# Lecture 17: Recursive Ray Tracing. Where is the way where light dwelleth? Job 38:19

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1 Lecture 17: Recursive Ray Tracing Where is the way where light dwelleth? Job 38:19 1. Raster Graphics Typical graphics terminals today are raster displays. A raster display renders a picture scan line by scan line. A scan line is a horizontal line consisting of many small, tightly packed dots called pixels. To display a scene using a raster display, we need to compute the color and intensity of the light at each pixel. The purpose of this lecture is to explain how to compute the color and intensity of light for each pixel given a 3-dimensional model of the objects in the scene and the location, color, and intensity of the light sources.. Recursive Ray Tracing For realistic rendering, we need the following setup: an eye point E, a viewing screen S, and one or more point light sources with known location, color, and intensity (see Figure 1). We also need to specify the locations and the shapes of all the objects in the scene, together with their reflectivity, transparency, and indices of refraction. Our goal is to display the -dimensional projection onto the screen of the 3-dimensional scene as viewed from the eye point, much like an artist painting the scene or a still photographer capturing a vista. We shall accomplish this task by tracing light rays from the scene back to the eye. Below is the basic ray tracing algorithm. Ray Tracing Algorithm For each pixel: i. Find all the intersections of the ray from the eye to the pixel with every object in the scene. ii. Keep the intersection closest to the eye. iii. Compute the color and intensity of the light at this intersection point. Render the scene by displaying the color and intensity at each pixel. Step i of the ray tracing algorithm requires us to compute the intersections of a straight line with lots of different surfaces. The difficulty of this intersection problem depends on the complexity of the surfaces in the scene. For planar surfaces these intersections are easy to compute: we simply solve one linear equation in one unknown. But for more complicated surfaces, we shall need more sophisticated tools. We will study line-surface intersection algorithms for a variety of different surfaces in Chapters 18 and 19. Step ii of the intersection algorithm is straightforward; in this chapter we shall concentrate on Step iii of the algorithm.

2 light refraction shadow light reflection pixel screen eye Figure 1: To determine the color and intensity at a pixel, a ray is cast from the eye point through the pixel. The color and intensity of the point where the ray first strikes a surface is computed by summing the contributions from the direct illumination of the unobstructed light sources and the contributions of reflected and refracted rays. To find the color and intensity of the light at a surface point, we need to consider not only the light shining directly on the surface from the light sources, but also the light reflected and refracted from these sources off of other surfaces. Thus the total intensity I at a surface point is given by I = I direct + k s I reflected + k t I refracted, (.1) where, as we observed in Chapter 16, I direct = I ambiant + I diffuse + I specular (.) and 0 k s,k t 1 are the reflection and refraction (transparency) coefficients. These coefficients depend on the physical characteristics of the surface, which can be determined experimentally or simply set by the programmer. Again the light reflected and refracted from other surfaces depends on the light shining directly on these surfaces as well as on the light reflected and refracted onto these surfaces from other surfaces. These observations lead to the binary light tree depicted in Figure.

3 I direct k s k t I reflected I refracted k s k t k s k t I reflected I refracted M I reflected I refracted Figure : Binary light tree. The intensity of light at a surface point (apex) is the sum (depicted here by arrows) of the intensities of the light from the point light sources shining directly on the surface and the intensity of the light reflected and refracted off of other surfaces. The intensity of the light reflected and refracted from other surfaces also depends on the light shining directly on these surfaces and the light reflected and refracted to these surfaces from other surfaces. This recursive computation is summarized graphically in the binary light tree depicted above. This tree must be truncated at a prespecified depth in order to avoid infinite recursion. Notice that for each object in the scene, we must decide whether it is reflecting, transparent, semi-transparent, or opaque -- that is, we need to assign values for reflectivity ( k s ) and transparency ( k t ). Moreover for transparent or semi-transparent objects, we need to assign an index of refraction (c i ). For opaque objects, c i = 0; for air, c i =1. Note too that for transparent, objects I direct = Shadows Just as we may not see every object in a scene because some objects are hidden from view by other objects closer to the eye, so too not every object in the scene is necessarily illuminated by every light source in the scene because some objects may lie in the shadow of other objects. That is, if an opaque object lies between a light source and a surface, then the surface will not be illuminated by the light source. To determined whether or not a surface point is illuminated by a point light source, we treat the surface point as a virtual eye and we cast a virtual ray from the surface point to the point light source. As in the ray casting algorithm, we compute all the intersections of this virtual ray with every object in the scene. If the virtual ray intersects an opaque object before the virtual ray hits the 3

5 Reflection Algorithm For each visible point on a reflecting surface: i. Use the law of mirrors -- angle of incidence = angle of reflection -- to calculate a reflected secondary ray (see Figure 3). ii. Find all the intersections of this reflected secondary ray with every object in the scene. iii. Keep the intersection closest to the surface point. iv. Compute the color and intensity of the light at this intersection point recursively and add a scaled value of this contribution, k s I reflected, to the color and intensity at the original point. To find the reflected secondary ray R(t), let V = E P E P denote the unit vector from the point P to the eye point E, and let V and V denote the components of V parallel and perpendicular to the surface normal N at the point P (see Figure 3). Then V = V +V, so the reflected vector W is given by W =V V. But V = (V N)N V = V V =V (V N)N. Hence W = (V N)N V and R(t) = P + tw. Note that the calculation here of the reflected vector W is the same as the calculation of the reflected vector R for specular reflection (see Chapter 16, Section 5). N Eye V V V θ V θ W P Surface Figure 3: Law of the mirror: angle of incidence = angle of reflection. Thus if V is the unit vector from the point P to the Eye, then the reflected vector W is given by W =V V. 5

6 5. Refraction To find the color and intensity of the light at a surface point, we need to calculate not only the light reflected off this point from other surfaces in the scene, but also for transparent or semitransparent surfaces the light refracted through the surface at this point. Refraction is caused by light traveling at different speeds in different mediums: the denser the medium, the slower the speed of light. This change in speed gives the illusion of light bending when light passes between different mediums. To compute the color and intensity of refracted light, we again consider the surface point as a virtual eye and we cast a secondary ray from the surface point treating the surface as a refracting surface (see Figure 4). As in the standard ray casting algorithm, we again find all the intersections of this secondary refracted ray with every object in the scene, keep the closest intersection point, and calculate the color and intensity of the light at this intersection point recursively. We then add a scaled value of this color and intensity to the color and intensity at the original point. Below we summarize this refraction algorithm. Refraction Algorithm For each visible point on a transparent object: i. Use Snell s Law to calculate the refracted secondary ray (see Figure 4). ii. Find all intersections of the refracted ray with every object in the scene. iii. Keep the intersection closest to the surface point. iv. Compute the color and intensity of the light at this intersection point recursively and add a scaled value of this contribution, k t I refracted, to the color and intensity at the original point. To find the refracted secondary ray R(t), again let V = E P E P denote the unit vector from the point P to the eye point E, and let W denote the direction of the refracted ray (see Figure 4). To compute the refracted ray R(t), we need to calculate the refracted vector W in terms of the known vectors N and V. To perform this computation, we shall apply the following rule from optics: Snell s Law Let θ 1 be the angle between the unit vector V and the surface normal N at the point P, and let θ be the angle between the refracted vector W and the unit normal N at the point P pointing away from the eye. If the indices of refraction on either side of the surface are c 1 and c, then c = sin(θ ) c 1 sin(θ 1 ). (5.1) 6

7 N Eye V θ 1 P Surface θ θ 1 θ N Figure 4: The unit vector V from the point P to the eye, the surface normal N at the point P, and the refracted vector W. Here θ 1 is the angle between the surface normal N and the vector V, and θ is the angle between the refracted vector W and the vector N. By Snell s Law if the indices of refraction on either side of the surface are c 1 and c, then c = sin(θ ) c 1 sin(θ 1 ). W V Here is how we can use Snell s Law to find the refracted vector W in terms of the known vectors N and V. Since W lies in the plane of N and V, the refracted vector W is a linear combination of the vectors N and V. However, since W lies between N and V, initially it is easier to express W in terms of N and V. Thus there are constants α,β such that W =α( N) + β( V). (5.) Snell s Law contains the sine function, so to solve for the constants α,β, we shall invoke the cross product; in particular, we shall cross both sides of Equation (5.) with N and V. Crossing both sides of Equation (5.) with N, we find that ( N) W = β N V. Taking the length of both sides yields N W sin(θ ) = β N V sin(θ 1 ). But N,V,W are unit vectors. Therefore solving for β and invoking Snell s Law, we obtain β = sin(θ ) sin(θ 1 ) = sin(θ ) sin(θ 1 ) = c. (5.3) c 1 Similarly, crossing both sides of Equation (5.) with V, we find that W ( V ) =α N V. 7

8 Taking the length of both sides yields W V sin(θ 1 θ ) =α N V sin(θ 1 ) Again N,V,W are unit vectors. Therefore solving for α and invoking Snell s Law, we obtain α = sin(θ 1 θ ) = sin(θ 1 )cos(θ ) sin(θ )cos(θ 1 ) = cos(θ sin(θ 1 ) sin(θ 1 ) ) c cos(θ c 1 ). (5.4) 1 Since N and V are unit vectors, cos(θ 1 ) = N V. (5.5) Moreover cos(θ ) = 1 sin θ = 1 c c sin θ 1 = 1 c 1 c (1 cos θ 1 ) = 1 c 1 (N V) 1 c 1 (5.6) ( ). Putting together Equations (5.)-(5.6), we conclude that W = c (N V ) cos(θ c ) N c V, (5.7) 1 c 1 where cos(θ ) = 1 c c 1 ( 1 (N V) ). (5.8) The equation of the refracted ray is simply R(t) = P + tw. By the way the calculation here of the refracted vector W is the same as the calculation of slerp( N, V,t), for t = θ /θ 1 (see Exercise 3). Notice that for each color, we use the same index of refraction and therefore the same refracted ray. Technically this procedure is incorrect, but this tactic saves tremendously on computation time and the results still look realistic, so most ray tracing programs adopt this approach. There are some angles θ 1 between the vector V to the eye and the normal vector N to the surface at which refraction cannot occur. This phenomenon is called total reflection. Total reflection may occur when c / c 1 >1. In this case for some angles θ 1, c c 1 sin(θ 1 ) >1, so by Snell s Law sin(θ ) >1 which is impossible. To check for total reflection, test c 1 (N V) c 1 ( ) >1 1 (N V) > c 1 1 > (N V) + c 1. c c 8

9 In this case, cos(θ ) in Equation (5.7) is imaginary and the refracted vector W does not exist. Be careful to test for total reflection, otherwise your ray tracing program may crash. 6. Summary Recursive ray tracing is one of the most powerful tools in Computer Graphics for generating realistic images of virtual scenes. Shadows, reflections, and refractions are all modeled effectively by recursively tracing the paths of light rays through the scene. In recursive ray tracing, the total intensity at each surface point is given by the following recursive computation: Total Intensity I = I direct + k s I reflected + k t I refracted 0 k s,k t 1 I direct = I ambiant + I diffuse + I specular To find the reflected and refracted rays at each surface point, let N represents the unit normal vector at the surface point and let V represents the unit vector from the surface point to the eye. In addition, let c 1 and c represent the indices of refraction on opposite sides of the surface. Then we have the following formulas: Reflected Vector W = (V N)N V Refracted Vector W = c (N V ) cos(θ c ) N c V 1 c 1 cos(θ ) = 1 c 1 (N V) c 1 ( ) Total Reflection (N V) + c 1 <1 c To implement recursive ray tracing, we need to be able to calculate two things: surface normals and line-surface intersections. We shall take up the calculation of these items for a variety of different surfaces in the next two chapters. 9

10 Exercises: 1. Show that the reflection vector W in Figure 3 can be computed in each of the following ways: a. By finding the mirror image of the vector V in the plane perpendicular to V. b. By rotating the vector V by 180 o around the normal vector N. c. By finding the mirror image of the vector V in the plane perpendicular to the normal vector N and then negating the result.. Using the result of Exercise 1, part c, show that light following the law of the mirror -- angle of incidence = angle of reflection -- takes the shortest path from the light source through the mirror to the eye. 3. Consider the refraction vector W in Figure 4. a. Show that W = slerp( N, V,t), for t = θ /θ 1 (see Chapter 11, Section 6). b. Use the result of part a together with Snell s Law to derive Equation (5.7) for the refraction vector W. 4. Consider the refraction vector W in Figure 4. a. Show that W is the result of rotating the vector N thorough the angle θ about the axis vector N V N V. b. Using part a, show that W = sin(θ θ 1 )N sin(θ )V sin(θ 1 ). c. Use the result of part b together with Snell s Law to derive Equation (5.7) for the refraction vector W. 10

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