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Controllable global illumination for film production

Final Report Summary - CGI-FOR-FILM (Controllable global illumination for film production)

The main scientific objective of the project is to help establish advanced lighting simulation, namely global illumination, as a common tool for image rendering in the film industry. The research executed in pursuit of this objective is a part of the training activities of the Fellow, with the main goal of acquiring necessary competencies to help develop a successful computer graphics research group at Charles University, Prague.

In spite of the tremendous advances of computer graphics, an attentive observation of some of the computergenerated animated films and special effects produced before 2008 and even today reveals a striking lack of visual realism. Among other reasons, the limited realism is due to the simplistic lighting simulation algorithms often ignoring global illumination. If global illumination is used at all, then usually only on objects with simple materials, since the performance of many global illumination algorithms is severely crippled in presence of objects with realistic and complex appearance. This has a negative impact on the visual realism. The prevailing reluctance to using global illumination in film production was due to low productivity caused by slow rendering with global illumination, and limited artistic control of global illumination.

Scientific Objectives
The main scientific objective of the project was to develop novel algorithms and tools for global illumination rendering that would shorten the production cycle for computer-generated film shots, make the production cheaper, and last but not least, make artists’ work more enjoyable. Achieving these goals would ultimately establish global illumination as a common tool for image rendering in the film industry, thereby improving the visual fidelity of the generated images. Improved realism in acceptable computation time could eventually open up new applications for computer-generated visual content. These are the main socio-economic reasons for carrying out the proposed research.
To achieve this overall scientific objective, the following partial objectives were addressed: (1) Improve the efficiency of global illumination algorithms, especially in complex scenes featuring objects with complex materials (e.g. glossy); (2) reduce the stalls in cinematic lighting design; and (3) design an easy-to-use interface to give artists greater control over global illumination.

Training Objectives
The central training objective of the project was that the Fellow acquires, through research and by other means, necessary competencies to later develop a successful computer graphics research group at Charles University, Prague. The importance of this goal stems from the fact that in the near future, computer graphics is likely to play an even more important role in applications such as on-line virtual prototyping, ecommerce, or industrial design. The computer graphics group would educate talented students thereby making Europe more competitive in the global on-line markets.

Brief Work Plan
The project was divided into a two-year Outgoing Phase (August 1, 2008 – July 31, 2010) that the Fellow spent at the Outgoing Host (Cornell University), and a one-year Return Phase (August 1, 2010 – July 31, 2011) that the Fellow spent at the Return Host (Charles University, Prague). The Outgoing Phase was devoted to research and other training activities, while during the Return Phase the focus was shifted on activities related to the development of the computer graphics research group at Charles University.