional (distant) light
        * poly.c: polynomial real_clean filter, reduces phantom shadows
        * bsp.c: bsp. Wowie! Rayce is FAST!
        * object.c: no_shadow, no_reflect, no_refract, no_eye analog of
        PoV's no_shadow.
        * grids.c: grid trees, with jitter. better pictures with
        distribution raytracing
        * shade.c: lightsources can have speed
        * shade.c: Microfacet models, Reitz (Trowbridge & Reitz), Blinn,
        Phong,  Cook (Beckmann), Gauss


Rayfmt is a simple Raytrace datafile formatter. It only uses the `{}', `[]' and `<>' for indenting the code, it's not a codewalker.

Rayfmt indents code in my favorite indentation. I mainly use it to keep my datafiles clean, and to make other people's scenes readable. It's also great for beautifying computer generated scene files.


Rayce 2.8 & Rayfmt 1.14 consists of:

     rayce28m.zip: .texi manual sources
     rayce28x.zip: Turbo C++ executable [Can someone make a 32 bit
     DOS version of Rayce?]
     rayce28d.zip: documentation and some scenes
     rayce28l.zip: linux executable
     rayce28s.zip: C sources to Rayce
     rayfmt114.zip: Rayfmt 1.14, raytrace scene formatter

Rayce & Rayfmt are available at:

     Bennekom BBS: fido node 2:283/203, PCGNet 9:580/203, tel.
     31-8389-15331. (freqqing times: 07.30 to 01.00, local time in
     Holland)  Bennekom BBS supports V32bis and V42bis.

     [it might still be in /pub/MSDOS_UPLOADS/graphics/]

back to contents

Ray Tracing Roundup

In case you've been missing it, there is a FAQ for comp.graphics.raytracing. Either wait for it to get reposted, FTP from ftp.uwa.edu.au: pub/povray/FAQ (and probably elsewhere), or contact Andy Wardley ([email protected]), the FAQ's author, for more info.


There is a new FTP list for 3D graphics related sources, models, images, papers, etc. in Nick Fotis' FAQ, which is at rtfm.mit.edu [] in the directory pub/usenet/news.answers. You can also get this listing by using a mail server: send a e-mail message to [email protected] containing the keyword "help" (without quotes) in the message body. The new list is much changed from my old one; useless sites deleted, new ones added, and a fair bit of clean up and whatnot. Eric Haines


The Graphics Gems IV code is available on princeton.edu in /pub/Graphics/GraphicsGems/GemsIV/GGemsIV.tar.Z or ggemsiv.zip. Some minor errata and corrections have been made to this code (i.e. it's improved from what's distributed with the book).


I've put together a heightfield/terrain rendering mailing list ([email protected]); the idea for its creation came from the successful Terrain Rendering SIG at SIGGRAPH '93. Matt Pharr ([email protected])


A new version of the [Computational Geometry] biblio is ready for pickup via anonymous ftp from cs.usask.ca, in file pub/geometry/geombib.tar.Z as usual. Bill Jones ([email protected])


DEM as heightfield

I've put some code together which will take files in the DEM format that the PC landscape renderer VistaPro uses and convert them to rayshade-style heightfield files. I believe, however, that the VistaPro DEM format is different from the USGS DEM format. In any case, I can make what I have available to anyone who is interested... Matthew Pharr ([email protected])


Ian Ashdown taking over the Radiosity bibliography from me, send him new references from now on. Contact: Ian Ashdown ([email protected]) Eric Haines


The previous issue of the RT News (RTNv7n2) has been translated to PostScript:

    anonymous FTP from princeton.edu:/pub/Graphics/RTNews/RTNv7n2.ps.Z

All credit goes to Ben Black, who volunteered to do this conversion. Fonts are used pleasantly throughout (they certainly beat the usual constant width text). If you find this conversion to be worthwhile, let me know and we'll look at getting out further issues in plaintext and PostScript (Ben also mentioned that RTF is also easy for him to churn out, so mention if that is of interest). With a little work figures and images could be added to future PostScript versions. Eric Haines


Errata on Errata:

RTNv7n1 had errata for "Adventures in Ray Tracing", by Alfonso Hermida. Alfonso's listed email address was wrong, it should be:

        [email protected]

back to contents

A Storage Trick for 3D Polygons, by Eric Haines

I beat the point-in-polygon problem to near-death in Graphics Gems IV. One trick I realized laters is that you can save a noticeable amount of storage if you use the method of dropping the 3D coordinate which corresponds to the largest magnitude coordinate of the plane's normal (for example, say the normal is [-2 -6 3], then the Y coord is the absolute largest, so drop the Y coordinates and use X and Z). This means you truly can just store 2 coordinates per vertex, since the third (which you shouldn't need for a ray tracer anyway, but might for some other reason) is implicit given the plane equation.

In other words, you find the "major axis", throw away its coordinate, and store only the other two, since that's all you need for the point in poly test anyway (you also note for the polygon which coordinate was thrown away). If for some reason you do need the third coordinate value, you can always rederive it by plugging the other two coordinates into the polygon's plane equation and solving for it.

Some of you may be going "Eric's getting senile" at this point, since it sounds obvious, but I never thought of it before. Blame it all on the CAD people I hang out with - you never throw away data and rederive it in this way in CAD, since you need that data to actually make something and don't want imprecision creeping in. But if you're rendering, it's fine to throw away what you don't need while rendering an image. The other nice thing throwing away data gives you is that you can use a single 2D fully optimized subroutine for point-in-polygon testing, vs. having three routines (one for when X is thrown away, one for Y, one for Z); nice from a maintainability and a compactness standpoint.

back to contents

Illumination-Related Abstracts from the Proceedings of Graphics Interface '93 (May 19-21, 1993, Toronto, Ont. CA)

[I'm afraid I lost the name of the kind soul who typed all these in. Tom Wilson, perhaps? I'm not sure... Yes, these are for the '93 GI, if anyone has '94's available electronically, let me know and I'll publish them - EAH]

"An Adaptive Discretization Method for Progressive Radiosity"

Lalonde ([email protected])

The solutions of the radiosity method are highly dependent on the discretization used. All methods used to generate these discretizations have to date depended on the scene being formed of polygonal surfaces. However, these are often not the most efficient representations of the objects. The meshing process usually only takes geometry into account, making shadow edges awkward to deal with. In addition, there are a number of restrictions that the radiosity method requires of the model that most available modellers do not enforce.

The method presented here allows non-polygonal objects to be used as input to a progressive radiosity method. The environment is sampled by ray casting, removing the need for a polygonal representation to be provided. The method allows the generation of a discretization that is sensitive to lighting changes, not only to geometric constraints. One effect of this is that higher order discontinuities in surface lighting are detected and the discretization can be focused in these areas without user intervention.


"Geometric Simplification for Indirect Illumination Calculations"

Rushmeier,Patterson & Veerasamy ([email protected])

We present a new method for accelerating global illumination calculations in the generation of physically accurate images of geometrically complex environments. In the new method, the environment geometry is simplified by eliminating small isolated surfaces, and replacing clusters of small surfaces with simple, optically equivalent,boxes. A radiosity solution is then performed on the simplified geometry. The radiosity solution is then used in a multi-pass method to estimate the radiances responsible for indirect illumination. We present a preliminary implementation of the new method, and some initial images and timing results. The initial results indicate that using simplified geometries for indirect illumination calculations produces images in times significantly less that previous multi-pass methods without a reduction in image quality.


"Computing Illumination from Area Light Sources by Approximate Contour Integration"

Vedel ([email protected])

A new method using approximate contour integration to accurately compute direct illumination from diffuse area sources in presence of curved obstacles is presented. All visibility tests are done using ray tracing so the method can be applied to a large class of objects.

Computation of illumination on a pixel by pixel basis is necessary to accurately capture sharp shadows. However in soft penumbra zones many shadow rays are needed to quantize the penumbra finely enough and avoid banding artifacts. Furthermore these zones usually cover lots of pixels. We make use of the fact that silhouettes of objects in a scene are smooth for the most part to replace them by polygonal lines in source space. The method allows the estimation of intensity gradients. Penumbras with no aliasing are obtained with fewer rays than with usual adaptive sampling techniques.


"Spatially Nonuniform Scaling Functions for High Contrast Images"

Chiu, Herf, Shirley, Swamy, Wang & Zimmerman ([email protected])

An algorithm is presented that scales the pixel intensities of a computer generated grey scale image so that they are displayable on a standard CRT. This scaling is spatially nonuniform over the image in that different pixels with the same intensity in the original image may have different intensities in the resulting image. The goal of this scaling transformation is to produce an image on the CRT that perceptually mimics the calculated image, while staying within the physical limitations of the CRT.


"Common Illumination between Real and Computer Generated Scenes"

Fournier, Gunawan, Romanzin ([email protected])

The ability to merge a real video image (RVI) with a computer-generated image (CGI) enhances the usefulness of both. To go beyond "cut and paste" and chroma-keying, and merge the two images successfully, one must solve the problems of common viewing parameters, common visibility and common illumination. The result can be dubbed Computer Augmented Reality (CAR).

We present in this paper techniques for approximating the common global illumination for RVI's and CGI's, assuming some elements of the scene geometry of the real world and common viewing parameters are known. Since the real image is a projection of the exact solution for the global illumination in the real world (done by nature), we approximate the global illumination of the merged image by making the RVI part of the solution to the common global illumination computation. The objects in the real scene are replaced by few boxes covering them; the image intensity of the RVI is used as the initial surface radiosity of the visible part of the boxes; the surface reflectance of the boxes is approximated by subtracting an estimate of the illuminant intensity based on the concept of ambient light; finally global illumination using classic radiosity computation is used to render the surface of the CGIs with respect to their new environment and for calculating the amount of image intensity correction needed for surfaces of the real image.

An example animation testing these techniques has been produced. Most of the geometric problems have been solved in a relatively ad hoc manner. The viewing parameters were extracted by interactive matching of the synthetic scene ith the RVI's. The visibility is determined byh the relative position of the "blocks" representing the real objects and the computer generated objects, and a moving computer generated light has been inserted. The results of the merging are encouraging, and would be effective for many applications.

back to contents

Design and Aims of the YART Graphics Kernel, by Ekkehard 'Ekki' Beier ([email protected])

In this article the principal design of the graphics kernel YART shall be described. YART is being developed at the Technical University of Ilmenau (Germany) and is part of the GOOD project. Further components of this project are an interactive front end and a class library for distributed applications. All this is free, available with all source. Everybody is invited to use, modify, and extend YART. Any comments, contributions, and bug fixes would be greatly appreciated.

In contrast to most others systems (like ray-tracers) or libraries (like SGI's GL or PHIGS PLUS) YART integrates different kinds of rendering at the same time. These are (currently):

* Shading\Wireframe - used for realtime animations/simulations

* Raytracing - the slowest rendering mechanism, but generating images with the best quality.

* Radiosity - a nice kind of rendering, but only useful for static scenes; if a scene is computed (scene decomposition, diffuse light distribution) it can be seen from different viewpoints as fast as standard Shading. Shading and Raytracing are always available, Radiosity has to be installed at configuration time (i.e. done by setting a compilation flag).

This coexistence has advantages, because Shading can be used as a built-in previewer. For example, a complete animation or simulation can be checked using the Shading mode for the camera. After finding the optimal parameters for time dependencies, camera control, etc. the camera may be switched into raytracing mode to generate a lot of image files on disc.

On the other hand, the ray-tracer interface of the primitives is used for implementing a pick operation in order to allow direct interactions while in the shading mode for the camera.

YART is an open system with one essential aim: extensibility. YART is built around some essential abstract terms similarly to PREMO, an upcoming ISO standard:

A CAMERA takes PRIMITIVEs from a SCENE and puts them to a PIXMAP. The kind of projection, rendering, etc. and special features like supersampling and stereoviewing are hidden in the specific camera class. Any new camera can be implemented using transparent subclassing. Examples of concrete cameras are OneRayCamera (for ray-tracing test purposes) and LookatCamera (perspective view, allowing shading, raytracing, radiosity in one and the same pixmap). A StereoCamera has been implemented as a demo for the SGI GL port of YART. An orthographic camera will be implemented in next release. If you don't like the YART implementation of transparency or refraction computation, just subclass your own camera class and overload the related methods.

A PRIMITIVE is a graphical output object that may own different rendering protocols. Thus, every primitive has more than one representation. YART defines a set of base primitives: Polymarker, Polyline, Polygon, Polyhedron, Quadmesh, (TriangleStrip, Spline, NURBS). These objects are in principle directly supported by (hardware-based) shading pipelines. These universal primitives are dynamically editable, and they can be empty or partially instantiated. All other primitives (so-called higher-levels: text, analytical, OFF) are built on top of these. Thus, these are automatically portable. New high-level primitives can be created by parameterization of the universal primitives, e.g. analytically defined objects like a sphere may parameterize a quadmesh to get their Shading presentation. However, the inherited ray-tracing interface of the quadmesh is overwritten using the analytical description of the sphere. The Shading representation of a special ray-tracing primitive can be much simpler than the ray-tracing representation. In the extreme this could be a bounding box only, usable for interactions.

YART supports hierarchical objects: all attributes and the modelling matrices will automatically inherited down to the children of an object. Furthermore, all rendering interfaces automatically manage children of objects. However, they can be overwritten, if the complex object can be analytically defined to get a faster ray-tracing. The hierarchical objects automatically compute recursive hierarchical bounding boxes in world coordinates to optimize the ray-tracing and pick operation. Extensions can be made in subclasses to integrate time dependency, physical parameters or whatever you want.

Here is an example of an user-defined class (in C++):

class RT_RobotArm: public RT_Primitive {
    int left;
    // 1 means left arm - 0 means right arm
    RT_RobotArm(char *_name, int _l): RT_Primitive( _name), left( _l ) {
        RT_Primitive *p;
        (p = new RT_Sphere(0, 0.5))->father( this );
        (p =  new RT_Sphere(0, 0.45))->father( this );
        p->translate( RT_Vector( left ? -0.3 : 0.3, -0.4, 0.3 ));
        (p =  new RT_Sphere(0, 0.4))->father( this );
        p->translate( RT_Vector( left ? -0.4 : 0.4, -0.75, 0.7 ));


class RT_Robot:public RT_Primitive {
    RT_Primitive *solid, *head, *arml, *armr, *shl, *shr;
    RT_Robot(char *_name): RT_Primitive( _name) {
        (arml = new RT_RobotArm(0, 1))->father( this );
        arml->translate( RT_Vector(-1.1, 1, 0));

        (armr = new RT_RobotArm(0, 0))->father( this );
        armr->translate( RT_Vector(1.1, 1, 0));

This is the only stuff to implement (+ one or two methods for the interpreter interface), all other things are inherited. To avoid compile-link cycles for each new class an interpretative class system basing on the additional interpretative language binding (Tcl) is provided.

The new user-defined primitives are indistinguishable from the prefabricated ones. With the implementation of YART extensions the number of classes of primitives will rise, but the amount of platform-dependent code will drop relatively. In YART0.40 5 per cent of source code was platform dependent.

A further advantage of inheritance we found in the last few months. The heavy changes (kernel tuning, attribute mechanisms, ...) did not or only minimally influenced the derived classes.

A well-defined number of virtual methods of the Primitive class is provided to be used in user-defined extensions. For instance, a method to recreate the geometry (and display list) as a result of attribute changes or a method that will be called from the framework around when the modelling matrix has changed. In the scientific package this is used to recalculate the electric field, if a source or sink has been moved (using the interactive front-end).

Further essential terms in short: ATTRIBUTEs are properties of PRIMITIVES, for instance Fillstyle and Resolution. Application-specific attributes can be added very easily. Attributes (even user-defined) can be assigned to or inquired from every object.

SCENEs are unordered lists of PRIMITIVES and are used as input for cameras. An example for a subclassed special scene is the Radiosity scene.

PIXMAPs are abstract units for displaying rasterized images, for example, online display, MPEG-based storage pixmaps, and can be coupled with IMAGES.

IMAGEs represent abstractly image files, the access to an image is independent from the specific format such as Targa or (SGI) RGB.

INPUT DEVICES are objects, too. They're event-controlled, callback-oriented, extensible, platform independent and can directly be coupled with output objects. As output objects, (basic) input objects can be nested into complex input objects. Input devices can be driven stand-alone or coupled to a camera (in this case, they can have scene independent, camera specific visual feedback).

Furthermore there are LIGHTS, TEXTURES, MAPPINGS, (animation) RECORDERS, etc. as interactive objects, too.

A few more points:

- Besides the C++ API a consistent interpretative API (Tcl) is provided for testing, prototyping and programming. Tcl is a simple-to-use language without types, and has C-like control structures (for, if then else, while, ...) with an OSF/Motif-like widget set (Tk).

- Persistence is provided for all objects and realized by dumping Tcl code.

- Built-in documentation describes the behavior of all objects. This is important for the reusability of YART extensions.

- YART is platform-dependent. Currently supported are SGI GL, PHIGS PLUS ISO-C and pure X11. OpenGl and RS/6000 GL are in the works, PEX in perspective.

- Integration of 2D user interfaces (Tk)

YART has still a lot of areas to be implemented, for example: - polygon/quadmesh ray-tracer interface - splines and NURBS - CSG and sweep modeling - a faster (PEX based) shader to have realtime interactions on LINUX (the current one is very slooooooooow)

But our manpower is limited. Thus, everybody is heartily welcomed to join this project.

Contact (and mailing list): [email protected]

back to contents

Distribution Ray Tracing, by Marc Levoy ([email protected])

[my Usenet news filter client is based in Stanford (see RTNv7n2 for details - it's a nice resource), and so picks up local Stanford newsgroups for classes, etc. This popped up one day, and Marc gave me permission to reprint it. I thought it was interesting to see a slice of one class' assignment; these are hints to them on how to implement a ray tracer. It should really be edited to be fully understandable, but I leave it to you to read between the lines. -EAH]

///// su.class.cs348b.47 /////

Dear class,

A few clarifications and hints regarding distribution ray tracing:

1. Many people have asked Chase or myself about comparing ray / path trees in when distributing reflected or refracted rays. To my knowledge, there's no literature on this question. After thinking about it for a while, we concluded that there is no good way to do this. If you distribute your rays over a variety of reflection / refraction directions, the ray or path trees associated with adjacent image plane samples will almost certainly differ, triggering possibly unnecessary subdivisions. We therefore suggest disabling comparison of ray / path trees when you have enabled distribution ray tracing (or disable comparison of ray / path trees for those image plane sample regions containing any rays that strike any objects for which you have defined a distribution (depending on how you implement this part of the assignment)).

2. Some people are confused about the relationship between distribution versus classical (i.e. nondistribution) ray tracing, and ray tree versus path tracing. The first and second pairs of techniques constitute orthogonal considerations when designing a ray tracer. All four algorithms in this 2 x 2 matrix are plausible. For example, one can imagine a nondistribution ray tracer that does ray tree (as opposed to path) tracing, in which case the branching factor at each surface is zero, one, or two (one specular reflection ray and one specular refraction ray), not including rays cast directly to light sources to render the diffuse component. One can also imagine a distribution ray tracer that does path tracing; at each surface, you choose one direction from the distribution you are sampling and continue the path in that direction. I require you in this assignment to support both distribution and nondistribution ray tracing, but you need not support both ray tree and path tracing - just pick one of the latter two.

3. I have presented adaptive algorithms in which a subdivision decision is performed only at the image plane. For distribution ray tracing using ray trees (as opposed to paths), a spray of rays is traced from each intersected surface. Your sampling of this distribution can be regular or stochastic, and can be nonadaptive or adaptive. This makes a 2 x 2 matrix of algorithms, as described in class a long time ago. You can pick any one of these, and the decision need not be related to what you do on the image plane. For example, if you choose an adaptive algorithm, you would performing adaptive sampling of the near-specular (i.e. glossy) reflection direction distribution at the intersected surface. This adaptive sampling would be in addition to and totally independent of any adaptive sampling you perform at the image plane. I don't require that you do any fancy sampling at intersected surfaces as I required for your sampling of the image plane in assignment #2. I just want you to be aware that theory supports doing such fancy things if you are so inclined.

4. Remember that there is another choice you must make when distributing rays at intersected surfaces; you must choose between distributing rays uniformly (in the statistical sense - the actual distribution can be regular or stochastic) and weighting them unequally according to a gloss (or translucence) function, or distributing rays nonuniformly according to the gloss function. As stated in class, the latter is a form of importance sampling. I don't require any particular solution here; just be prepared to explain what you've done.

Hope this helps.

-Your prof

back to contents

Ray Tracing, Antialiasing, and What To Do Instead, Steven Demlow ([email protected])

Arijan Siska, a computer graphics fan wrote:
>I want to get some attention to the (in my opinion) a very serious issue:
>I would like to hear you opinion, especially results of your own research in
>this area.

I played around with a variety of AA approaches in both my own ray tracer and the public domain [not PD, actually - EAH] POV ray tracer. I tried various derivations and combinations of supersampling, stochastic jittering, adaptive methods, and filtering. For the animation project I was working on I ended up using 4x4 stochastically jittered grids on each pixel and a tent filter that extended into the (cached, of course) grids of neighboring pixels. I've been working on using a hexagonal grid instead of a rectangular one (this gets tricky when you try to overlap the arbitrarily-sized filtering grids of adjacent pixels). The hex grid supposedly provides close to an optimal ray distribution for AA purposes.

It sounds like you would do well to add filtering to your ray tracer - it can help a lot.

The conclusion I came to, after eight months of rendering on a bunch of HP7?0s, was that ray tracing is not the way to go to generate a lot of high- quality images. :) I love ray tracing but there are reasons that it sees little use in production environments.

back to contents

Yet Another Illumination Ph.D. [his title, not mine - EAH], by George Drettakis ([email protected])

Hi everybody,

I just finished the final version of my PhD thesis. It is available by anon ftp at dgp.toronto.edu:pub/dret/PhD. There are postscript files (for single and double-sided printers) and tiff files for all the colour images. It will soon also be available as CSRI Technical Report 293 (ftp only at ftp.csri.toronto.edu:csri-technical-reports/293). I welcome all comments or suggestions at either [email protected] or [email protected]

It can be quoted either as "Ph.D. thesis, Dept. of Computer Science, University of Toronto", or as : "CSRI Technical Report no. 293, University of Toronto".

George Drettakis                          Dynamic Graphics Project
                                          Computer Systems Research Institute
Phone +1 (416) 978 5473                   University of Toronto
FAX   +1 (416) 978-0458                   Toronto, Ontario CANADA M5S 1A4
e-mail: [email protected]  or [email protected]


Here is the info:

Title: Structured Sampling and Reconstruction of Illumination for Image Synthesis

Degree: Ph.D., University of Toronto, Department of Computer Science

Author: George Drettakis


An important goal of image synthesis is to achieve accurate, efficient and consistent sampling and reconstruction of illumination varying over surfaces in an environment. A new approach is introduced for the treatment of diffuse polyhedral environments lit by area light sources, based on the identification of important properties of illumination structure. The properties of unimodality and curvature of illumination in unoccluded environments are used to develop a high quality sampling algorithm which includes error bounds. An efficient algorithm is presented to partition the scene polygons into a mesh of cells, in which the visible part of the source has the same topology. A fast incremental algorithm is presented to calculate the backprojection, which is an abstract representation of this topology. The behaviour of illumination in the penumbral regions is carefully studied, and is shown to be monotonic and well behaved within most of the mesh cells. An algorithm to reduce the mesh size, and an algorithm which selects between linear and quadratic interpolants are presented. The results show that the mesh size and the degrees of the interpolants can be reduced without significant degradation of image quality. The preceding algorithms are combined into a complete structured sampling approach that allows accurate and efficient representation of illumination using interpolating polynomials for scenes with occlusion. Images with accurate shadows can be produced from the structured representation using either ray-casting or polygon rendering hardware. Finally, it is shown that our methodology generalises easily to the global illumination problem. An iterative solution to a Galerkin finite element approach is proposed, and it is shown how the structured algorithms provide a good initial approximation for the iteration, enhance efficiency for numerical integration and allow adaptive mesh modification. The structure-driven global illumination algorithm thus promises significant improvement over previous higher-order finite element solutions.

back to contents

Eric Haines / [email protected]