Effects of Global Illumination Approximations on Material Appearance

Jaroslav Krivanek, James Ferwerda, Kavita Bala

Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 2010 (SIGGRAPH 2010)

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Abstract: Rendering applications in design, manufacturing, ecommerce and other fields are used to simulate the appearance of objects and scenes. Fidelity with respect to appearance is often critical, and calculating global illumination (GI) is an important contributor to image fidelity; but it is expensive to compute. GI approximation methods, such as virtual point light (VPL) algorithms, are efficient, but they can induce image artifacts and distortions of object appearance. In this paper we systematically study the perceptual effects on image quality and material appearance of global illumination approximations made by VPL algorithms. In a series of psychophysical experiments we investigate the relationships between rendering parameters, object properties and image fidelity in a VPL renderer. Using the results of these experiments we analyze how VPL counts and energy clamping levels affect the visibility of image artifacts and distortions of material appearance, and show how object geometry and material properties modulate these effects. We find the ranges of these parameters that produce VPL renderings that are visually equivalent to reference renderings. Further we identify classes of shapes and materials that cannot be accurately rendered using VPL methods with limited resources. Using these findings we propose simple heuristics to guide visually equivalent and efficient rendering, and present a method for correcting energy losses in VPL renderings. This work provides a strong perceptual foundation for a popular and efficient class of GI algorithms.

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