Computer Science Colloquium: Morgan McGuire

Professor of Computer Science at Williams College on sabbatical this year at NVIDIA Research

Image Space Photon Mapping

Tuesday, February 16, 12:00 pm
5317 SENSQ
Pizza will be provided by host Liz Marai


ABSTRACT: The computer-generated 3D graphics in films like Avatar are visually indistinguishable from real objects. They are hard to compute, however: the Photon Mapping algorithm used in most film productions requires about one day to compute every second of film. Our new Image Space Photon Mapping transforms that algorithm to a space where it can be evaluated in a fraction of a second. This enables nearly cinema-quality lighting for interactive applications like video games. We recently demonstrated experimental results of the image space algorithm on complex scenes with dynamic lights and objects, using assets from real games.

Formally, photorealistic rendering as a sampling and reconstruction problem and PhotonMapping is one of many non-deterministic approximation algorithms for that problem. A better reconstruction strategy enables our Image Space method to converge with fewer samples than previous methods, and our sampling strategy is better-suited to parallel evaluation on graphics hardware. I will conclude with speculation on how our sampling and reconstruction observations might be applied to other problems in high performance computing.

BIOGRAPHY: Morgan McGuire is an assistant professor of Computer Science at Williams College on sabbatical this year at NVIDIA Research. He received his PhD from Brown University in 2006. He served as general and papers co-chair of the ACM Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics and Games in 2008 and 2009, is an editor of the Journal of the Graphics, Game, and GPU Tools, and is the lead author of the new textbook, Creating Games: Mechanics, Content, and Technology.

He has contributed to many commercial products including the E-Ink display for the Amazon Kindle, the PeakStream high-performance computing infrastructure acquired by Google, the Titan Quest role playing game, and the Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 video game for Xbox 360.

For appointments with Morgan McGuire, please contact Liz Marai (marai AT

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