Joint importance sampling of low-order volumetric scattering

SIGGRAPH Asia 2013

We present novel importance sampling techniques for constructing paths in participating media and apply them to unidirectional and bidirectional path tracing. By generalizing traditional shadow connections (0-connection) to longer, importance sampled connection subpaths (2- and 3-connection) we obtain 5x to 37x reduction in RMS error (see zoom-ins), corresponding to 25x to 1444x reduction in render time.


Central to all Monte Carlo-based rendering algorithms is the construction of light transport paths from the light sources to the eye. Existing rendering approaches sample path vertices incrementally when constructing these light transport paths. The resulting probability density is thus a product of the conditional densities of each local sampling step, constructed without explicit control over the form of the final joint distribution of the complete path. We analyze why current incremental construction schemes often lead to high variance in the presence of participating media, and reveal that such approaches are an unnecessary legacy inherited from traditional surface-based rendering algorithms. We devise joint importance sampling of path vertices in participating media to construct paths that explicitly account for the product of all scattering and geometry terms along a sequence of vertices instead of just locally at a single vertex. This leads to a number of practical importance sampling routines to explicitly construct single- and double-scattering subpaths in anisotropically-scattering media. We demonstrate the benefit of our new sampling techniques, integrating them into several path-based rendering algorithms such as path tracing, bidirectional path tracing, and many-light methods. We also use our sampling routines to generalize deterministic shadow connections to connection subpaths consisting of two or three random decisions, to efficiently simulate higher-order multiple scattering. Our algorithms significantly reduce noise and increase performance in renderings with both isotropic and highly anisotropic, low-order scattering.

Downloads and links

  • paper – revision 2 (5 Jan 2017) (PDF, 49 MB)
  • citation (BIB)
  • slides – from the conference presentation (PPTX, 27 MB)
  • supplemental results – interactive JavaScript image comparisons (18MB web page, may load slowly)

BibTeX reference

  author = {Iliyan Georgiev and Jaroslav K\v{r}iv{\'a}nek and Toshiya Hachisuka and Derek Nowrouzezahrai and Wojciech Jarosz},
  title = {Joint Importance Sampling of Low-Order Volumetric Scattering},
  journal = {ACM Transactions on Graphics (Proceedings of SIGGRAPH Asia 2013)},
  volume = {32},
  number = {6},
  year = {2013},
  month = {nov},
  keywords = {photon beams, virtual ray lights, virtual beam lights, VRLs, VBLs, path tracing, bidirectional path tracing}