Permalink 05:53:08 pm, by Olliebrown Email , 424 words, 2638 views   English (US)
Categories: GSoC 2009

With a Capitol "T" ...

We got trouble. Lighter2 is struggling with this new Sponza scene. This is not unexpected, I did want something that would push it to it's limits but I didn't want it to error. I wanted it to be able to complete the job eventually, just not necessarily efficiently.

We are, however, getting several errors:

  • Lighter2 fails to halt (seems to be stuck in an infinite loop) if light mapping is enabled for the dense Stanford models. This can be worked around by enabling per-vertex colors for these models and this is probably preferable anyways as the vertices are quite dense. Regardless, the failure to halt error is a problem and one that may need to be addressed in the future.
  • Per-vertex lighting has the infamous raytracing black-speckles. This happens when a ray bouncing off an object is allowed to intersect with itself. Due to floating-point error the intersection might occur immediately making the surface seem to be in shadow when it isn't. This is a smaller error and one that can be addressed with a little tweaking of the ray intersection algorithm. For now, there is an option to disable self-shadowing on a per-mesh basis that will hopefully address this.
  • Some lights are being completely ignored. They produce no light when raytracing and no photons when photon-mapping as if they weren't even there. There are a total of 10 lights in the room which is unusually high but still, when ray-tracing and photon mapping there is no reason to leave out lights (at least for the final light map calculation when speed is not important). This must be an error somewhere and one that I will need to address.

So, this is why there are no light mapped pictures yet. I'm going to work through these problems (at least, the last two in particular) before I post anything and I may change the configuration of the room lighting slightly so the shadows are more dramatic. I will keep things updated as I work.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, the spotlights are working with photon mapping. So, I think we can check that one off. It might need some robustness testing (in particular, I haven't checked the full range of angles) but for now, the basics are implemented and working in the sponza scene.

It's worth noting that school has started back up again so things might slow down a bit but as of right now I am un-funded for this semester so there is not much distraction yet (just a lot of worry). :-(


Permalink 09:49:19 pm, by Olliebrown Email , 683 words, 23354 views   English (US)
Categories: GSoC 2009, Misc.

Productive Fun

I've been busy for a few days with a rather boring user study and the results of it were less than great ... so I needed a pick-me-up. For me, this means some creative work. Hence, I decided to spend a little time modeling a new world to test my lighter2 changes. Something considerably more complex than the cornell box and construction in wood and that would logically include every type of light (point, directional and spot). It's fun because it's art (in a way ... right) and for me I learn how to use blender better and can refine my workflow for getting things into CrystalSpace's XML world format.

Anyways, Here's what I've created:

Sponza World in CrystalSpace with runtime lighting only
The Sponza Atrium with Stanford models scattered around the main floor (Lucy the angel statue is front and center). No static-lighting is present yet so shadows are missing.

It's a combination of a bunch of different cannonical models from the graphics community (from Stanford specifically ... yes the bunny is in there) all placed in the Sponza Atrium model that's been appearing in global illumination papers for the past several years now. The atrium is texture mapped (and has bump maps somewhere that I have yet to track down). The Stanford meshes are incredibly dense (100K faces each AFTER I decimated them, they had millions in their original form ... some 10s of millions). So, this is an intense little scene to render and particularly tough to run through lighter2. It's a more realistic example and hopefully will test just how robust the system is. Consequently it takes a VERY long time to light. Most of the time is spent laying out the lightmaps (not raytracing or photon mapping) but be prepared to wait a while if you want to re-calc the maps and put it on a machine that you can let run for potentially a few days. I'll post some more images as lighter2 finishes running.

Blender model: I setup the world in blender and here is the file for that. It took a lot to get all of this into blender. Here's a breakdown of what I did -

  • I started with the 3ds model available here
  • Loaded the 3ds model into wings3d and exported to obj (to preserve textures)
  • Loaded obj into blender using standard obj importer
  • Grabbed the different Stanford ply models from here (except lucy.ply which came from here ... the one at stanford site is too big to fit in memory (even 4G of it plus a huge swap file)).
  • Loaded each ply model into meshlab and decimated it to 100K faces (except bunny which was already small enough)
  • Exported each model to obj in meshlab and imported into blender sponza model
  • After positioning meshes and adding the pedestal for each I selected each mesh and set the faces to be smooth which will auto-compute normals (the original meshes were point scans and as such do not have normals in the ply files).
  • Added spot lights by hand and tweaked fill lighting and camera positions (there are two different places to start in this world).

The model is still missing several textures and when you export it there will be several errors that need to be fixed by hand. These are all present in the original 3ds file and were just easier to fix by editing the world file by hand.

SponzaBlender.zip (15.2 MB, hosted externally)

Material fixes for world file: Here's the extra textures and a snippit of XML that can be pasted into the world file over it's 'textures' and 'materials' section to fix all the errors created by Blender2Crystal. Note that bump maps are still missing. I can't seem to find these on the net anywhere.

SponzaMaterialFix.zip (499 KB, hosted externally)

CrystalSpace world: Here's the exported world with the material and texture fixes already applied.

SponzaCSWorld.zip (16.4 MB, hosted externally)

Static lit CS world: Here's the same world with lightmaps included so you don't have to wait for it to finish raytracing. This is just direct raytracing for now. A photon mapped version is forthcoming.

[Still rendering, will post soon]


Permalink 02:07:27 am, by Olliebrown Email , 331 words, 8696 views   English (US)
Categories: GSoC 2009, Bug Hunting

A Bit of Unit Testing

I had a thought on how to do some basic unit testing to eliminate one possibility for error in my code. Each of the distribution functions I've implemented has never been tested, just copied out of the book (or worked up by myself) and assumed correct. This includes the code to distribute rays from a spotlight. So, I decided to write a quick program that would visualize each of these distribution functions as a way of verifying them (and also a first step towards testing the spotlight code).

Here's some images for each distribution:

Equal distribution around the hemisphere
This is a visualizaiton of the EqualScatter function that randomly distributes rays around the hemisphere. Initially I found an error here that distributed rays to the full sphere instead of the hemisphere but as you can see, this has been fixed.

Diffusely distributing across the hemisphere.
This is the DiffuseScatter function which scatters rays across the hemisphere that fall-off according to the cosine function away from the surface normal. Note the less-dense rays near the surface.

Stratified sampling around the hemisphere.
This is the StratifiedSample function which discretizes the hemisphere into an MxN grid and sends out one random ray in each grid cell. The grid has small cells around the normal that increase in size towards the surface to simulate diffuse reflection. Note less density at the surface and the relatively more even distribution around the hemisphere.

I found, by doing this, that there was an error in my equal distribution function. Namely, it was distributing rays in the entire sphere not just the hemisphere. Easy fix. this would results in lots of lost photons and did help brighten the photon simulation which is always good considering how much darker it is than the raytracing version.

Here's the spotlight with different 'outter' values:

Distribution from a spotlightWider Distribution from a spotlightNarrower distribution from a spotlight.
These three images show the spotlight photon distribution function set with different 'outer' values. Note that spotlight falloff between inner and outer is not supported.

This all looks good so I think the spotlight code is correct assuming I've interpreted the parameters correctly.


Permalink 10:23:35 am, by Olliebrown Email , 367 words, 26534 views   English (US)
Categories: GSoC 2009, Misc.

Irradiance Cache

Lots of posts today, sorry for that. This one will be short.

So, Final Gather is slow as molasses. Furthermore it seems to be not working right in my code. But, it is very important for smoothing out noise in the photon map. Enter the irradiance cache.

The irradiance cache is a concept introduced by Greg Ward and co. back in 1988 and I believe is part of Ward's Radiance renderer. The paper that describes it in detail (and which is surprisingly easy to read) can be found here (hint to Scott, check this out):

The basic idea is that diffuse inter-reflections are very hard to compute using Monte Carlo methods (and Final Gather is a Monte Carlo method) but by-and-large they are very uniform and slowly changing across a surface (i.e. a good candidate for interpolation). So we would like to reduce the number of times it needs to be computed and interpolate everywhere else.

Ward describes a two tiered method: the primary method is the standard Monte Carlo method and the secondary method will interpolate cached values from previous computations. The secondary method needs to know when it can interpolate and how to weight the cached values. This is done by approximating the gradient of irradiance between the cached point and the point we need irradiance for. If the gradient estimate is too high a new value is needed. Otherwise we can weight the cached value by the inverse of the error inherent in the estimate and get a very good approximation that is considerably cheaper than the Monte Carlo method.

The devil's in the details and I won't bore you with it (other than to say it involves an octree based around the valid distance of each cached sample). But with Jensen's summary of Ward's paper (and the paper itself) I think I've got the Irradiance Cache implemented. It needs some testing and such (still to come) but hopefully this will help with noise and speed ... provided I can then figure out what is wrong with the Final Gather!

I'd kill for smaller unit testing right now but we'll see if we need it first.

Permalink 03:55:07 am, by Olliebrown Email , 466 words, 2405 views   English (US)
Categories: GSoC 2009, Planning Progress, Misc.

Taking Inventory

To round out my previous post concerning GSoC I thought I should list out the changes I have made and how the milestones are lining up.


  • Reimplemented the photon map data structure from the ground up.
  • Lots of changes to the photon emission code to make it physically accurate.
  • Code to emit from spotlights in place but untested.
  • Re-factoring of the indirect light and direct light classes into independent raytracer and photonmapper engines
  • A new structure (LightCalculator) that will loop through the sector elements and add up the components from each engine (raytracer and photon mapper).
  • Many new command line options for tweaking the photon mapper and calibrating it with the raytracer.
  • Filtering in the photon map to help eliminate artifacts and smooth out noise (still needs work).
  • A new final gather implementation (still needs work).
  • The beginnings of an irradiance cache to speed up final gather.
  • Updates to the texinfo documentation for lighter2 (still needs work).
  • A new version of the Cornell box model (with more lights and fixed colors).
  • a brand new model of 'Construction in Wood' (another example of color bleed).


  • Photon mapper is working and, although noisy and not artifact-free, giving usable results.
  • Photon mapper is an order of magnitude faster.
  • New rendering engines can be implemented easier in the future using the LightCalculator/LightComponent classes.
  • Work has already begun to further eliminate noise (final gather), speed up even more (irradiance cache) and remove artifacts (gaussian filter).

Despite the noise and artifacts still present I think it's safe to say Milestone 1 is complete (or nearly so). Here's a list of things still to finish/implement.

Immediate priorities (considered unfinished Google Summer of Code obligations):

  • Debug gaussian filter.
  • Test spotlight emission and ensure it is correct.
  • Add support for directional light sources.
  • Retrieve and use surface albedo from object material (texture, color, etc). Consider accounting for normal/bump maps.
  • Complete irradiance cache and then debug final gather.

Future changes (for fun and profit!):

  • Add support for filtering materials (translucent w/o refraction).
  • Add support for reflective/refractive materials and caustics.
  • Add support for static linear/area/polygon light sources. This would require changes to:
    1. photon mapper - sampling over area as well as hemisphere.

    2. raytracer - ability to distribute rays from area source as needed.

    3. raytracer - ability to detect collision with the geometry of an area source (not infinitely small like point source/spotlight)

    4. libcrystalspace - support to parse and represent area sources within a world (but static ones only).

    5. libcrystalspace - support to render the geometry of an area source (no longer infinitely small).

It seems appropriate to send thanks out to Res and Scott at this point as they have both been quite helpful this summer and I'm sure will continue to be.

And now, we carry on ...


Permalink 08:50:20 pm, by Olliebrown Email , 505 words, 24020 views   English (US)
Categories: GSoC 2009, Code Progress

State of the SoC

With the end of GSoC approaching I want to take inventory of what has been achieved so far. To reiterate I do fully intend to stick with this and keep improving lighter2, assuming I have not overstayed my welcome.

Here's some results. I've spent today rendering images so that I can show what I can achieve with my photon mapper when I hold it's hand and try my best to get good results.

First up, an image of the Cornell Box with just basic raytracing. This scene was rendered with global ambient turned off, all lights forced to realistic attenuation and all light power scaled by 8.0, as such:

lighter2 --directlight=raytracer --noglobalambient --forcerealistic --lmdensity=20.0 --lightpowerscale=8.0 data/NewCornell

lighter2 raytraced cornell box
This image uses light maps with direct light only computed with raytracing. Note the dark shadows and the relatively small amount of light on the ceiling.

Next, an image of the Cornell Box with just Photon Mapping (for both direct and indirect light). Here we shot 5M photons and sampled 5K times for each density estimation. The command line was like such:

lighter2 --directlight=photonmapper --indirectlight=photonmapper --numphotons=5000000 --maxdensitysamples=5000 --sampledistance=20.0 --nofinalgather --lmdensity=20.0 --pmlightscale=100.0 data/NewCornell

lighter2 photon mapped Cornell Box
This image shows the results of lighter2 photon mapping only. The image captures all of the major features of the raytraced image (shadows, shapes of light attenuation) but it also captures some indirect light (though not yet with color). The shadows and ceiling are brighter in this image than in the raytraced image. Unfortunately, the noise is still too high but better than it has been all summer.

Lastly, an image of the Cornell Box with direct light done with raytracing and indirect light with photon mapping. It was VERY difficult to get the two values to have a comprable exposure (i.e. photon mapping was consistently too dark). Recent changes to the way light is scattered have made this matter worse but are conceptually necessary to get the simulation to be correct. Needless to say, I had to fudge the light power manually until the image 'looked' okay. Very imprecise but good enough for today. Here's what the final command line looked like. Note that I bumped the number of photons up to 25M to help fight noise which can be particularly noticeable for indirect lighting:

lighter2 --directlight=raytracer --noglobalambient --forcerealistic --lightpowerscale=8.0 --indirectlight=photonmapper --numphotons=25000000 --maxdensitysamples=5000 --sampledistance=20.0 --nofinalgather --lmdensity=20.0 --pmlightscale=16.0 data/NewCornell

lighter2 raytraced & photon mapped Cornell Box
This image shows the results of lighter2 combining raytracing and photon mapping (for direct and indirect light respectively). Note the brighter shadows and ceiling as well as the indirect brightening happening on the rear box. All of this increases the realism of the final image at the expense of noise but also requires significant hand-holding and tweaking of variables to achieve.

The code I check in today will be able to do all of this. Note that I used an old version of walktest.exe to render these images (from the 08 SOC branch for lighter2). The one in my branch is still not working with light maps for unknown reasons.

Permalink 08:07:52 pm, by Olliebrown Email , 749 words, 21722 views   English (US)
Categories: GSoC 2009, Bug Hunting, Misc.

Calibration Revisited

My handling of light attenuation turned out to be incorrect. Res and Martin set me straight. I had the conceptual model that distance attenuation accounts for the phenomenon of light losing power as it travels through a medium (even just the atmosphere). This is called attenuation in physics and optics but in graphics this is not what distance attenuation is accounting for. Distance attenuation accounts for the fact that as light moves away from its source the energy spreads out (I assume like a wavefront spreading out). It does so like the surface of a sphere so the 'realistic' distance^2 factor accounts for this spreading out perfectly.

The consequence of this type of attenuation (the correct type) is that photon mapping attenuates automatically. We are distributing photons equally around the sphere of the light source and when they land they will be distributed according to how far away they are from the light. The density of this distribution already has this spreading effect built in automatically.

So, to really do calibration between raytracing and photon mapping I need to remove the attenuation from the photons (already done) and then switch all the lights to use 'realistic' attenuation (which is not the default). My apologies to res for second guessing his advice as this was his original suggestion. As soon as I did this it became apparent that things were dramatically more comparable between raytracing and photon mapping:

Photon Mapper
Raytraced 4.0 power lights

Photonmapped 1.0 power lights (4M photons, 4K samples)
Raytraced 6.0 power lights

Photonmapped 6.0 power lights (4M photons, 4K samples)
Raytraced 8.0 power lights

Photonmapped 8.0 power lights (4M photons, 4K samples)
Raytraced 10.0 power lights

Photonmapped 10.0 power lights (4M photons, 4K samples)
Raytraced 12.0 power lights

Photonmapped 12.0 power lights (4M photons, 4K samples)

These images show the results of direct lighting computed with the raytracer and the photon mapper. Each one is given the exact same input however they do not result in the exact same output. Furthermore, the difference is not constant or linear. Note that the images shown above match the range of the graph below from the lower knee up to the point that the curves cross (16 - 48 on the x-axis).

As you can see, despite the similarity resulting from the change to realistic attenuation there is still a marked difference in the exposure of the two. After revisiting this from many different angles, over and over again, and after changing the code in different ways and attempting both a mathetamical and visual calibration I've decided that this issue is going to have to wait. Here's an example of the problem:

Comparison of Average Luminance w/ Proposed Calibration
This graph compares the average luminance of the images generated by raytracing and photon mapping for light sources ranging from 0.25 to 50.0 in power (in 1.0 increments). There are four lights in the scene so this is a scene luminance from 1 to 200 (the x-axis of the graph). Note that the shape of the two curves is essentially the same (a standard exposure curve with a knee and shoulder) but that the have significant differences in where the curves features are occurring.

Note that the raytracing and photon mapping graphs have similar but miss-aligned shapes. This miss-alignment is the problem. There is no easy way to simply fudge things and fix it as it will be entirely dependent on the scene being rendered. Furthermore, I'm starting to think (after talking with colleagues) that there is a mistake somewhere in either the RT code or the PM code that is causing this miss-alignment and simply fudging things to fix it is not a permanent solution (or one that I should be spending so much time on).

So, three days gone on this but at least I have something to show for it. New configuration options! (well, and a lot of frustration!) Here's the new options:

'forcerealistic' - This option can be enabled or disabled and will force all the static and pseudo-dynamic lights in a world to use 'realistic' attenuation mode. This saves the trouble of having to re-do your world in order to use it with photon mapping.

'lightpowerscale' - Scale all the lights in a scene by the given scaling factor. This scale is applied to the light color which is essentially the same as it's power. When you use 'forcerealistic' things tend to get much darker so the lights need to be scaled up to compensate. Again, this option avoids having to edit the world file to achieve this.

'pmlightscale' - Like 'lightpowerscale' this will scale all the static and pseudo dynamic lights in the scene but only for the photon mapping phase. This is in addition to any scaling applied by 'lightpowerscale'. This allows you to fudge things from the command line and bring the exposure of the photon mapping simulation and the raytracer in line with one another.


Permalink 09:45:48 pm, by Olliebrown Email , 272 words, 3649 views   English (US)
Categories: GSoC 2009, Code Progress, Bug Hunting

Attenuation & Calibration

After posting about my intention to calibrate the energy between photonmapping and raytracing 'res' sent me a message concerning attenuation. This reminded me that I had previously considered that light was being attenuated in the direct lighting raytracer but didn't seem to be in the photonmapper. I had left this in light of larger problems with the photonmapper but as res pointed out, it is critical to address this prior to calibration.

So, I explored the Light class and noticed that it has an internal mechanism to call an attenuation function that will attenuate for distance based on the attenuation coefficients and mode. I decided to move this function (ComputeAttenuation()) from the protected section of the class to the public section so I could access it from the photonmapping code. So now, each photon gets attenuated after each bounce by the distance it traveled according to the attenuation parameters of the light it was emitted from. This small change already made a big difference in the quality of the simulation! It also caused the calibration problem to become even worse as everything got noticeably dimmer in the photonmap.

So, now we're ready to calibrate. To do this, I adjusted the lights from 1.0 down to 0.1 in the world file in 0.1 increments (changing each color channel equally) and generated lightmaps that contained direct light only (one with raytracing, one with photon mapping). For now, I'm just trying to do a visual comparison between the results and scale the photonmapping version until it approximately matches the raytraced version. You can see the progress below. I will add more as I am able.

PM Before
PM After
0.1 Raytraced 0.1 power lights 1K photons, 100 samples per element Calibrated PM 0.1 power lights
0.3 Raytraced 0.3 power lights 10K photons, 100 samples per element Calibrated PM 0.3 power lights
0.5 Raytraced 0.5 power lights 100K photons, 100 samples per element Calibrated PM 0.5 power lights
0.7 Raytraced 0.7 power lights 1M photons, 100 samples per element Calibrated PM 0.7 power lights
0.9 Raytraced 0.9 power lights Photonmapped 0.9 power lights Calibrated PM 0.9 power lights


Permalink 05:01:25 pm, by Olliebrown Email , 492 words, 9632 views   English (US)
Categories: GSoC 2009, Misc.

Final Gathering / Irradiance Caching

Final Gathering. No, it's not the name of yet another horror movie sequel (although Google isn't much help for figuring out what it in fact is).

It's a technique for effectively smoothing noise in global illumination from Lambertian surfaces. Basically, given a solution to global illumination (like radiosity or a photon map) instead of looking up the diffuse light value in the GI solution, you do one final bounce of light by shooting rays out across the hemisphere above the point you are rendering. These rays sample the secondary light that would be hitting this point much like a distribution raytracer would send out rays to sample the BRDF. In this case, a random sampling of the Lambertian distribution is not the best bet (according to Jensen anways). It is better to use a grid of points placed across the hemisphere according to Lambert's cosine law and then jitter these points slightly to ensure the full hemisphere gets sampled.

When these rays hit a surface a distribution raytracer would send out more rays to sample the light hitting that surface. In FG, you use the precomputed GI solution instead. So, like shadow rays, FG rays do not bounce. However, FG is intentionally used for Lambertian surfaces (perfectly diffuse surfaces). This means that the hemisphere above the point must be FULLY sampled and that takes a lot of rays. Doing this at every point in the scene is very inefficient.

Enter the irradiance cache. Diffuse lighting changes very slowly across a surface; think of a big white wall in an office (the one exception would be a caustic which is actually a diffuse effect but we'll ignore that for now). Slowly changing functions don't need to be sampled as frequently as quickly changing functions so re-computing the FG value at every point across a large surface is wasteful. Instead, we could sample it sparsely and use interpolation of nearby values to fill-in the gaps. This technique is known as irradiance caching and the math behind it is pretty intense.

We still have noise in our simulation and the best way to combat this will be with a final gathering step (something that the previous GSoC project had attempted to include but which I believe was not implemented properly). Unfortunately adding FG is going to severely tank our performance during the lighting calculation phase so (time permitting) we are going to also need an irradiance cache to make it work in a reasonable amount of time. The cache itself is quite simple (very similar in fact to a photon map) but the metrics used to determine where a new sample is needed and where a pre-existing one can be used instead are not so simple. Jensen discusses the irradiance cache in full detail in his book (although he never uses the term 'Final Gathering' that I can see) so implementation should be a matter of translating all the summations and integrals into effective code.

Permalink 04:30:45 pm, by Olliebrown Email , 274 words, 10065 views   English (US)
Categories: GSoC 2009, Code Progress

All Together Now...

Photon mapping simulates both direct illumination and indirect illumination. However, the simulation of direct illumination is not as precise as a raytracing solution. Standard raytracing is very efficient and exact at simulating direct illumination and lighter2 already has a good implementation of this. The best solution would be to combine the results of raytracing and just the indirect lighting from the photon map.

To do this I've played around with ignoring the first bounce of the photons (this would be the direct illumination) and only storing photons that have scattered at least once. We then add the irradiance estimate to the direct lighting solution from raytracing. The results are quite promising but need to be calibrated. That is to say, the 'energy' in the photon mapped solution does not match the energy in the raytraced solution.

To calibrate, I think the best plan is to do some simple direct lighting simulations with just the photon map (include only first emitted photons and exclude the scattered ones). We can compare the overall brightness at different light power levels to the raytraced solution and hopefully figure out how to scale the two so that they match.

In the meanwhile, I've restructured lighter2's options a bit. Instead of just enabling direct and indirect you now specify which engine you want to use for each (raytracing or photon mapping for direct and photon mapping or none for indirect). This will make this calibration easy to perform and will give the option to those that would prefer it to use photon mapping for the entire lighting solution.

I'll add some images to support this post a little later.

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Info about progress on my Google Summer of Code 2009 project on Advanced Lighting & Shading in CrystalSpace.

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