SIGGRAPH Celebrates 50 Years of Graphics Research – With CSE Leading the Way in Rendering

Aug 30, 2023
SIGGRAPH recognizes UC San Diego computer science researchers in its recent volume of "Seminal Graphics Papers"

By Kimberley Clementi

When the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) undertakes publishing a volume of Seminal Graphics Papers, the chapter on Rendering must unequivocally include the seminal works of two computer scientists from UC San Diego: emeritus Professor Henrik Wann Jensen and Professor Ravi Ramamoorthi. Three of the 11 rendering papers in Seminal Graphics Papers: Pushing the Boundaries, Volume 2 were selected from their transformative research.

A compilation of SIGGRAPH conference papers from several decades, the impressive volume features two ground-breaking papers by Jensen, who was a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) from 2002-2018 and is now emeritus and Chief Scientist at Luxion, and a rendering paper by Ramamoorthi, who is director of the Center for Visual Computing (VisComp).

The university earned one additional recognition with a 1993 paper co-authored by Thomas DeFanti, a research scientist with the Qualcomm Institute (also known as the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology) and a VisComp faculty member. The paper, Surround-Screen Projection-Based Virtual Reality: The Design and Implementation of the CAVE, appeared in the chapter on User Interaction and demonstrated the efficacy of applying projection technology to virtual reality.

Commemorating SIGGRAPH’s 50th anniversary, SIGGRAPH’s second volume celebrates the origins and continued success of the technical society and typifies the influential research that has been the conference’s hallmark since 1974. The society’s first volume was published in 1998.

CSE Rendering Research Included in SIGGRAPH’s Volume 2

Efficient Simulation of Light Transport in Scenes with Participating Media Using Photon Maps

Henrik Wann Jensen and Per H. Christensen, Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 1998

Jensen’s early work presented a new method for computing global illumination based on ray tracing and photon maps. It could efficiently simulate light transport to render realistic images for media such as fog, clouds, smoke and water. The new method was fast and simple and a precursor to visual effects used today by Disney and Pixar.

A Practical Model for Subsurface Light Transport

Henrik Wann Jensen, Steve Marschner, Marc Levoy, and Pat Hanrahan, Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 2001

This paper introduces a simple model for subsurface light transport in translucent materials. The model enables efficient simulation of effects such as color bleeding within materials and diffusion of light across shadow boundaries. The technique could be used to determine the optical properties of translucent materials such as milk, marble and skin.

Jensen’s pioneering work paved the way to photo-realistically simulate life-like computer generated images (CGIs), such as Gollum in the blockbuster series The Lord of the Rings, and led to an Academy Award to Jensen, Marschner and Hanrahan for technical achievement in 2004.

A Signal-Processing Framework for Inverse Rendering

Ravi Ramamoorthi and Pat Hanrahan, Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 2001

Inverse rendering – or taking measurements of scene attributes from real photographs – is one of the best ways to achieve realism in computer-generated images. However, this method has been largely limited to settings with highly controlled lighting. In this paper, Ramamoorthi and his co-authors introduce a coherent mathematical framework for inverse rendering under complex illumination conditions, deriving a new spherical harmonic convolution formula for lighting and reflectance that has been the theoretical underpinning for much work on forward and inverse rendering in computer graphics and vision.  This work has also led to a technique, spherical harmonic lighting, that has been widely adopted in video games and movies, and is an integral part of industry-standard RenderMan software, as well as being the method of choice for modeling illumination in a wide range of computer vision applications.