Photon Mapping on Programmable Graphics Hardware

Timothy J. Purcell, Craig Donner, Mike Cammarano, Henrik Wann Jensen, and Pat Hanrahan

GH2003 Proceedings Cover Image and Best Paper Award Winner

Proceedings of the ACM SIGGRAPH/Eurographics Symposium on Graphics Hardware, pp. 41-50, 2003.

These images were rendered completely on programmable graphics hardware.


We present a modified photon mapping algorithm capable of running entirely on GPUs. Our implementation uses breadth-first photon tracing to distribute photons using the GPU. The photons are stored in a grid-based photon map that is constructed directly on the graphics hardware using one of two methods: the first method is a multipass technique that uses fragment programs to directly sort the photons into a compact grid. The second method uses a single rendering pass combining a vertex program and the stencil buffer to route photons to their respective grid cells, producing an approximate photon map. We also present an efficient method for locating the nearest photons in the grid, which makes it possible to compute an estimate of the radiance at any surface location in the scene. Finally, we describe a breadth-first stochastic ray tracer that uses the photon map to simulate full global illumination directly on the graphics hardware. Our implementation demonstrates that current graphics hardware is capable of fully simulating global illumination with progressive, interactive feedback to the user.


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Last updated 22 August 2003 by Craig Donner