A Tale of Two Rendering Algorithms: Ray Tracing, Rasterization, and their Supporting Hardware

Speaker:  Erik Brunvand – UT, United States
Topic(s):  Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


The desire for ever more complex and realistic graphics drives the computer graphics hardware industry. This interest in high-quality rendering spans the range of computer hardware from high-end gaming computers and scientific workstations to small embedded platforms such as tablets and phones. While traditional graphics rendering using a Z-buffer rasterization algorithm is well supported with commercial graphics processing units (GPUs), the desire to improve image quality encourages a new look at an alternative rendering algorithm: ray tracing. While rasterizing is used in virtually all real-time rendering applications (e.g. games that use GPUs for rendering), ray tracing software is now used in virtually all motion picture rendering because of the increased realism of thelighting in the rendered images.

Ray tracing more naturally handles a variety of optical effects that increase apparent realism in generated images, but has very different computational, I/O, memory, and power profiles than Z-buffer rasterization. As an example, traditional GPUs typically use wide Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) processing to exploit the parallel behavior of Z-buffer rasterization. Ray tracing has a fundamentally different parallel character, and does not naturally map to a SIMD approach. System architectures that allow more flexibility in thread parallelism can perform much better for this type of application. In this talk I will describe and compare the rasterization algorithm that is at the core of all commercial GPUs, and the ray tracing algorithm that is not well supported on GPUs, butsupports more realistic lighting in the rendered images. I will also describe the impact of using ray tracing on the design of application specific processors.

About this Lecture

Number of Slides:  85
Duration:  60 minutes
Languages Available:  English
Last Updated: 

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