15 Light Transport II: Volume Rendering

Just as BSDFs characterize reflection from the surfaces in a scene, Medium class implementations represent scattering that occurs between surfaces; examples include atmospheric scattering effects such as haze, absorption in a stained glass window, or scattering by fat globules in a bottle of milk. Technically, all of these phenomena are due to surface interactions with a vast number of microscopic particles, though it is preferable to find a less cumbersome way of modeling them than considering them individually. With the models described in this chapter, the particles are assumed to be so numerous that they can be represented using statistical distributions instead of an explicit enumeration.

This chapter begins with an introduction of the equation of transfer, which describes the equilibrium distribution of radiance in scenes with participating media, and then presents a number of sampling methods that are useful for Monte Carlo integration with participating media. Given this foundation, the VolPathIntegrator can be introduced—it extends the PathIntegrator to solve the light transport equation in the presence of participating media.

After Section 15.4 describes how to sample from BSSRDF distributions, Section 15.5 then describes the implementation of a BSSRDF that models the aggregate light scattering in media bounded by refractive surfaces. Although the approach is expressed in terms of radiance leaving from and arriving at surfaces, it is included in this chapter since its implementation is based on an approximate solution to the equation of transfer in participating media.