Computer Graphics

University of California - Berkeley

A first-order analysis of lighting, shading, and shadows

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The shading in a scene depends on a combination of many factors---how the lighting varies spatially across a surface, how it varies along different directions, the geometric curvature and reflectance properties of objects, and the locations of soft shadows. In this paper, we conduct a complete first order or gradient analysis of lighting, shading and shadows, showing how each factor separately contributes to scene appearance, and when it is important. Gradients are well suited for analyzing the intricate combination of appearance effects, since each gradient term corresponds directly to variation in a specific factor. First, we show how the spatial and directional gradients of the light field change, as light interacts with curved objects. Second, we consider the individual terms responsible for shading gradients, such as lighting variation, convolution with the surface BRDF, and the object's curvature. This analysis indicates the relative importance of various terms, and shows precisely how they combine in shading. As one practical application, our theoretical framework can be used to adaptively sample images in high-gradient regions for efficient rendering. Third, we understand the effects of soft shadows, computing accurate visibility gradients. We generalize previous work to arbitrary curved occluders, and develop a local framework that is easy to integrate with conventional ray-tracing methods. Our visibility gradients can be directly used in practical gradient interpolation methods for efficient rendering.


Ravi Ramamoorthi, Dhruv Mahajan, and Peter N. Belhumeur. "A first-order analysis of lighting, shading, and shadows". ACM Trans. Graph., 26(1), 2007.