Disney Research


Residual Ratio Tracking for Estimating Attenuation in Participating Media-Image

Evaluating transmittance within participating media is a fundamental operation required by many light transport algorithms. We present ratio tracking and residual tracking, two complementary techniques that can be combined into an efficient, unbiased estimator for evaluating transmittance in complex heterogeneous media. In comparison to current approaches, our new estimator is unbiased, yields high efficiency, gracefully handles media with wavelength dependent extinction, and bridges the gap between closed form solutions and purely numerical, unbiased approaches. A key feature of ratio tracking is its ability to handle negative densities. This, in turn, enables us to separate the main part of the transmittance function, handle it analytically, and numerically estimate only the residual transmittance. In addition to proving the unbiasedness of our estimators, we perform an extensive empirical analysis to reveal parameters that lead to high efficiency. Finally, we describe how to integrate the new techniques into a production path tracer and demonstrate their benefits over traditional unbiased estimators.

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