Parallel hierarchical global illumination

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Snell, Quinn
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John L. Gustafson
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Computer Science

Computer Science—the theory, representation, processing, communication and use of information—is fundamentally transforming every aspect of human endeavor. The Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University advances computational and information sciences through; 1. educational and research programs within and beyond the university; 2. active engagement to help define national and international research, and 3. educational agendas, and sustained commitment to graduating leaders for academia, industry and government.

The Computer Science Department was officially established in 1969, with Robert Stewart serving as the founding Department Chair. Faculty were composed of joint appointments with Mathematics, Statistics, and Electrical Engineering. In 1969, the building which now houses the Computer Science department, then simply called the Computer Science building, was completed. Later it was named Atanasoff Hall. Throughout the 1980s to present, the department expanded and developed its teaching and research agendas to cover many areas of computing.

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Solving the global illumination problem is equivalent to determining the intensity of every wavelength of light in all directions at every point in a given scene. The complexity of the problem has led researchers to use approximation methods for solving the problem on serial computers. Rather than using an approximation method, such as backward ray tracing or radiosity, we have chosen to solve the Rendering Equation by direct simulation of light transport from the light sources. This paper presents an algorithm that solves the Rendering Equation to any desired accuracy, and can be run in parallel on distributed memory or shared memory computer systems with excellent scaling properties. It appears superior in both speed and physical correctness to recent published methods involving bidirectional ray tracing or hybrid treatments of diffuse and specular surfaces. Like "progressive radiosity" methods, it dynamically refines the geometry decomposition where required, but does so without the excessive storage requirements for "ray histories." The algorithm, called Photon, produces a scene which converges to the global illumination solution. This amounts to a huge task for a 1997-vintage serial computer, but using the power of a parallel supercomputer significantly reduces the time required to generate a solution. Currently, Photon can be run on most parallel environments from a shared memory multiprocessor to a parallel supercomputer, as well as on clusters of heterogeneous workstations.

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Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 1997