Real-time ray tracing of complex molecular scenes

International Conference on Information Visualisation (IV) 2010

Left: Accurate complex multiple inter-reflections and reflections from curved objects enabled by ray tracing. Middle: An interactively ray traced image image of the complex 1pma molecule with shadows and correct light attenuation, enhancing the spatial perception. Right: Integration of the ray tracer is done tightly and transparently, allowing the advanced effects reflection, shadows, light attenuation or transparency to work seamlessly with any combination of available representations, including the cartoon models.


Molecular visualization is one of the cornerstones in structural bioinformatics and related fields. Today, rasterization is typically used for the interactive display of molecular scenes, while ray tracing aims at generating high-quality images, taking typically minutes to hours to generate and requiring the usage of an external off-line program.

Recently, real-time ray tracing evolved to combine the interactivity of rasterization-based approaches with the superb image quality of ray tracing techniques. We demonstrate how real-time ray tracing integrated into a molecular modelling and visualization tool allows for better understanding of the structural arrangement of biomolecules and natural creation of publication-quality images in real-time.

However, unlike most approaches, our technique naturaly integrates into the full-featured molecular modelling and visualization tool BALLView, seamlessly extending a standard workflow with interactive high-quality rendering.

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BibTeX reference

  author = {L. Marsalek, A. Dehof, I. Georgiev, H.-P. Lenhof, P. Slusallek, and A. Hildebrandt},
  title = {Real-Time Ray Tracing of Complex Molecular Scenes},
  booktitle = {14th International Conference on Information Visualization (IV)},
  year = {2010},
  month = {July},
  pages = {239--245},
  ISBN = {978-1-4244-7846-0 }