Sunday, 19 May 2019

Total Chaos and Real Time Ray Tracing

Total Chaos and Real Time Ray Tracing

There’s been a huge upheaval in rendering this past year. NVIDIA’s announcement of it’s RTX range has heralded a quantum leap in ray tracing, and software vendors are scrambling to take advantage of the new technological landscape. 

Escape Technology has been out in Bulgaria for Total Chaos – Chaos Group’s yearly conference – and some of the news from that event has just highlighted how much of a seismic shift there’s really been. The new hardware has caused all the major rendering players to re-evaluate how they do what they do.

All the new APIs for ray tracing are moving forward at a mind bending pace: CUDA-based Optix directly from Nvidia, DirectX Raytracing (DXR) is a feature of Microsoft's DirectX that allows for real-time ray tracing, and there’s Vulkan. A low-overhead, cross-platform 3D graphics and computing API, Vulkan targets high-performance realtime 3D graphics applications such as video games and interactive media across all platforms. And compared to OpenGL and Direct3D 11, but like Direct3D 12 and Metal, Intel still have a play with Embree and their ray tracing API.

With all these APIs being leveraged in some shape or form it’s clear that the move to real-time GPU ray tracing is very much underway. We’re now in the hands of the software manufacturers, who are racing to show off what their renderers can do with the underlying power of the new RTX range of GPUs.

But we haven’t even scratched the surface from a performance perspective.

Project Lavina

Chaos Group’s Project Lavina and the evolution it represents proves that the days of baking lights and cheating to get GI and ray tracing will soon become a thing of the past.

Let’s quickly clarify that last statement... Many people believe that ray tracing suddenly brings a new level of quality to numerous games that have been released that still use all the cheats at the base level and just the ray tracing calls to add reflection polish on top of what is normally achieved. What I would clarify is that the statement “ray tracing” can be misleading. The underlying technique of tracing rays is also used in global illumination. 

This is the game changer brought by Project Lavina: calculating not only the reflections but also the illumination of the scene on the GPU. No baked lightmaps. It’s calculating all the lighting, which will naturally develop into all the elements that ray tracing can give us: caustics, sub-surface scattering, reflections, refractions etc.

The fact that Project Lavina is generating all the illumination with multiple bounces on the fly is what’s so very exciting.

Chaos Group has really hit the nail on the head. With the upcoming release of what was shown at Total Chaos we can expect a lot more noise and a speedy development cycles going forward. 

The content and videos from Total chaos with V-Ray’s performance, along with Corona and Project Lavina, should be online soon. And next year’s event will become a must attend in the calendar.