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Real-Time Global Illumination - SIGGRAPH 2009 Course

Carsten Dachsbacher and Jan Kautz

Course Description

Global illumination is an important factor in creating realistic scenes and provides visual cues for understanding scene geometry. However, global illumination is very costly and only recently has it become viable to render scenes with global illumination effects at interactive frame rates by exploiting the parallelism and programmability of modern GPUs. These recent GPU-based algorithms enable the computation of global illumination solutions for fully dynamic scenes and are of interest to both the academic research community and practitioners of interactive computer graphics.

In this course, we will give a concise overview of recent GPU-based global illumination techniques that support fully dynamic scenes, compare them and discuss their various strengths and weaknesses. After introducing the necessary foundation (rendering equation, direct vs. indirect illumination, etc.), we cover the three main streams of real-time global illumination techniques: virtual point lights, screen-space techniques, and hierarchical finite elements. For each sub-topic, we first give a brief overview of the basic idea and continue with recent GPU-based methods sharing the same basic idea.


  • 8:30 - 8:40 Introduction (Jan Kautz) [PDF]
    • Motivation
    • Problem Statement
    • Definitions (Rendering Equation, Neumann Series, ...)
    • Direct vs. Indirect Illumination
  • 8:40 - 9:10 Screen Space Techniques (Carsten Dachsbacher) [PDF]
    • Screen-Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO)
    • Extending SSAO to Indirect Illumination
    • (Multiresolution ) Splatting of Indirect Illumination
    • Examples, Results, Limitations
  • 9:10 - 9:40 Virtual Point Lights (Jan Kautz) [PDF]
    • Instant Radiosity
    • Incremental Instant Radiosity
    • Imperfect Shadow Maps
    • Examples, Results, Limitations
  • 9:40 - 10:05 Hierarchical Finite Elements (Carsten Dachsbacher) [PDF]
    • Dynamic Ambient Occlusion for Indirect Illumination
    • Implicit Visibility
    • Anti-Radiance
    • Examples, Results, Limitations
  • 10:05 - 10:15 Conclusions/Summary (Jan Kautz) [PDF]
    • Summary
    • Q&A
    • References