ACM Transactions on Graphics (Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 2022)
Physical light transport (PLT) algorithms can represent the wave nature of light globally in a scene, and are consistent with Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism. As such, they are able to reproduce the wave-interference and diffraction effects of real physical optics. However, the recent works that have proposed PLT are too expensive to apply to real-world scenes with complex geometry and materials. To address this problem, we propose a novel framework for physical light transport based on several key ideas that actually makes PLT practical for complex scenes. First, we restrict the spatial coherence shape of light to an anisotropic Gaussian and justify this restriction with general arguments based on entropy. This restriction serves to simplify the rest of the derivations, without practical loss of generality. To describe partially-coherent light, we present new rendering primitives that generalize the radiometric radiance and irradiance, and are based on the well-known Stokes parameters. We are able to represent light of arbitrary spectral content and states of polarization, and with any coherence volume and anisotropy. We also present the wave BSDF to accurately render diffractions and wave-interference effects. Furthermore, we present an approach to importance sample this wave BSDF to facilitate bi-directional path tracing, which has been previously impossible. We show good agreement with state-of-the-art methods, but unlike them we are able to render complex scenes where all the materials are new, coherence-aware physical optics materials, and with performance approaching that of “classical” rendering methods.