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A Light Hierarchy for Fast Rendering of Scenes with Many Lights

Eric Paquette, Pierre Poulin, and George Drettakis
Computer Graphics Forum (Proceedings of EuroGraphics '98)


We introduce a new data structure in the form of a light hierarchy for efficiently ray-tracing scenes with many light sources. An octree is constructed with the point light sources in a scene. Each node represents all the light sources it contains by means of a virtual light source. We determine bounds on the error committed with this approximation to shade a point, both for the cases of diffuse and specular reflections. These bounds are then used to guide a hierarchical shading algorithm. If the current level of the light hierarchy provides shading of sufficient quality, the approximation is used, thus avoiding the cost of shading for all the light sources contained below this level. Otherwise the descent into the light hierarchy continues.

Our approach has been implemented for scenes without occlusion. The results show important acceleration compared to standard ray-tracing (up to 90 times faster) and an important improvement compared to Ward's adaptive shadow testing.


Image synthesis, rendering, ray-tracing, hierarchy, illumination, reflection, Phong, bounds, clustering, octree.

BibTeX entry

  author =       "Eric Paquette and Pierre Poulin and George Drettakis",
  title =        "A Light Hierarchy for Fast Rendering of Scenes with 
                  Many Lights",
  editor =       "M. Gobel and F. Nunes Ferreira",
  pages =        "63--74",
  booktitle =    "Computer Graphics Forum (EuroGraphics '98 Conference 
  year =         "1998",
  organization = "EuroGraphics",
  month =        sep,
  note =         "held in Lisbon, Protugal, 02-04 September 1998"

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