A Scalable Approach to Interactive Global Illumination



The addition of global illumination can dramatically increase the realism achievable when rendering virtual environments.In particular with interactive applications we expect the environment to reflect changes in the scenedue to global lighting effects instead of it being just a static backdrop. However, a sufficiently fast and accuratecomputation of global illumination at interactive rates has been difficult even with recent approaches based onrealtime ray tracing.

In this paper we present a highly scalable approach to interactive global illumination. It fully recomputes a high-qualitysolution for each frame and thus offers immediate feedback even for dynamic scenes, achieving more than20 fps for simple scenes. Compared to previous systems we increased the raw performance by a factor of up toeight and removed the bottlenecks that were limiting scalability. The system now scales linearly in quality andavailable computing resources, tested with up to 48 CPUs in a commodity PC-cluster. Due to its logarithmicscaling property with respect to scene complexity it even supports lighting simulation in complex scenes with morethan 50 million triangles. This scalability allows applications to perform flexible performance trade-offs. We alsoargue that the realism achievable through interactive global illumination will make it a standard feature of future3D graphics systems once the required computing resources are readily available.