Publication at Faculty of Mathematics and Physics |

2012

Developing robust light transport simulation algorithms that are capable of dealing with arbitrary input scenes remains an elusive challenge. Although efficient global illumination algorithms exist, an acceptable approximation error in a reasonable amount of time is usually only achieved for specific types of input scenes.

To address this problem, we present a reformulation of photon mapping as a bidirectional path sampling technique for Monte Carlo light transport simulation. The benefit of our new formulation is twofold.

First, it makes it possible, for the first time, to explain in a formal manner the relative efficiency of photon mapping and bidirectional path tracing, which have so far been considered conceptually incompatible solutions to the light transport problem. Second, it allows for a seamless integration of the two methods into a more robust combined rendering algorithm via multiple importance sampling.

A progressive version of this algorithm is consistent and efficiently handles a wide variety of lighting conditions, ranging from direct illumination, diffuse and glossy inter-reflections, to specular-diffuse-specular light transport. Our analysis shows that this algorithm inherits the high asymptotic performance from bidirectional path tracing for most light path types, while benefiting from the efficiency of photon mapping for specular-diffuse-specular lighting effects.