What is ray tracing? How it works?

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Ray tracing is a technique used in computer graphics to simulate the behavior of light. It is considered a realistic rendering method because it calculates the path of light reflecting off objects in the scene, taking into account factors such as reflections, refractions, and shadows.

The basic process of ray tracing starts with generating a virtual camera, which is used to determine the perspective of the scene. The computer then traces a set of rays, called “primary rays”, from the camera to the scene. These rays are used to determine the color of each pixel in the final image.

As the rays hit objects in the scene, they interact with them in different ways. For example, a ray can reflect off a shiny surface, be refracted by a transparent object, or be blocked by an opaque object. These interactions are calculated using mathematical equations and the resulting color and light intensity are determined.

Ray tracing also allows you to calculate global illumination, which is the process of determining how light interacts with surfaces and objects in a scene. This includes the calculation of ambient light, direct light and indirect light, as well as shadow and reflection effects.

Ray tracing has traditionally been used in offline rendering, such as in movies and animations, due to its high computational cost. However, recent advances in hardware and software have made real-time ray tracing possible, leading to new techniques. In general, ray tracing is a powerful technique for creating highly realistic images, but it requires a lot of computing power. Therefore, it continues to be an active area of research and development and is expected to improve in the future with increasing hardware power and the incorporation of machine learning techniques.

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Where did ray tracing come from?

The history of ray tracing dates back to the late 1960s and early 1970s. The earliest forms of ray tracing were developed by researchers at MIT and the University of Utah. These early systems were used to render simple geometric shapes and were not well suited to more complex scenes.

In the 1980s, new research in computer graphics led to the development of more advanced ray tracing algorithms. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, developed a system that was able to handle more complex scenes and generate more realistic images. This system has been used to create many groundbreaking animations and special effects for film and television.

In the 1990s, advances in computer hardware and software made it possible to apply ray tracing to more complex real-time scenes. This led to the development of new ray tracing techniques such as distributed ray tracing to render large, complex scenes.

In recent years, interest in ray tracing has increased again, driven by the development of new hardware and software, such as the introduction of specialized ray tracing processors and the development of real-time ray tracing. This has led to new techniques such as path tracing, which is a more efficient version of traditional ray tracing. Overall, ray tracing has come a long way from its beginnings to become a powerful technique for creating highly realistic images. As technology continues to improve, ray tracing is expected to become even more powerful and efficient in the future.

Pros and Cons of Ray Tracing Technology

Ray tracing simulates the physical behavior of light, leading to highly realistic images. It can accurately represent reflections, refractions and shadows that are difficult to achieve with other techniques. It can also accurately calculate global illumination, which is the process of determining how light interacts with surfaces and objects in a scene. This includes the calculation of ambient light, direct light and indirect light, as well as shadow and reflection effects. Ray tracing is quite a flexible technology that can be applied to many different scenes, including static images and animations. It can also be used in various applications such as movies, animations and video games.

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However, raytracing technology eats up a very large amount of graphics card resources. Ray tracing requires a lot of GPU processing power. This can make it difficult to use in real-time applications such as video games. Ray tracing requires a large amount of memory to store the scene and ray information. This can be a limitation for systems with limited memory.

Ray tracing can generate noise in the final image that can be difficult to remove. This is especially true for low-light scenes or scenes with a high degree of indirect lighting. It is also worth adding that ray tracing is a physics-based method, which means that it simulates the behavior of light in the real world.

This can make it difficult to achieve certain artistic effects or to control the final image in a certain way.

The future of ray tracing

The future of ray tracing looks promising as new technologies and research are emerging to improve the quality and performance of the technique. Recent advances in hardware and software have enabled the use of real-time ray tracing, leading to new techniques such as hybrid rendering. This allows you to use both rasterization and ray tracing in one pipeline, which is more efficient and can generate highly realistic images. The development of new hardware, such as specialized ray tracing processors, may enable real-time ray tracing to be applied to high-resolution images and scenes.

Machine learning techniques such as deep learning are used to improve ray tracing performance and quality. Researchers are working to develop machine learning-based methods that can be used to speed up the rendering process and reduce noise in the final image.

The growing popularity of virtual and augmented reality technologies leads to new requirements for high-quality images, as these technologies require the display of realistic and detailed images. Research is being conducted to develop ray tracing techniques that can be applied to these types of applications to improve the user experience. Researchers are working to improve the realism of ray tracing by applying techniques such as volumetric rendering, subsurface scattering and other physical models to generate more realistic images.

Overall, ray tracing is a powerful technique that is constantly evolving and improving, with new technologies and techniques emerging to improve the quality and performance of the technique. As a result, we can expect more realistic images in video games, virtual and augmented reality, and other applications in the near future.

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Jakub Markiewicz
Jakub Markiewiczhttps://jotem.in
Hi, I am the author of the Jotem.in blog and series of thematic portals since 2013. I have nearly 15 years of experience in working in the media, marketing, public relations and IT. If you are interested in cooperation, you would like me to write about something or test a product - let me know.
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